How To Minimize The Cost of PC Upgrades

Christian Cawley 01-02-2013

cheap pc upgradesEvery two-to-three years I decide to upgrade my PC. This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision as I plan my builds to run for around that length of time, choosing components such as RAM What's the Difference Between DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 RAM? How do DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 RAM stack up? Here's our explanation of RAM generations and what they mean for you. Read More , CPU and graphics card so that the computer will be able to run the best games and applications (although not necessarily at maximum performance).


After all, the cost of buying a brand new PC is restrictive for many, and if you understand the principles of matching equipment (it’s basically a case of appreciating the stats, like Top Trumps) and have no problem screwing, plugging, clicking, slotting and fixing a computer together then a self-build with the right hardware is a good choice.

It certainly goes some way to explaining why the PC component business remains buoyant while sales of PCs have fallen.

However, just like a full desktop, a new PC build can be expensive. The best way to minimize the cost while focusing on the most suitable components is to upgrade your unit, rather than start from scratch.  Various cost-saving options are open to anyone building a brand new computer or upgrading an existing device.

Look for Sales and Open Box Items

Perhaps the most obvious cheap pc upgrade is to look out for sales. Bundles are often reduced, while usually expensive components might be given a short-term discount of a single day for promotional purposes.

However if you’re looking for sales, don’t expect to get exactly what you’re looking for (unless you happen to be extremely lucky). Rather, play a long game. Stay patient, purchase when the item you’re watching is at the right price and don’t rush into your upgrade.


When buying, also look out for rebates (also known as “cashback”). This is an opportunity to purchase at the stated price while receiving a percentage of the price as a rebate. Remember, however, that these offers require you to jump through some administrative hoops in order to get the money, but if it proves a good saving then it is certainly worth doing.

cheap pc upgrades

Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts

Another way of keeping our upgrade costs down is to buy OEM components rather than the fully boxed parts with driver disks and printed instructions.

OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) sell a large chunk of their inventory in bulk to suppliers, and to keep costs down they’re not packaged for retail – there are no boxes, no drivers, etc. (although of course drivers and manuals can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website).


By adopting this approach, suppliers can reduce the prices of RAM, graphics cards, CPUs What Is A CPU and What Does It Do? Computing acronyms are confusing. What is a CPU anyway? And do I need a quad or dual-core processor? How about AMD, or Intel? We're here to help explain the difference! Read More and even motherboards, and some of this reduction is passed on to the customer.

Reuse Components from Older PC

Another extremely wise tactic is to only upgrade what you need to upgrade. This means avoiding spending your hard earned funds on new keyboards, a mouse/trackball, new monitor or even a new tower, unless it is absolutely required.

cheap upgrade for a pc

Similarly, you may get away with reusing old storage devices (such as a hard disk drive used as a data store rather than for installing games or applications), power supplies (as long as they’re suitable for new motherboards, drives and graphics cards), card readers or case-mounted USB hubs.


Cabling, too, can be reused, although take care not to rely on cabling that is old or damaged. Plug connectors and kinks in the cable can result in data transfer/power issues. Indeed, it might be worth refreshing PC’s internal cabling as part of the upgrade. Sound cards and monitors should also be considered for reuse if it means that you can funnel funds towards more important upgrades.

Avoid Unnecessary Storage/Features

You can reduce the cost of your upgrade by discarding with unused or unnecessary features. For instance, you more than likely don’t need a floppy disk drive anymore and probably discarded it years ago. More to the point, however, do you need an optical drive? If you’re building a gaming machine and purchasing purely online, the answer is probably no (and if you do need an optical drive, a USB device might be more suitable if it is purely a device used occasionally that can be picked up after you have upgraded).

cheap upgrade for a pc

In addition, lights, displays and fan controls can be considered unnecessary in most cases, as can towers/cases with an inordinate number of bays. Unless you’re planning on running a web hosting business with your PC, you should cut down on the unused space on your upgraded computer.


Sell Your Old Gear to Raise Funds

There are many reasons why other people might want to purchase your old computer components and hardware – so why not give them the chance? Media Centre PCs, for example, don’t need the latest cutting-edge components (a $35 Raspberry Pi is more than suitable! How To Make Your Raspberry Pi Into a Home Theater System Four weeks on and I’ve been playing with my Raspberry Pi in various ways, from using it to browse the web and standard day-to-day computing tasks to playing around with the various configurations that are... Read More ), while anyone building a computer for their children probably won’t be expecting to pay top dollar for a Core i7 processor.

cheap pc upgrades

Selling your old and unused equipment on eBay might be something you do after paying for the upgrade, but it can prove a useful option, especially if you take the trouble to look after your hardware, keep it clean and dust free and – importantly – keep the boxes and instructions. Listing boxed items on eBay yields far better results than simply listing the item with a photo of it taken as it is removed from your PC.


Basically, there is little reason for your next computer upgrade to cost more than you can afford if you follow these concepts. Naturally you will need to set and keep to a budget, and you might allow yourself some wiggle room one way or another, but the idea really is to focus on what you really need, make good use of existing components and sell those that you don’t need, while keeping an eye on the price of your upgrades and searching out sales and rebate deals.

Good luck!

Image Credit: Money on laptop via Shutterstock, Laptop with open CD – DVD drive via ShutterstockComputer Power Supply via Shutterstock

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  1. Onaje Asheber
    June 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Nice! Very useful, thanks.

  2. Igor Rizvi?
    February 5, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Great stuff,but can i buy oem products in hadrware store for pc-,how do i ask for a oem part??

  3. Kirby
    February 4, 2013 at 12:45 am

    I think upgrading in my case would be not so ideal. My rig is like 12 years old already, and the only thing I think I could salvage from it is the 20 GB IDE hard drive (if it even is worth salvaging for that matter).

    Thanks for the sites Doc.

  4. DA
    February 3, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    My first build has more than I really need, and I've been happy with it the past year and a half. I spent under 800. The slowest part is the mechanical hard disk drive so if I ever feel it's getting too slow for my taste I'll just buy an SSD. They are already getting within reasonable price range for me but I just don't really need one yet.

  5. Alex Perkins
    February 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I would also suggest shopping on-line, particularly sites such as Gumtree or eBay. Gumtree can be used to find things near you from people that no longer want them, if they are close enough you could also pick the item up yourself saving on postage costs.

  6. Doc
    February 3, 2013 at 1:09 am

    A better tip would be to use sites like PriceWatch, PriceGrabber, or Google Shopping to comparison-shop for the part(s) you want to upgrade, and compare with Amazon and (reputable sellers on) eBay. I bought a AMD Phenom 9950 Black Edition with a motherboard that wouldn't support it for about $90 (worth over $150 new) because the seller didn't realize they wouldn't work together; I bought another CPU and a motherboard, and upgraded 2 PCs at once on the cheap. Upgrades don't have to be expensive; you just need to know what to look for and where to get it.

    • Rubis Song
      February 4, 2013 at 11:23 am

      I like it when you say: "Upgrades don’t have to be expensive; you just need to know what to look for and where to get it."