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Enabling TPM for Windows 11 upgrade on 2018-2021 Windows 10 PCs

Was your computer manufactured between 2018 and 2021 and still running Windows 10 because you have yet to be prompted to upgrade to Windows 11? If so, it could be Windows 11 compatible and needs a feature turned on. Here is how to enable the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) in your computer.

Enabling TPM for Windows 11 Upgrade on 2018-2021 Windows 10 PCs

One of the services we offer is to perform a clean installation of Windows. When doing clean installs, I find that most systems manufactured between 2018 and 2021 do not have the TPM enabled. Once I enable the TPM, I usually will do a clean installation of Windows 11 instead of Windows 10.

So, what is the TPM? The TPM is a microchip that provides hardware-based security functions. It is designed to provide a secure foundation for various security-related functions, such as BitLocker drive encryption, Windows Hello, secure boot, and more. By providing a secure environment for sensitive operations, TPM helps protect the system's integrity and the data's confidentiality.

The first version of the TPM, 1.2, started to appear in computers in 2006 and was a dedicated chip. TPM version 2.0 (the version required by Windows 11) began to appear in computers in 2018 and is a firmware extension of the CPU (Central Processing Unit). Between 2018 and 2021, the TPM function of most computers was turned off by default, as no version of Windows required it.

Then, in 2021, Microsoft released Windows 11 and changed the hardware requirements for Windows. Windows 11 now requires a TPM version 2.0 for Windows 11 to be installed. There were registry hacks and other ways to get around it, but Microsoft quickly patched those flaws.

So, the first thing you need to do is find out the status of the TPM inside Windows 10. By bringing up the TPM Management console, you can see if a TPM is enabled and what version it is. To open the TPM Management console, perform either of the following:

  • Open a RUN dialog box by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R, type tpm.msc in the Open field, and left-click on OK.
    or
  • Open a search box by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + S, type tpm.msc, and choose tpm.msc Microsoft Common Console Document.

Once the TPM Management console appears, it will tell you if a TPM is enabled and what version it is.
TPM status inside of Windows 10
If it states that a compatible TPM could not be found, you will have to either research the system/motherboard specifications online or boot your computer into the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) / UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface).

Now, before you research online or boot into the BIOS/UEFI, let's talk about what you will be looking for. The CPU manufacturers (Intel and AMD) have different names for implementing the TPM firmware extensions.

  • The TPM extension inside Intel processors is called Platform Trust Technology (PTT).
  • The TPM extension inside AMD processors is called Firmware TPM (fTPM).

The quickest and easiest way to check for a TPM is to boot your computer into the BIOS/UEFI. This may take several tries, as interrupting the booting cycle for your computer can be challenging. If you don't interrupt the boot process the first time, just let the computer boot to the login screen and restart it.

  1. Restart your computer and access the BIOS/UEFI settings. The method to access these settings varies depending on the manufacturer of your computer. Typically, you can access the BIOS/UEFI settings by pressing a specific key (such as F2, F10, or Del) during the boot process. Most of the time, pressing either the F2 or the Del key rapidly when the splash screen (the manufacturer logo) appears will get you into the BIOS/UEFI settings. Consult your computer's manual or the manufacturer's website for specific instructions.
  2. Once in the BIOS/UEFI settings, navigate to the Security or Advanced tab. Look for an option related to TPM or Security. The wording may vary depending on the manufacturer. Remember to look for PTT in systems with Intel processors and fTPM for systems with AMD processors.
  3. Enable the TPM feature and save the changes before exiting the BIOS/UEFI settings. Your computer will restart.
  4. After enabling TPM in the BIOS/UEFI settings, you can verify that it is enabled in Windows 10 by opening the TPM Management console (as previously outlined). It should now show that TPM is enabled.

Once the TPM is enabled, you can wait for Windows Update to offer the Windows 11 upgrade or manually upgrade Windows 10 to Windows 11. Enabling the Trusted Platform Module on computers manufactured between 2018 and 2021 running Windows 10 is an important step towards being able to upgrade to Windows 11. By following the steps outlined in this article, users can verify the presence and version of a TPM and enable it in the BIOS/UEFI.

Tips for choosing the right CPU cooler for your custom-built computer

Are you looking for ways to keep your computer running smoothly and prevent overheating? The CPU (Central Processing Unit) cooler is a critical component that plays a significant role in keeping your computer cool. Choosing the right cooler that meets your needs and keeps your system from overheating is essential. In this article, we'll explore some tips for selecting the right CPU cooler for your custom-built computer.

Tips for choosing the right CPU cooler for your custom-built computer

Shopping for a CPU cooler can be a daunting task due to the overwhelming number of options available. To choose the right CPU cooler, you will need to take into consideration the type of CPU, available space, noise level, and whether you prefer an air or liquid cooler. Aesthetics may also play a role in your decision. Let's look at some of the things you must consider when choosing the right CPU cooler.

Compatibility and size: The first thing to consider in choosing the right CPU cooler for your custom-built computer is compatibility. Most CPU coolers will fit the majority of motherboards on the market, but if the CPU is relatively new, the coolers that support it may be limited.

The second thing you need to consider is the size of the CPU cooler. With CPU coolers, you must look at the space required for the heatsink (air) or radiator (liquid). For air coolers, is there enough room between the CPU on the motherboard and the side panel on the case? For liquid coolers, is there enough room in the case for a radiator and fan assembly?

Air or liquid: When it comes to CPU cooling, there are two (2) primary options: air or liquid cooling. Air coolers use fans to circulate air over a heatsink, while liquid coolers use a closed-loop system to circulate coolant over the CPU and through the radiator. While both options can provide excellent cooling performance, liquid cooling is typically more efficient and quieter than air cooling.

A manufacturers stock air CPU cooler

Now, some CPUs will come with a standard air cooler included. These work perfectly fine for surfing the web or checking email, but if you plan on putting the CPU under a heavy load, an air cooler with a larger heatsink or liquid cooler might be the best bet.

A performance air CPU cooler

Many years ago, Intel used to have different warranty periods for CPUs that came with and without their cooler (3 years with / 1 year without), so checking the warranty coverage is recommended. Also, remember that liquid cooling can be more expensive and challenging to install, so it's essential to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

With liquid cooling, there are two (2) types of systems: All-In-One (AIO) or a custom loop. AIOs are sealed and are not serviceable.
A all-in-one liquid CPU cooler
Custom loops are open and can be serviced.
A custom loop liquid CPU cooler
AIOs are easier to install but can not have any of the parts repaired or coolant replaced. Custom loops can be repaired, and coolant can be replaced, but use hard acrylic lines that must be cut and bent to the specific application.

Noise levels: The noise level is another critical factor to consider when choosing a CPU cooler. Some coolers can be loud, especially if you over-clock your CPU, which can be distracting and annoying when trying to work or play games. If you're looking for a quieter option, consider a liquid cooler or a low-noise air cooler. Be sure to check the specifications and reviews to get an idea of how loud a particular cooler is before making a purchase.

Remember that an air cooler with a large heatsink and multiple fans or a liquid cooler with a large radiator and multiple fans will cool much better than the manufacturer cooler. But with more fans comes more noise, so check the specifications of any cooler you are looking to purchase.

Cooling performance: One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a CPU cooler is the cooling performance. The cooler's ability to dissipate heat from the CPU significantly affects the overall system temperature. A high-performance cooler will keep your CPU running at optimal temperatures, which can improve system stability and prevent damage to your components.

Be sure to look for coolers with a high thermal efficiency rating and a high airflow rate for maximum cooling performance. Remember that with a large surface area, like with a large heatsink or radiator, you will get better cooling performance. And with plenty of airflow, your CPU will keep its cool even when throttled to the max.

Your budget: Finally, it's essential to consider your budget when choosing a CPU cooler. CPU coolers can range in price from as little as $20 to as much as $200 or more. While more expensive coolers may provide better cooling performance, they may not be necessary for your system. Be sure to weigh the features and benefits of each cooler against its price to find the best option for your needs and budget.

In conclusion, choosing the right CPU cooler for your computer is critical to keeping your system running smoothly and preventing overheating. By considering factors such as compatibility and size, air or liquid cooling, noise levels, cooling performance, and budget, you can find the perfect cooler to meet your needs and keep your computer cool. Be sure to do your research, read reviews, and compare options to make an informed decision and keep your computer running at its best.

Defining confusing computer hardware verbiage

Have you ever looked at the specifications of a computer and wondered what all of that information meant? Technical jargon can be confusing. So here is some of the most common computer hardware verbiage defined.

Defining confusing computer hardware verbiage

The vocabulary that the computer industry uses can be confusing at times. The different technical jargon can make your head spin. So here are the definitions for some of the most commonly used technical verbiage.

Motherboard

Chipset - An integrated circuit that controls data transfer functions - Chipsets are designed to work with specific CPUs and provides communication between the CPU and the other devices connected to the motherboard. Chipsets have a direct role in determining system performance

Form Factor - The physical dimensions of a device or component - Motherboards come in various form factors: from the ultra-small mini-ITX to a full-size ATX. Always verify what motherboard form factor your computer case can hold.

CPU Socket - It holds the CPU and provides mechanical and electrical connection between the motherboard and processor - AMD and Intel use completely different socket types (Intel uses LGA and AMD uses sWRX8, sTRX4, etc.). Be sure to confirm the CPU socket before purchasing a new motherboard.

Memory Slots - It holds memory modules and provides mechanical and electrical connections between the motherboard and memory - Desktop and laptop motherboards usually have 2 - 4 memory slots. Server motherboards can have up to 32 memory slots.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

Core - A Core is a separate processing unit inside the CPU that executes the instructions that the user initiates, such as running programs and completing complex calculations - All modern CPUs have multiple cores to run several processes simultaneously.

Thread - A thread is a sequence of programmed instructions - You will usually find two (2) Threads using one (1) Core. This is where the term multithread comes from.

Generation - A CPU Generation is the average time between product release cycles - This period is usually one (1) year.

Clock Rate - The frequency/speed that the CPU operates at - The higher the clock rate is, the faster a CPU can process instructions.

Memory

Type - The physical interface that connects the memory module to the motherboard - Memory modules come in various types, from the standard DDR (Double Data Rate) to Double Data Rate 5 (DDR5).

Speed - The frequency that the memory operates at - Memory speed is measured by transfers per second. For example, PC5-38400 can handle 4,800 transfers per second.

Capacity - The amount of data the memory module can hold - The capacity of a memory module is always a multiple of 2 (2, 4, 8,16, 32, 64, etc.).

Column Address Strobe (CAS) Latency - The delay in clock cycles it takes between when data is read and when it is available for use - When selecting memory, always use modules with the same CAS latency. Using memory modules that have different CAS latency can cause system instability.

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

Form Factor - The physical dimensions of a device or component - HDDs come in 3.5" or 2.5" widths. The height of 2.5" HDDs can vary between 7MM and 9MM.

Capacity - The amount of data the drive can hold - HDD capacity can vary from Gigabytes (GB) to Terabytes (TB).

Interface - The physical connection between the motherboard and HDD - All HDDs utilize a SATA interface connection.

Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) - The speed at which the platters inside of an HDD spins - The faster the HDD platter spins, the quicker data is transferred.

Cache - The embedded memory that acts as a buffer between the motherboard and drive - Normally, the larger the cache, the better performance you will get from the HDD.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

Form Factor - The physical dimensions of a device or component - SSDs come in various physical forms (sizes); 2.5", M.2, and U.2. M.2 SSDs also come in various widths and lengths. The code that follows M.2 is that particular drive's width and length in millimeters. For example, an M.2 2280 has a width of 22MM and a length of 80MM.

Capacity - The amount of data the drive can hold - SSD capacity can vary from Gigabytes (GB) to Terabytes (TB).

Interface - The physical connection between the motherboard and SSD - There are primarily three (3) types of interfaces; SATA 3, PCI-e 3, and NVMe. What type of interface is determined by the form factor. 2.5" drives use SATA 3, and M.2 drives use either PCI-e 3 or NVMe. M.2 drives also have key notches; B key, M key, or both.

Memory Type - Most SSDs use NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) - NVMe has become the default standard memory for most SSDs produced.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

Power Requirements - The amount of power required to operate the GPU - Most GPUs require one (1) PCIe 6 or 8-pin power connector, with some high-end graphic cards requiring two (2) PCIe 6 - 8 pin connectors.

Interface - The physical connection between the motherboard and graphics card - Most GPUs require a PCIe x16 slot using the same PCIe version (2.0, 3.0, 4.0, etc.) as the motherboard.

Memory - The physical amount of memory that is embedded on the graphics card - Graphics cards use a type of memory designed explicitly for processing graphics called Graphics Double Data Rate (GDDR). There are multiple versions of GDDR, including GDDR3, GDDR4, and GDDR5.

Speed - The frequency that the GPU operates at - GPU clock speed is how many processing cycles it can execute in a second.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Type - PSU types are based on the different computer case form factors - The majority of PSUs are ATX form factor, as it is the most popular case type.

Power Output - The rated maximum wattage that a PSU can deliver - A PSU output can range from 400W to over 1500W.

Modular / Non-Modular - The type of physical connection for the different power cables leading to the various devices - Non-modular PSUs have all of the device connections physical attached, Modular PSUs have separate cables for each type of device, so you only have to connect the cables for the devices you need to power.

The ultimate guide to buying a new computer

Being a computer technician, there one question that I seem to get asked more than any other "I am looking for a new computer, what do you recommend?". I then spend several minutes (sometimes hours) discussing the various computer configurations. So here is a list of things to look for when buying a new computer.

When it comes to computers, you can get them in hundreds of different configurations. Should you get a laptop or a desktop? Or maybe an all-in-one? These are some of the questions you have to ask yourself when you are looking a getting a new computer.

So I thought I would take the time and share with you what I usually tell my customers. So grab something to drink and a pen and paper to take notes. This might be a long article.

Computer: Should I get a laptop, desktop, or all-in-one?

This question is quickly answered with the Form Follows Function principle. If you need to use your computer in different locations, you will need to get a laptop. If you are going to use your computer in just one place, then a desktop or all-in-one should fill the bill.

Laptops

If you are thinking about getting a laptop computer, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you take a few precautions with your laptop, it can last a long time. I have a netbook that is over ten (10) years old and still looks and runs like its brand new.

Since laptops are portable, they tend to get damaged more often than a desktop or all-in-one computer. The most common damage I see is liquid spills. Once liquid gets into a laptop, it will run where ever gravity will take it.

And no matter how well you dry it out, there will eventually be some damage that appears. And I am just talking about water here as other liquids, such as wine or juice, contain sugars and acids.

I once had a laptop that had wine spilled on it. When I started to disassemble it, I noticed that the flat cables used to connect the different components inside of the laptop had started to deteriorate. The wires were dissolving from the acidity in the wine.

Desktops

Desktop computers have been the mainstay of the computer form for decades, and they are the preferred style of a computer for business use. With external connections for USB devices, monitors, wired networking, and audio, the configurations are kind of endless.

But desktop computers come in different forms, and they are not all created equal. For example, standard ATX, Mini-ATX, and ITX (motherboard form factor) based desktop computers use IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) form standard for computer components.

What this means is that internal components such as power supplies, hard drives, graphic cards, and memory modules are all the same for each of these styles of the desktop computer.

And then there is the SSF (Small Form Factor) desktop computer. These use the same style of memory modules as standard desktop systems but use low-profile expansion cards, like graphics cards.

SSF systems also use smaller, and lower output power supplies, usually explicitly made to the specifications of the manufacturer of the computer. And the lower output power supplies can be an issue when upgrading components.

For example, a customer wanted to upgrade the memory and graphics card in an SSF computer, but it only had a 250-watt power supply. Since everything inside of a computer takes wattage, including memory, I ended up having to find a low-profile graphics card that used under 30 watts of power.

But some desktop computers do have a downside, and that is the size of the case. Gaming computers usually have huge cases so that they can accommodate cooling fans and liquid CPU coolers. High power systems generate a relatively large amount of heat.

And of course, if you are going to have multiple monitors, those will take up a good amount of space too. I built a system for a customer that had six (6) monitors, two rows of three. With the desktop computer, keyboard, and mouse, the whole system ended up being almost eight (8) feet wide.

All-in-one

This style of computer is excellent for people that do not have the room for separate components (a computer and monitor). You can get a pretty good size screen and all of the connections (USB ports, wired network port, and sometimes an external monitor port).

Now all-in-one computers come with and without touch screen function. When it comes to touch screens, you have to remember that you will be extending your arm out to use it.

This can make your shoulder hurt after an extended amount of time using it. You have to ask yourself if it is worth the additional cost to get the touch screen feature.

There is also a little known secret about all-in-one computers that nobody tells you about; they are hybrid systems. Quite simply, they are a combination of laptop and desktop components.

I have worked on quite a few all-in-one computers and have found some will use laptop-style memory & drives, and some will use desktop-style memory and drives and some a combination of both.

And heaven forbid you have to replace the screen in an all-in-one computer. Most of the time, you have to completely disassemble them to get the exact model number of the display.

The last all-in-one computer that I worked on had six (6) different possible model numbers for the replacement display. It depended on what company had supplied the screen for the system when it was built.

Drive(s): HDD, SSHD, or SSD?

When you are shopping for a new computer, a lot of times, the description you get from the seller lacks some specific details. Sure they will tell you how much storage the machine has, but do they tell you what kind of drive the storage is?

For low priced computers, sellers will usually just say something like 'XXXGB's of storage can hold a gazillion photos'. It is only when you get into the mid to upper price range do sellers start to tell you what kind of storage a computer has (HDD, SSD, etc.). So the first thing I want to do is explain the different types of drives.

HDD (Hard Disk Drive)

HDD's offer larger capacity at a lower cost, but have a slower read/write speed. HDD's are perfect for the average computer user that just wants to surf the web, check e-mail, and store some photos from their phone. They come in two (2) different forms, 2.5" and 3.5", and connect to the computer using a SATA (Serial AT Attachment) interface, which determines the input/output speed. The upside to HDD's is that when they start to fail, you usually get some type of warning and have time to transfer/recover data from them.

SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive)

SSHD's offer the capacity of HDD's with faster read / write speed. As the name implies, these drives are hybrid, which means they are a combination of spinning disk(s) and flash memory. The memory acts as a cache for the data stored on the disk(s). As you use these drives, they learn where the most frequently used data is stored and can access it more quickly than a standard HDD. SSHD's also come in two (2) different forms, 2.5" and 3.5", and connect to the computer using a SATA interface. The down-side of SSHD's is that when they fail, it is usually the memory portion of the drive that dies. This makes transferring/recovering the data stored on it a little harder, but not impossible.

SSD (Solid State Drive)

SSD's offer extremely fast read/write speeds but can be on the expensive side for larger capacities. SSD's are a collection of flash memory chips and make no noise when running. They are also more resistant to shock and are a better choice for laptop computers. SSD's also come in multiple different forms and interfaces. When it comes to SSD's, the most important thing to look for is the interface it uses. It is the interface that determines the read/write speed. SATA interfaces can have a transfer rate of 6GB per second. M.2 interfaces can have a transfer rate of 32GB per second. The down-side of SSD's is when they fail; it is tough to recover the data stored on them. So if the computer you are looking at buying has an SSD, perform a regular backup of it.

A good rule of thumb for when trying to determine what type of drive a computer might have is to remember that if the size is under 500GB, it probably is an SSD. Drive manufacturers no longer make HDD's or SSHD's smaller than 500GB. Now that we have covered the types of drives let us take a quick look at how they can be used and configured.

Single drive computers - All-in-one computers and low priced desktop and laptops usually have only one drive. Also. Ultra-thin laptops will often have either one thin profile HDD, SSHD (7MM SATA), or SSD (7MM SATA or M.2) drive.

Multiple drive computers - Mid to high priced desktop and laptops computers can come with numerous drives. You usually see gaming computers with multiple drives that have a smaller, 500GB to 1TB SSD (usually an M.2) for the operating system/programs and a larger HDD, 2TB or larger, for data storage.

I have seen some gaming computers that have had two (2) SSD's set up in a RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) 0/1 configuration. But these are kind of rare, but they are on the market. So keep your eye out for them.

While we are on the subject of multiple drive configurations, we need to talk about Intel Optane. You may see Intel Optane listed as part of the storage specification on a new computer.

Now Intel Optane is similar to the flash memory inside of SSHD drives. It can cache the most frequently used files and programs on a drive that it is paired with and speed up reading and writing to that drive. Intel Optane uses an M.2 interface and works best when paired up with a drive, either an HDD or SSD, that uses a SATA interface.

Intel Optane will not improve the performance of drives that use an M.2 interface. I had a customer that had me set up an Intel Optane device paired with an M.2 SSD. Believe it or not, but the read and write performance went down. Definitely not a good choice.

Processor: What brand and type should I get?

There are two main CPU (Central Processing Unit) manufacturers out there, AMD and Intel, and both have their pros and cons. Intel CPU's usually are a little bit more expensive, and AMD CPU's are infamous for being able to be over-clocked.

All modern CPUs have multiple processing units called cores. The more cores a CPU has, the more data it can process at one time. Then you have the frequency (speed) that the CPU processes the data.

But since most CPU's run at a frequency between 3 GHz and 5 GHz, the amount of time you gain using a 5 GHz CPU over a 3 GHz CPU is kind of irrelevant. So it comes down to how many cores do you need.

Using Intel CPU's as an example, the basic Intel i3 processor has two cores and works well for running one program at a time, like e-mail, writing documents and surfing the Internet. But it does not work very well when you try multi-tasking with Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Revit.

On the other end of the Intel CPU's, you have the Intel i9 processor line, which can have up to 10 cores. These processors can handle running multiple programs at one time and are the preferred CPU for doing 3D rendering. But remember, the more cores a processor has, the more money it costs.

Memory: How much should I get?

When it comes to the amount of memory you should get in a new computer, it just comes down to the question, "What are you going to use your computer for?".

The first thing you have to take into consideration is the operating system. Every computer nowadays has a 64-bit processor, and the operating system uses a portion of the memory just for itself.

For example, a 64-bit version of Windows 10 requires 2 Gigabytes of memory just for itself. That doesn't include any other programs. If your computer does not have a separate GPU (Graphic Processor Unit), then the onboard IGPU (Integrated Graphics Processing Unit) would also use some of the system memory.

The bare minimum amount of memory I recommend is 8 Gigabytes, but 16 or 32 Gigabytes is more of a standard amount. 64 gigabytes and higher is nice, but it will add more to the cost of the computer.

Video/graphics card: What should I look for?

Here again, it is all about what you are going to use your computer for. Each type of computer (laptop. desktop and all-in-one) has its pros and cons when it comes to graphics.

All-in-one systems are meant for everyday computing, spreadsheets, e-mail, and surfing the Internet. They usually just have an onboard IGPU that uses the system memory.

Laptop and desktop computers usually come standard with an on-board IGPU and can also include a separate GPU that has its own separate memory. If you are looking for a computer for gaming or 3D rendering, you will want a separate GPU.

Now features available for separate GPU's will differ from laptop to desktop computers. You will find that you get a better selection of GPU's with desktop computers than laptops. The reason is desktops use PCI-e expansion slots for adding in separate GPUs.

For more about expansion cards, check out the following article.

How to add an expansion card to your desktop computer

Either way, if you are looking for a computer with a high-performance GPU, check the requirements of the software you want to run. That will give you the guidance for what GPU features you need.

On a side note, I have had to troubleshoot display issues with laptops that have an IGPU and GPU. With these types of laptops, the IGPU and the GPU run simultaneously and switch between the two depending on the demands of the programs running.

Sometimes these types of laptops will experience crashing when switching between intense graphic programs like games and standard applications like web browsers. The easy fix is to set the GPU as the default graphic processor for all programs.

Monitor: Single or multiple?

I usually tell customers to get the largest size that space will allow. With the display resolutions always increasing, having a monitor that can handle them is essential. You will more than likely own this monitor for over a decade, so you might as well look towards any future use.

When shopping for a monitor, you have to keep in mind how it is going to connect to your computer. You will need to check the available video connections on your computer and get the same type on the monitor. Here is a link to an article with images of the most popular video connectors.

The most common computer video display connectors

Now two types of video connectors also include audio, HDMI, and DisplayPort. So if you plan on using one of these video types to connect your new monitor, make sure that the monitor you purchase has built-in speakers.

If you are going to use an HDMI connection, you can also look at using a television as a monitor. The resolution may not be as high as a regular monitor, but you could use it as a television too. I built a computer with an HDMI graphics card just for my home entertainment system.

Keep in mind that any monitor you buy may not come with the correct video cable to connect it to your computer. Getting a cable at the same time you buy the monitor could save you a lot of frustration when it comes to setting up the new computer.

And keep the receipt for any cables handy, just in case the new monitor does include the correct one. I would rather have to return a cable at my leisure than have to run out to get one to finish the setup. As the old saying goes, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'.

What if the computer you are looking at buying can support more than one monitor? If you are going to go with multiple monitors, I recommend getting the same make and model for each one and, if possible, buy them at the same time. That way, you get monitors that were manufactured around the same time as each other.

Once you get your new computer setup, there are a few things you should do first. Here is an article that discusses those things in detail.

Five things you should do first when you get a new computer

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading computer components

Updated May 14, 2024

When doing computer repair for a living, there is one thing I do pretty often: replacing and upgrading computer components. Whether it be replacing a drive or installing a new graphics card, there is always something you need to consider. So here are a few things you should ask yourself when selecting computer components.

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading computer components

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your motherboard

Form factor

  • What form factor size does your existing case support?
    If the motherboard you are looking at getting is ATX and your present case only has space and stand-offs for a mini-ATX motherboard, you will not be able to install the new motherboard.
  • Do you have any of the extra parts that came with the case, including stand-offs for the motherboard?
    If you are replacing a mini-ATX motherboard with an ATX motherboard and your case is large enough for it, do you have the stand-offs and screws for the extra mounting points that the new ATX motherboard will require?
  • Do you have the installation media for the operating system and all your programs?
    When you change out a motherboard, unless it is from the same manufacturer and same model line, odds are you will need to perform a clean installation of the operating system and your apps. If you try to use the existing operating system currently installed with a new motherboard, you are more than likely to get all sorts of errors. Be prepared to reinstall the OS and apps.

CPU socket

  • What is the socket type of your existing CPU?
    You cannot use an LGA1150 processor in an LGA1151 socket.
  • Will the new motherboard you're thinking about getting support your existing processor?
    You will need to do your research on the motherboard you are thinking about getting. If you cannot find the information online, give the manufacturer a call. There is nothing worse than getting a motherboard that you cannot use.

Memory slot(s)

  • Does the motherboard you're considering getting support your existing memory modules?
    Again, do your research. You have to make sure that everything will go smoothly when you do the upgrade.
  • Or are you going to need to get new memory modules?
    If you find out that you will need new memory modules, buy them in pairs (twin-pack, quad-pack). Try to avoid mixing different memory modules if you can. You will also find buying them in twin or quad-packs cheaper than single modules.

Expansion slots (PCI-e)

  • What do you currently have for expansion cards?
    These include graphic card(s), RAID controller card(s), M.2 adapter card(s), Wi-Fi/ethernet card(s), etc..
  • And what type of expansion slot(s) do they use (PCI-e x16, PCI-e x4, PCI-e x1)?
    Make a note about all of the different PCI-e slots that are used on your existing motherboard, and reference it when you are looking at a new motherboard.

M.2 Slot(s)

  • If your existing mother has M.2 slot(s) and you use them, what form factor, key notches, and interface do they utilize?
    M.2 2242, M.2 2260, M.2 2280? B key, M key, or both? SATA 3, PCI-e 3, or NVMe?

Internal USB connections

  • What type of USB headers does your current motherboard have?
    USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1 or USB 3.1 Gen 2.

Internal drive connectors

  • What type of internal drive connectors does your current motherboard have?
    SATA, SATA Express or U.2?

Power connector

  • What type of power connector(s) and how many does the motherboard you are thinking about getting have (4-pin or 8-pin ATX 12V)?
    Does your existing power supply have the correct amount of connector(s)?

Related articles
Tips for choosing the right motherboard for your custom-built computer

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your processor / CPU

Socket type

  • What socket type does your current motherboard have (LGA 1151, LGA 2011, AMD AM5, etc.)?
    Remember that you cannot use an LGA1150 processor in an LGA1151 socket.

Motherboard compatibility

  • What processors does your current motherboard support?
    You will need to do your research on your existing motherboard. If you cannot find the information online, give the manufacturer a call. You may need to update the BIOS on your current motherboard to run the new processor you are considering getting.

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your CPU cooler

The space inside of case

  • Does your present case have room for an upgraded CPU cooler?
    If you are thinking of air cooling, do you have enough space on top of the CPU for it? If you're thinking about liquid cooling, do you have the correct mounting holes for it? And will you need to replace any of the existing case fan(s) to accommodate a new CPU cooler?
  • Does your motherboard have all the connectors for running a liquid CPU cooler?
    Some liquid coolers require an onboard USB header to function correctly. Also, does your motherboard have any special liquid cooler fan headers?

Related articles
Tips for choosing the right CPU cooler for your custom-built computer

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your graphics card / GPU

Slot version

  • What version of PCI-e slot (3.0, 4.0, 5.0) does your current motherboard have?
    To answer this question, you will need to reference the motherboard manual or specifications online. If you have a problem finding this information, just contact the motherboard manufacturer.
  • What PCI-e version is the graphics card you are looking at getting?
    Again, to answer this question, reference the graphic card manual or specifications online. If you have trouble finding this information, just contact the graphics card manufacturer. If the PCI-e slot on your motherboard is version 3 and the graphics card you are looking at getting is version 4, you will have a problem.

Power connection(s)

  • Does the graphics card you are looking at getting require a separate PCI-e power connector(s)? If so, are they 6 or 8-pin PCI-e or 12+4 PCI-e 5.0 connector(s), and how many does it need?
    You should be able to find this information on the vendor or manufacturer's website. The information should also be on the outside of the box.
  • Does your current power supply have all of the proper PCI-e connector(s) for it?
    Some lower-wattage power supplies have only 6-pin PCI-e connectors. Visually check your existing power supply for the type and quantity of PCI-e power connectors.

Related articles
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Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your memory

Slot type and speed

  • What slot type and memory speed does your existing motherboard support (DDR3 2400, DDR4 4200, DDR5 6400, etc.)?
    To answer this question, you will need to reference the motherboard manual or specifications online. If you have a problem finding this information, just contact the motherboard manufacturer.

Existing memory compatibly

  • Are you going to add more memory to your current memory?
    The one thing you want to try and avoid when adding memory is incompatibility with existing memory. If you plan on adding a couple more memory modules, try to use your current memory's exact make and model. Even though memory from different manufacturers may be the same slot and speed type, their clock timings can differ. So, using the same make and model of memory in all slots is always recommended. If you can't, make sure you match the memory timing of your existing memory.

Related articles
How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your drive

Form factor and size

  • What size and form factor drive(s) are you looking at getting?
    If you are replacing an existing drive, you should go with one that is the same form factor (3.5", 2.5", M.2, or U.2) and the same size (GB's, TB's) or larger than your existing drive. If you are upgrading your drive to a different form factor (SSD, HDD, or U.2), you need to make sure your current case has a place to mount the other kind of drive (3.5" or 2.5"). If you are upgrading your drive to a different form factor (M.2, mSATA), you need to make sure your existing motherboard has the correct form factor (M.2 2242, M.2 2260, M.2 2280), key notches (B key, M key or both) and interface (SATA 3, PCI-e 3 or NVMe) as the drive you are looking at getting. If you want an M.2 or mSATA and your motherboard does not have the appropriate slot, you will need to use an expansion card.

Related articles
How to upgrade the drive in your computer

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading your case

Motherboard Form Factor (micro-ATX, ATX, ITX, etc.)

  • What is the form factor of your existing case?
    If the case you are looking at getting is designed for a mini-ATX motherboard, you will not get a standard ATX motherboard to fit in it. Check the case manufacturer's website to verify the motherboard form factors that will fit in it.

CPU fan

  • Does the case you are looking at getting have enough space for your existing CPU fan?
    There is nothing worse than getting the motherboard, CPU, and cooler installed in a new case only to find out that you cannot get the side of the case on. Double-check all dimensions.

Peripheral/expansion

  • Does it have enough front panel connectors for the onboard headers of the motherboard?
    It sucks having USB 3.0 header(s) on the motherboard and not having any or enough connectors on the front of the case.
  • If you have a DVD or BD drive, does it have a 5.25" drive bay in front for it?
    Many cases nowadays do not have 5.25" drive bays. If you have a 5.25" drive or drives (CD, DVD, BD), you will need to double-check the case you are looking at getting.

Related articles
Tips for choosing the perfect case for your computer

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

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Geeks In Phoenix LLC, BBB Business Review

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

Bring your computer to us and save

Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

Contact us

If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (602) 795-1111  and talk with one of our Geeks. Or you can send us a message from our contact page contact page , and one of our Geeks will get back to you as soon as possible. Or you can stop by and see us. Here are our hours and location.

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