So, you’ve just started getting into gaming and are wondering whether you should be upgrading your prebuilt PC or building a completely new custom gaming PC from the ground up. Or, maybe you think starting from a prebuilt PC will save you some money. Whether you have an existing prebuilt PC or you’re completely starting off from scratch, follow this guide, and by the end of it, you’ll have an impressive gaming PC to last for years to come.

Related: How Long Does it Take to Build A PC?

What is a Prebuilt PC?  

To put it simply, a prebuilt PC is a complete system that comes with all parts required to run a PC. They don’t need the consumers to assemble the PC parts by themselves. Prebuilt PCs could be cheaper than buying custom parts individually and generally also offer a warranty in case there are any defects with the internal components.   

There are different types of prebuilt PCs. For example, you can get retail workers to build you a PC with the parts you’ve selected for free or extra expenses depending on where you’re buying from. Retailers also have prebuilt PCs, which are built by gathering all the parts at standard market rates. Moreover, in most cases, they could also be selling factory-made prebuilt PCs which are made by reputable manufacturers.  

Most people don’t want to spend hours looking for PC parts at the best rates, then wait for the components to arrive, and then finally build a custom gaming PC. This is where the prebuilt PC has its advantages because it already has all the functions you need from a PC. Simple upgrades to the memory, power supply, and graphics card can take its frame output from barely playable to smooth high FPS. 

Can You Upgrade a Prebuilt PC? 

Prebuilt PC
The Alienware PC’s are usually Prebuilt. Here is an example.

In most cases, yes, you can go about upgrading a prebuilt PC. These upgrades could mean replacing components of the graphics card, RAM, hard drive, SSD, power supply, and peripherals.  

Motherboard compatibility is most important when it comes to upgrading prebuilt PCs. It is the foundation of the system, which encompasses all the hardware required to run the PC, so if it’s incompatible with any PC component that you need, you won’t be able to upgrade that component.  

For example, if the motherboard on your prebuilt PC doesn’t have a PCIe x16 slot, you won’t be able to add a graphics card to the build. So, when buying a prebuilt PC for future upgrades, always make sure that the motherboard is compatible with future upgrades.  

How to Upgrade a Prebuilt PC?  

In this section, we’ll take you through the process of upgrading a prebuilt PC. It’s basically divided into a few simple steps. First, inspect the specs of your prebuilt PC to find the weak links. For example, you can see if the RAM is too little to suit your tasks or if the graphics card is on the low-end side. By doing this, you’re finding the parts which you will be upgrading in your PC. Next, prioritize the components that you need the most and organize your budget accordingly. And lastly, install the upgrades to complete the process.    

Inspecting GPU  

So, you might be wondering what’s the biggest thing holding your prebuilt PC from becoming a gaming one. Well, the answer to that is the graphics card. The GPU is the most important component that you need for PC gaming. Most prebuilt PCs come with either integrated graphics in the CPU or a low-end graphics card already preinstalled on the motherboard. 

Firstly, check if your prebuilt PC already comes with a graphics card installed. If it is, then that means it contains a PCIe x16 slot which allows you to replace your current GPU with a new one. This is also important as the PCIe x16 slot is actually both backward and forwards compatible, which allows you to upgrade your GPU.  

If your motherboard has an empty PCIe x16 slot, you can buy a new graphics card and easily put it in place. If it already had an old GPU installed, you can probably sell it online since it’s of no use to you.  

However, if the prebuilt PC that you have doesn’t have a motherboard that supports a PCIe x16 slot, you can’t upgrade your graphics card, which is the main component when it comes to gaming on a PC. It’s safe to say that your prebuilt is probably too outdated for upgrades to be able to run any games you need. 

 Related: 6 BEST RTX 3060 Graphics Cards In 2022

Inspecting RAM  

The problem with RAM is that it’s not backward compatible. So, if the motherboard you have on your prebuilt PC only has support for the DDR3 generation of RAM modules, it can’t run DDR4 modules. Even if it could, there would be a massive bottleneck that will stop the new RAM to function at its best frequencies. Unfortunately, there’s no fix for this problem.  

However, you can still replace RAM modules of the same generation. For example, if the prebuilt PC has 2x 2GB DDR3 RAM preinstalled in the system, you can replace those with 2x 4GB DDR3 RAM. This will give you a nice boost in performance, but it’s unfortunate that you won’t be able to upgrade  

If you’re buying a prebuilt PC for future upgrades in its memory, then make sure the motherboard it uses supports the RAM generation that you want. Otherwise, it’s basically impossible to upgrade it. 

Interested in buying DDR5 RAM? Read our guide for the Best DDR5 RAM.

Inspecting HDD & SSD  

Depending on the prebuilt PC you have, it may be a preinstalled HDD, as is the case with most prebuilt PCs. If this HDD has less storage than 500GB, you can’t install a lot of games on it. Many popular titles that you might want to play on your PC can’t be installed without the required free disk space. For that, you’ll need to buy another hard drive.  

So, if your hard drive has very small space available, you can spend a few bucks to at least get a 500GB 7200 RPM hard drive. You might also want to upgrade your PC by adding an SSD as it delivers much faster read/write speeds than HDDs meaning you’ll be able to run programs much faster and load games which are installed on the SSD much quicker. You will need to format your previous hard drive and install Windows on your SSD. So before installing an SSD, make sure all the current data is stored in an external drive such as a USB or cloud storage, etc.   

You should also know that most prebuilt PCs don’t have motherboards that allow an NVMe SSD, so take that into account when buying a new SSD. Typically, you can get a new SATA SSD with a free SATA cable from a retail shop which your motherboard will most probably support unless it’s really old.  

Inspecting PSU  

The last step in upgrading a prebuilt PC is to check the power supply. If your prebuilt PC doesn’t have a powerful PSU, which is enough to support the power requirements of your PC, it can get pretty dangerous. In the worst-case scenario, you add additional components to your PC; the power supply can’t support the extra load and malfunctions while taking your other PC parts along with it. 

The easy fix to this is to calculate all the power required from your PC after the upgrades and then buy a PSU that is enough to support those new power requirements. You can easily replace your current power supply with a new one, and always remember to buy from reputable brands such as EVGA, Corsair, and Cooler Master.   

Prioritize Upgrades 

So once you’ve e figured out how much you need to upgrade your prebuilt PC, you can go ahead and assign priorities to the upgrades you need most. Essentially, for gaming, you just need a powerful graphics card and a good CPU. Most probably, the [rebuilt PC which you’ve bought already comes with a good CPU, meaning you just need to upgrade the graphics card. 

Now the graphics card uses up a lot of power, and you need a PSU to ensure it gets its share, so these two upgrades should be given the most priority. Preferably, assign the most value to your PSU and then to the graphics card since that will determine if the whole system can even function or not. It will be beneficial for you to get a powerful PSU in advance when buying a prebuilt PC as that’d save you the trouble of upgrading to a new one in the future.  

Now you’ll probably get a good enough boost for gaming just by adding the graphics card, but you should also upgrade the HDD, SSD, and RAM at your convenience, as they’re still important upgrades to consider.  

Is it worth upgrading a Prebuilt PC?  

Gaming on a PC is fun, but unfortunately, not a lot of people can spend huge amounts of time and money to build a custom gaming PC. It’s just way too complicated and time-consuming for the average person. So, this is where most people decide to get a prebuilt PC as it gives you a reliable foundation that you can upgrade in the future.  

Most of the prebuilt PCs are sold for usually very cheap as the only thing they’re carrying of decent value is the processor, at least in most cases. As mentioned before, you might need to upgrade its PSU, graphics card (if it has one beforehand), RAM, SSD, and HDD. You can either choose to upgrade all these PC parts in one go or build them up over time.  

But regardless, if you can get individual parts of the PC for cheap, you’ll be able to save money with a custom built. Even if the job is complicated, there are numerous guides and forums online that you can take advantage of. So, it can either be upgrading a prebuilt PC or making a custom build. It’s up to you to decide which option is cheaper and more suitable for your taste.  

It is also worth noting that with time, prebuilt PCs are becoming a thing of the past as some models don’t even allow for any upgrades. Most people would much rather build a gaming PC themselves as it is genuinely a fun process, albeit a bit daunting at first. 

Related: How Much Does it Cost to Build a Gaming PC?

Conclusion  

In this article, we covered a lot of information about upgrading prebuilt PCs. By now, you should know whether your current workstation supports future upgrades or not. If it does, you should know how to go about upgrading it on your own, which upgrades should take the highest priority, and whether it is even a good idea. 

There are different types of prebuilt PCs out there, and some may not support future upgrades. If that’s the one you have on you, your best bet is to sell it online or to a retail store. After that, with the information you have now, you can decide whether you want a custom build PC or a pre-built one that can be upgraded in the future.   

If you decide on the latter, make sure the motherboard is compatible with any future upgrades and also check if the PSU has enough power to support them when buying a prebuilt PC. A quick rundown of how to upgrade a prebuilt PC is to first get a graphics card, then prioritize RAM, SSD, and HDD.  

Also read: How Long Does it Take to Build a Gaming PC?

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Abdemanaf has been a creative writer since 2011. He first dwelled in the tech world in early 2015 and has since compared many product offerings by different companies. Abdemanaf started working for Tech4Gamers in February 2022 as a blog and comparison writer.