I mentioned last week that you need to figure out what kind of PC architecture you have before you decide an upgrade path. If the reasons aren’t mind numblingly obvious it’s simply because you could end up with the wrong parts. Now don’t worry about how to avoid this; it’s painless I promise!
To get started you need to know the specifications of your mainboard and to do that you need to know what model it is. Possibly you still have the printed user manual, which will save you the next 2 steps, otherwise you need to go looking for the mainboard model number. If you want to go old school on me here, pull out the screwdriver, take the lid off and have a peak, go for it, but there’s an easier way.
Remember the windows key we talked about a while back? Hold down the Windows key and then tap the R key. The Run window opens like magic…tada! Type in the box cmd as in the illustration and hit the enter key. You’ll now see this scary black window known as the command prompt. Those of us trapped in the computer world for more than a few decades will know this animal well. (After switching on our computers in the early 90s, it would stop at a similarly unfriendly looking screen and you’d have to type win to open Windows; but I digress.)
In this command prompt window type the following: wmic baseboard get product, manufacturer, version and hit enter. (You can add more query parameters – called switches, if you wish just to release the enter geek but you don’t need to. Simply separate each switch with a comma. The other switches you can add are partnumber, slotlayout, and serialnumber.) You’ll now see the manufacturer’s name, the model and version number of your mainboard. See the accompanying picture.
Type the product number and the words specs after it in a Google search and you should see a few results. Choose one from the manufacturer and find the page where it lists all the specifications of your board. It’s easy from here to figure out what form factor you have, the maximum ram it can handle, the compatible CPUs etc. Save this info for later. I’ve highlighted in the screenshot the kind of information you need to keep for later. What’s not shown is the form factor. Towards the bottom of the specifications list you’ll normally see the form factor. In this example next to the words form factor they left it blank. If that happens to you, just assume it’s a standard ATX sized board and you can’t go wrong.
Now figure out what you can upgrade. For example in my example you can see the specs say that the board can handle 4 x DIMM, Max 64Gb…. This means I can put 4 modules into the board adding to a combined total of 64gb of RAM. (In case you’re wondering; DIMM stands for Dual Inline Memory Module, Gb means Gigabyte which is roughly a billion bytes and RAM stands for Random Access Memory, hey you asked.) Lets go back to the command prompt again. (Windows + R key then type cmd and hit enter.)
Now type in the following: wmic memorychip get banklabel, capacity and hit enter. You’ll see in the example at A1_BANK0 is have 8589934592 (which is 8.5 billion and for the sake of simplicity is 8GB – told you a Gb was only roughly a billion bytes.) Right away I know I’m using just one bank (A1_BANK0) and the specs said I can use 4 banks. (Incidentally, if I had two DIMMs one would be listed under the other.) I have 8 Gb but could install up to 64GB. (One simple caveat here; if you’re running a 32 bit version of Windows you can only use up to 4 Gb. I’ll show you next week how to check for that first.)
You can do the same with the CPU (Central Processing Unit) too. Go back to the command prompt again and type wmic cpu get name and hit enter. (Other switches, remember those? For this there’s currentclockspeed and maxclockspeed. Remember to separate the switches with commas.) I can see here that I have an A10-7700K APU and according to my specs page, (there’s a link to check out supported CPUs) I can fit other CPUs too.
We can check out what graphics card we have installed too, but for now we’ve gotten complicated enough so we’ll leave it here.
By doing this kind of simple analysis you can easily see whether your current system is upgradable or even worth upgrading rather than replacing. Although what you do will often depend on how you use your computer, I’d suggest if the system takes RAM other than DDR3 a complete replacement board/cpu and memory would be better. If that’s you, you might want to savor next week’s blog for later because upgrading RAM to your existing system is probably a waste of money.
Hope I haven’t lost you in some cyber induced coma and see you then.