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Friday, 13 October 2017 | MYT 7:00 AM

Do you really need a new computer, or will an upgrade do?

Just like people, computers tend to slow down with age. After a few years, a machine that was once super-speedy can start to show signs of wear and tear. 

But that doesn't necessarily mean that a new computer is required. Instead, fitting some new parts can get you back up to speed with far less damage to your wallet  and the environment.

The important question is: What do you actually need the computer for? High-level gaming? Image or video processing? Or just surfing the Internet and basic office tasks?

Before you spend any money, you should check the state of the system's software, says Christian Hirsch from German computer magazine c't.

A virus program, for example, can take up so much space that it slows the whole computer down. On a Windows machine, a look at running processes in the Task Manager will show whether a particular program is overloading the processor or memory.

If the software isn't the problem, then it's probably some physical component that's causing the slowdown. If just one component is overloaded, even if the rest are all running fine, it can slow down the whole computer, Hirsch says. Components to check include the processor, graphics card and hard drive.

Programs such as the free CPU-Z can be used to discover what exactly is installed on your PC. Such an overview can be useful to see where a problem may lie. It can also give you an exact description of the installed components  useful if you're buying new parts.

Installing a new fast SSD hard drive can help, Hirsch says. They cost more than a standard hard drive but "bring the greatest performance boost."

Alternatively, a smaller SSD drive can be installed alongside the old hard drive  the former can hold the operating system and programs, and the latter data such as movies, music and photos. A 256-gigabyte SSD drive can be bought for around 80 (RM400).

Hard drives and graphics cards are relatively easy to change, Hirsch says. However, that's not the case with processors.

So how much should you spend on an upgrade? "Anything up to 150 (RM750)  is OK," Hirsch says. After all, a basic new computer can be bought for 300  (RM1,500)  "that's no rocket, but it's sufficient for many people."

Rolf Buschmann from German environmental association BUND believes most people buy a new PC before they need to. He says that consumers are always being told that "you have to exchange the computer because it's no longer powerful enough. But that's true in few cases."

Unless you work with large graphics, 3D or video editing, you can usually get several more years out of your computer before buying a new one.

Buschmann is critical of the fact that when it comes to smartphones and tablets, components can't be as easily replaced as in PCs. "This is, of course, a completely wrong strategy from an environmental point of view," he says.

Also, one shouldn't blindly invest in new technology that describes itself as energy-saving, he says. To compensate for the energy and resources used in manufacturing the device, "you'd have to use the computer for 30 years." — dpa