Gamers all across the globe are dusting off their old PCs and firing up some of their favorite online gaming titles to kill off some time whilst things try to get back to normal. Whilst this is a great idea, thanks to component degeneration (not to mention modern games putting increasing pressure on your system's hardware), many gamers are realizing that their old PC parts might not cut it anymore. The idea of relaxing over a couple of games of Call of Duty or Counter-Strike isn't looking so promising. Luckily, a lot of games from the last decade or so don't actually require that much computational power to run at good levels. Upgrading one or two parts can literally turn your old computer (now considered a very large paperweight) into a fully-fledged gaming machine.
For that reason, we've decided to create this comprehensive guide on what PC parts you should upgrade if you're looking to get the best performance. We'll look at the components you want to prioritize, the components that don't have any impact on gaming performance, and which offer the best value for money when upgrading. We'll also discuss future-proofing your build, along with some cool tips for getting extra performance at no additional cost.
So, with all that being said, let's waste no further time and dive straight into it!
What Parts Are Most Important For Gaming
As many will know, not every hardware component in a gamer's PC will affect how that PC performs in gaming situations. Each component can be ranked in terms of importance when it comes to gaming performance, with some having a huge knock-on effect and others having next to none. By understanding the hardware that has the most impact on your PC's gaming performance, you'll be better equipped to upgrade your PC for the games you want to play.
Below, we've listed the hardware components that affect gaming performance:
Over the last decade or so, games have started to change in terms of how impactful they can be on your system. On the one hand, they have become much more graphically realistic. As you can imagine, with this being the case, games of today require much more powerful hardware to run than say, 15 years ago.
Another big area where games have changed is in the components they utilize. Back when Half-Life 2 was the latest craze, games used to rely on the power of the CPU when it came to driving frames. However, that has all changed over the last decade.
Nowadays, games rely much more heavily on the graphics card when it comes to frame rate output. It's pretty simple really; because gaming graphics have increased exponentially over the years, so has the demand they put on the graphics card.
With that in mind, the first place I would recommend upgrading - if you are looking to play more demanding titles - is the GPU. This is the most impactful piece of hardware you can upgrade in your PC when it comes to gaming. As a general rule, if you're looking to see a decent performance increase over your current card, you want to be spending at least $150 extra on the GPU.
So, if your current GPU is worth $200, your upgrade should be at least $350. This isn't always the case, but certainly a good guideline for people thinking about an upgrade.
Below, we've outlined some popular games and the GPUs which we feel are best suited to the job:
Low-Level Gaming: If you're looking to play low-intensive games from the past such as Counter-Strike 1.6, the following GPU will serve you well.
Mid-Range Gaming: For individuals looking to play slightly more graphically advanced games, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rainbow Six Siege, etc, you'll need something a little more powerful.
High-End Gaming: For the latest AAA game titles that look best in 1440p and above, You need to be looking at a GPU similar to this.
As we've just said, CPUs don't have nearly as much responsibility when it comes to gaming performance in the modern-day. That being said, if you're experiencing bottlenecked performance (stunted performance because one of your components is maxed out), you will see a decent increase by upgrading this particular component.
Many people experience bottlenecking these days and it can be a real pain, to say the least. A good way of knowing whether your CPU is bottlenecking your performance is to get a program like AfterBurner. This program runs in the background and tells you what % your CPU is running at. If your CPU is at 100%, yet the GPU is only had 60%, you know you need to upgrade your CPU for better performance.
If you already have a half-decent GPU but you need the extra processing power to ensure your build isn't being bottlenecked, here are a couple of great CPUs that will serve you well
Next up is your storage drive. Whilst many think this doesn't have any impact on gaming what so ever, they'd be wrong in thinking this. Solid-state drives have a huge knock-on effect for gaming - and not just for loading times.
The difference between an SSD and an HDD is huge. SSDs are nonvolatile storage devices that differ from HDDs massively. Where the HDD uses a physical disk to search for the data it stores, an SSD uses flash memory. This means SSDs are much faster, more efficient, and save you a ton of physical space in your build as well.
Whilst loading speeds are the most obvious benefit of an SSD over an HDD, there are other benefits to be found if you do a little digging. Games like PUBG actually see a decent performance increase when using an SSD over HDD because the map and its textures load much quicker. Despite FPS differences between the two being fairly subtle, upgrading to an SSD is still one of the best things you can do for your gaming PC.
The humble PC case is probably the least effective hardware component in this list. The main role of the PC case is to house your components, keeping them safe and away from dust. That being said, cases do have a secondary use - keeping your components cool. A good case can reduce the internal temperatures of your PC exponentially. This, in turn, does actually impact how your components function.
The temperature of your hardware plays a major role in your PC's ability to run games. Once a component gets too hot, it starts to function less efficiently - therefore bringing the overall performance of your PC down. If you're looking for the best performance, simply find a case that has good airflow and decent fans. It's a great way of getting better aesthetics, better performance, and won't actually cost you that much in the long run.
What Parts Don't Affect Gaming Performance?
So, on the flip side, there are plenty of other components that don't really play a role in gaming performance. That being said, they can affect other areas of your build and should still be considered when purchasing/upgrading your PC.
First up, we have your motherboard.
So, it's safe to say that motherboards don't really have any impact on your gaming performance whatsoever. That being said, they do dictate what parts you can utilize, which in itself, has an effect on gaming performance. Unfortunately, if you're upgrading an old PC, then chances are you're probably going to have to upgrade the motherboard whilst you're at it.
Luckily, upgrading your motherboard will further future-proof your build - meaning you shouldn't have to upgrade it any time soon.
Again, whilst HDDs don't have any true performance gains when it comes to gaming, they do play host to your game's files on your PC. Whilst you always want your primary games to be on the SSD, a backup HDD is usually the best way to go if you want a larger storage capacity. This is particularly useful for people with large Steam libraries or people that have extensive media content.
Getting More FPS The Cheap Way
If you're at this stage in the article and you're thinking, that all sounds very expensive - all I want to do is play some older games - then this is another option that you could explore.
Overclocking is a great way of gaining extra performance from your hardware without actually spending any money. Overclocking, whist dangerous, can increase your system's performance by quite a bit. However, you must be careful when doing so. If overclocked incorrectly, you'll almost certainly destroy a number of components within your PC - including the CPU and motherboard.
You can check out our overclocking guide here, explaining how to overclock certain components and explaining whether or not it's worth your time.
So, there you have it guys, our comprehensive rundown on how to upgrade your PC for better gaming performance. We hope this guide has made understanding your PC's hardware a little easier, giving you the knowledge required to make a more informed decision on your next PC upgrade.
If you have any questions regarding upgrades, feel free to drop us a comment in the section below and we'll answer as soon as we can. Better still, you can now head on over to our Community Hub where you can discuss everything PC related with like-minded individuals.