GuidesWikiUpgrading Prebuilt PC: The Definitive Guide

Upgrading Prebuilt PC: The Definitive Guide

It is possible to upgrade a prebuilt PC by replacing the parts, such as RAM, GPU, or PSU. Sometimes, you may have to change the motherboard.

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. In any case, it is important to learn about the entire process, as you don’t want to throw in the wrong component.


 Key Takeaways

  • A prebuilt PC is a complete system that has all of the required parts in it.
  • It is possible to upgrade a prebuilt PC by replacing the parts, such as RAM, GPU, or PSU.
  • In some cases, you will need to replace the motherboard to make it compatible with some new parts. 

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[1] 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[2]. 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: Check if your prebuilt PC includes a graphics card. If it does, it likely has a PCIe x16 slot, allowing for GPU upgrades. This slot is backward and forward compatible[3], enabling easy upgrades. If your motherboard has an empty PCIe x16 slot, you can install a new graphics card. Consider selling the old one online if present. However, if your prebuilt PC lacks a PCIe x16 slot, upgrading the graphics card isn’t possible[4]. This indicates that the system may be too outdated for gaming.
  • Inspecting RAM: RAM is a critical consideration when upgrading a prebuilt PC. However, it’s essential to note that RAM is not backward compatible[5]. If your motherboard only supports DDR3 RAM, it cannot run DDR4 modules efficiently, if at all. Replacing RAM modules of the same generation is still possible. For instance, if your prebuilt PC has 2x 2GB DDR3 RAM, you can upgrade to 2x 4GB DDR3 RAM for improved performance. However, upgrading to a different RAM generation is not feasible. Ensure the RAM you’re getting fulfills your needs before getting it.
  • Inspecting HDD & SSD: Most prebuild PC’s come with a preinstalled HDD. If your HDD has less than 500GB of storage, you may struggle to install many games[6]. Consider upgrading to a 500GB 7200 RPM HDD or adding an SSD for faster performance. Keep in mind that most prebuilt PCs may not support NVMe SSDs, so opt for a SATA SSD instead. Ensure all data is backed up before formatting the old hard drive and installing Windows on the SSD.
  • Inspecting PSU: Ensure your prebuilt PC has a powerful PSU to avoid potential dangers. In the worst case scenario, a lackluster power supply can damage your PC’s lifespan severely[7]. Calculate the power required for your upgrades and invest in a PSU from reputable brands like EVGA, Corsair, or Cooler Master to support the new power requirements. Make sure to also read about how to check for insufficient power supply to get a better understanding.
  • Inspecting Motherboard: Your motherboard is the backbone of your PC, it allows you to connect the components you desire together for the best experience tailored to your preferences[2]. Prebuilt computers generally have pretty bad motherboards, it’s usually a custom part that companies tend to cut the most corners on. Before swapping out your motherboard, you have to check a couple of very important things.
    • If you’re swapping out your motherboard to add other components to your system, make sure that your power supply supports adding the parts you want.
    • Make sure that you don’t have any parts soldered onto the motherboard. If you do, you need to buy them separately as well to put in your new mobo.
    • Make sure the components of your system that you want to swap are compatible with your motherboard of choice.
    • Make sure to get the motherboard size right, if the motherboard of your prebuilt is some nonconventional standard then it might be easier to sell your PC altogether for an upgraded one rather than finding a better mobo of the same dimensions.
    • Remember that your motherboard interconnects all of your PC hardware together, so upgrading your motherboard to a prebuilt PC requires a good amount of elbow grease. Once you do upgrade your motherboard, however, you’ll be able to enjoy creature comforts like more M.2 slots, better I/O, and better longevity for your system.
  • Inspecting Case:  Most prebuilt PCs come in very dinky cases to accommodate shipping to large businesses that order PCs by the dozen. This severely bottlenecks your PC’s upgrade path. Most tower coolers can’t even fit in the case of a prebuilt[7].

Ensure compatibility of components with your prebuilt PC’s case before upgrading. Consider factors like CPU cooler and graphics card size when choosing a new case. Prioritize compatibility over aesthetics or front panel I/O to avoid issues with PC part compatibility.

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 prebuilt 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. 

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.  

Related Helpful Resources By Tech4Gamers:

References:

  1. Intel Corporation. (n.d). How to Choose: Pre-Built Vs. Custom PC. Retrieved from https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/gaming/resources/how-to-choose-pre-built-vs-custom-pc.html
  2. GCFGlobal. (n.d.). Inside a computer. In Computer Basics. Retrieved from https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/computerbasics/inside-a-computer/1/

  3. PCI Special Interest Group (PCISIG). (2008). FAQ Express [archived webpage title]. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20081113163608/http://www.pcisig.com/news_room/faqs/faq_express/
  4. Trenton Systems. (2022, May 17). What is PCIe?. Retrieved from https://www.trentonsystems.com/en-us/resource-hub/blog/what-is-pcie
  5. Corsair. (n.d.). Is DDR5 Backwards Compatible? Retrieved from https://www.corsair.com/us/en/s/ddr5-memory
  6. Intel Corporation. (2023, March 2). System Requirements for Hottest Titles. Retrieved from https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/gaming/resources/system-requirements-for-hottest-titles.html
  7. Cooler Master. (n.d.). How to Choose a PSU. Retrieved from https://www.coolermaster.com/how-to-choose-a-psu/
  8. Cooler Master. (n.d.). MasterAir MA620P. Retrieved from https://www.coolermaster.com/catalog/coolers/cpu-air-coolers/masterair-ma620p/

Common Questions Answered

Can I upgrade a prebuilt PC?

Yes, you can upgrade a prebuilt PC, and the process is pretty straightforward.

Is it better to build a PC or buy a prebuilt PC?

If you don’t have any knowledge about PC building, it will be better to go with a prebuilt PC.

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