Unless you are a computer geek or computer enthusiast that follows every development of technology in computing world, you will need to know first what is the latest technology to upgrade to. You need to aim that the upgrade that you will do can survive at least another 5 years or so – in other words , to future-proof your upgrade.  To find this info, you may go through many review / forum / chat with friends, etc and can get you overwhlem in very short time.  In this article I will show you a practical and quite straightforward market research technique that could help you determine your starting point.

Of course what I am talking here is a Personal Computer (PC)

First and The Foremost: The Processor

IntelAMDRegardless of your purpose for computer,  for play games, running engineering/scientific simulation, play multimedia/movie, or just for typing and general use, the most important component that you need to decide first is the Processor.

Processor -or- Micro-processor to be more precise, is the brain and heart of your computer system. This component is the one determine almost every other component that need to be bought and install in the system. So, as first step you need to short list your processor.

There are only 2 major Processor brands at this moment:  Intel http://intel.com and AMD http://amd.com

At first Intel was the one making the Processor and AMD just clone it. But these days, although Intel still in domination, both company is fighting head to head in advancing the technology. Most processor made by Intel, there usually be the alternative made by AMD.  In general AMD is cheaper than Intel, but since Intel is the market leader, some people chose to go with Intel for better peace of mind. The quality and performance and reliability are similar.

So, go to their website and spend sometime to check what processor is on offer currently matched with your need.

For Intel, they have a page called “Find Your Right Processor” to help. Just choose “Desktop Processor” and currently you will be given 4 choices: i7 Extreme, i7, Quad Core and Core Duo. So basically, “Core Duo” have 2 “core” (processing unit), and the rest has 4 cores. Just by this page you start your process of elimination: single core is out to dtae , maybe also double core. Then probably to last good for quite length of time, you need to go to the one with 4 cores. There are 2 alternatives: i7 or Quad core. You probably don’t want to choose the “Extreme” one since it just paying premium for the same technology – it’s probably the fastest but you probably don’t mind wait a few milisecond more but getting better price, don’t you ?

Then go deeper by getting some of the model number of the processor:

  • Quad Core: Q9550, Q9400, etc…
  • i7 Core: i7-920, i7-940, i7-940

Define Your Budget

After you know various processor number, you need to define your budget: how much money you will put for this upgrade (do not include monitor, printer or other external unit – just the tower/CPU – Central Processing Unit)

This is quite important step to prevent you “getting emotional” and got carried away with further process.

Research Ebay

EbayThe next step is to research Ebay. Go to Ebay http://ebay.com.au (or your country’s version). Just type processor number and “PC” and you will get various offer that you can bid or purchase. This step is not advising you to buy from Ebay or not, this is just to do the market price research. You need to know in general how much is the complete PC based on the processor that you chose above. Use tracking file to compare one another.  For example you can use the spreadsheet here: Excel Version / Open Office Version

Price ResearchOf course you can get some price snapshot from other website or shop, but consider Ebay is where the market all flock into, it will be a good start for your research.

You should be warn that there will be countless configuration that can be on offer, for example: this seller offer 3MB RAM with 1.5TB HDD but the other only 6MB RAM with only 500GB Hard disk, etc. Hence, the spreadsheet above will help you together with the component price (discussed below) to get comparable price among each other.

Finalize Your Configuration

Hard Disk PlateWith some info of complete PC above, finalize your configuration / specification:

  • How much memory you want?
  • What motherboard model you need?
  • What casing you want to use?
  • How puch power supply you need?
  • What and How big the hard disk ?
  • Any Operating System (buying operating system during upgrade is the cheapest as it qualifies for OEM price)
  • Any special cooler / fan needed for CPU or casing ?
  • Any other accessories wanted?

Note to be taken here that unless you know exactly the part/ technology and its variation, combining one part and other just because you feel that’s the best could lead to some compatibility issue. So, you should start with something that has been tested – which is – the configuration reveal by all those seller you compare above.

Check Component Price

Once you finalized your configuration, it’s time to check individualy the price of each component. It’s really important as you will know whether it’s cheaper to just buy from Ebay or store (sometimes!) or assemble yourself and learn (and proud) from it. Here some Australian computer supplier that is well known for their bargain price:

  • http://www.itestate.com.au/
  • http://www.msy.com.au/
  • http://www.pcdiy.com.au/
  • http://www.fluidtek.com.au/ (look for some daily combo bargain!)

If the part that you need is not sold by them then either it is too exotic and not common, or it is too early to try to get it (still very new). Either way if you cannot find the item listed by any of those site above, you might do some Googling and find it elsewhere, but expect pay some premium.

Hunt that Parts Down

So, the final part before you actually start the assembling process is : to hunt all those part down ! Take a few days or few weekend to collect all correct part before you start, and get ready to make your own computer !

Hope this helps. Good luck with your research and computer upgrade plan !