Before you go out and spend money on individual components for your new gaming PC, you should check to see if they are all compatible with one another.
The last thing you want to happen is to purchase several bags worth of expensive hardware, transport them home, and then discover that some of the components don’t physically fit together or the computer won’t boot up for some unknown reason.
In this article, we will go over all the essential compatibility issues to look out for when building a PC in order to save you time, energy, and possibly even money.
The motherboard and power supply are the most important parts of the internals, as they are the only ones that must cooperate with each other.
Everything will work together as long as the central processing unit, graphics processing unit, random access memory, and storage solutions are all compatible with the motherboard.
These days, both Intel and AMD produce high-quality gaming central processing units (CPUs), so the question becomes, when picking out a new motherboard, what should you keep in mind to guarantee that your chosen CPU will work with it?
The socket, of course, is the most critical component here. Simply put, the socket is the slot on the motherboard through which the CPU connects to the motherboard and communicates with the rest of the system.
Now, sockets come in a wide range of sizes and pin arrangements, and you’ll find multiple socket types on modern motherboards. Currently, AMD’s mainstream CPUs plug into the AM4 socket and their high-end Threadripper CPUs use the TR4 socket.
Specifically with Intel, though, things get trickier. While the LGA1151 socket is used by the majority of mainstream Intel CPUs at the moment, the LGA2066 socket is reserved for more powerful models, much like the TR4 socket is for Threadripper.
However, the LGA1151 socket comes in two distinct revisions: Rev. 1 and Rev. 2. Due to pin changes, the updated socket is only compatible with Coffee Lake (8th and 9th generation) desktop CPUs.
Differentiating between Rev. 1 and 2 motherboards is as simple as inspecting the chipset.
Any motherboard with a 300 series chipset (including H370, Z370, and so on) uses the updated version of the socket and is compatible with 8th and 9th generation Intel Core CPUs, but not with 6th and 7th generation Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs. Coffee Lake uses 300 series chipsets.
When it comes to compatibility, though, how pivotal are chipsets?
Of course, if you use the correct socket, the CPU will function normally, but chipsets vary in terms of available features and the number of ports they support.
Features like overclocking, dual-graphics-card support, and the availability of technologies like AMD StoreMI and Intel Optane are all part of this category, as are the available PCIe slots, USB ports, SATA connectors, and so on.
Intel chipset specifications are available here, and AMD chipset specifications are available here.
If you’re building a gaming PC, you’ll almost certainly invest in a discrete graphics card, though some of AMD’s APUs are suitable for cost-conscious builds.
In a gaming PC, the graphics processing unit (GPU) is the most important component, and unlike with CPUs, you don’t have to worry as much about its compatibility.
For quite some time, graphics processing units (GPUs) have relied on PCI Express to communicate with the motherboard; currently, PCIe 3.0 is the most widely used version of PCIe. Although PCIe 4.0 motherboards have recently become available, waiting to upgrade at this time is not recommended.
All that’s needed is a spare PCIe 3.0 slot on the motherboard and enough room in the case for the graphics card.
Keep in mind that if you’re considering a multi-GPU configuration, having only two PCIe 3.0 slots isn’t going to cut it. As was previously mentioned, the chipset must be compatible with either AMD CrossFire or Nvidia SLI.
Just like graphics processing units (GPUs), RAM compatibility isn’t a major issue these days because the vast majority of motherboards now use DDR4 RAM and mainstream RAM modules all use standardized DIMM slots. The motherboard must be compatible with DDR4 memory modules (RAM) and have enough DIMM slots to accommodate them.
However, you should also consider whether the CPU and the motherboard support dual-channel or quad-channel RAM configurations, as well as the maximum RAM capacity and speed supported by the CPU and the motherboard.
DDR4 memory kits typically have clock speeds between 2133 and 3200 MHz, though some more expensive options can reach up to 4866 MHz.
Now, as stated before, as long as the RAM is the correct version, it will work, but there is no point in spending more money on a RAM kit that can reach such high clock speeds if your motherboard and CPU don’t support them.
The maximum RAM speed is typically listed on the CPU or motherboard manufacturer’s website, and it varies by model.
It’s the same story when it comes to storage space; a CPU/motherboard can only handle so much RAM (typically between 64 and 128 GB).
As a final option, there are RAM configurations with two channels, four channels, or more than four channels. If you are unsure how many RAM slots your motherboard and CPU have, you can easily find this information on the manufacturer’s website.
HDD And SSD Compatibility
HDDs and SSDs are both viable options for storage. Check out the full article to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of each option.
There should be no problem finding enough storage space for a gaming PC, as modern HDDs and many NAND SSDs use SATA 3, and most motherboards have four or six SATA 3 ports.
Yet, many SSDs, especially NVMe SSDs, use M.2 because SATA 3 isn’t the quickest interface available. M.2 is a specialized, ultra-small PCIe slot that makes it possible to covertly install an SSD onto a motherboard. Today’s motherboards typically include at least one of these.
An ATX PSU is the industry standard for desktop computers, so you’ll probably be using one if you build one yourself. There are a number of factors to think about when choosing a PSU, so we advise reading our detailed article on the subject.
The power supply unit (PSU) must be compatible with the case in terms of size and connectors, but otherwise there is no cause for alarm. The aforementioned ATX power supply standard is taken into account during the design of most cases.
Note that the wattage is also important, but that topic and others like it are discussed in the article we’ve linked to above.
Case And Motherboard Compatibility
Last but not least, there’s the issue of whether or not the motherboard and other components will fit in the case.
The most common types of motherboards in use today areequaling four different presentation styles Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, and EATX. Now, aside from the size of the motherboard, what else is there to distinguish one format from another?
As you might expect, larger motherboards have more expansion slots and connectors but are more expensive than their smaller counterparts. Mini ITX motherboards are an unusual case because they cost more than their Micro ATX counterparts despite being smaller in size.
There are also four standard case sizes, which roughly correspond to the four motherboard sizes. Mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, and EATX are all different heights and widths of computer case.
Though not always the case, some Mini Towers will support full-size ATX motherboards and some Mid Towers will support EATX motherboards. Again, this varies by case, so it’s always best to double-check with the manufacturer.
In addition to the motherboard, are there any other parts that must physically fit inside the case?
In reality, this is an issue, though it typically only affects compact cases and may not even affect Mini Towers. Graphics card and central processing unit cooler are the two suspect parts.
Obviously, the only way to know for sure that these will fit inside a small case is to measure the case, the graphics card, and the cooler individually.
Fortunately, there is a plethora of low-profile CPU coolers and compact GPU models available from original equipment manufacturers.
PC Part Picker
You’re not alone if the thought of reading through dozens of pages of specifications to ensure everything will fit makes your skin crawl. PC Part Picker is available, thankfully, to make the procedure much more user-friendly.
When you begin putting together a build, the website will do its magic and provide you with a curated set of components that work together. If you select the Ryzen 5 3600X as your CPU, for instance, the site will only display AM4 motherboards.
In addition, it will warn you of any potential problems, such as the need to update the motherboard’s BIOS before using it with a new CPU, among other things.
If you’re not very knowledgeable about putting together a computer, we highly suggest using this site.
Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most?
1. Why You Should Upgrade RAM
Increasing your RAM is the quickest and least expensive way to give your computer a boost. It’s cheap, accessible from almost any desktop computer, and doesn’t call for a lot of technical know-how. For laptops that support it, this is also a great upgrade.
This is the right place to start if you’ve never taken your computer case apart before.
In almost all cases, a RAM upgrade will speed up a computer that is currently running slowly. In order to accomplish memory-intensive tasks like video editing or gaming, more RAM is always preferable. More RAM is useful even for light multitasking because it allows you to keep more tabs open in your browser or run more programs simultaneously.
In that case, how much random access memory do you require?
- You’ll need at least 4GB to get by. It’s adequate for everyday tasks like viewing up to ten tabs in a browser at once, light photo editing, and video streaming. You should only be satisfied with this if you have very light usage.
- Increasing your memory to 8GB will make a huge difference. This is fine for moderate gaming, editing RAW photos, and browsing the web with up to 30 tabs open at once.
- 16GB is recommended for demanding tasks. This amount of memory is ideal for professional-level tasks like video editing, game development, and graphic design.
In addition to researching the best DDR4 RAM and how Windows Superfetch affects your RAM, you should also look into these related topics.
Crucial, a manufacturer of memory, offers a PC upgrade advisor tool that can help you determine what kind of RAM your computer can support.
2. Consider Upgrading the Graphics Card
This is number two on the list, but if you’re a serious gamer, you should prioritize upgrading it immediately. You may never need to upgrade it at all if you don’t do any serious gaming, 3D modeling, or 3D animation.
PC manufacturers typically opt for integrated graphics cards rather than dedicated graphics cards as a cost-cutting measure.
In addition, most users’ needs can be met by the integrated graphics on modern systems. It supports Photoshop and 4K video playback. Approximately 10% of Steam’s user base actually uses integrated graphics.
However, a GeForce RTX 3070 upgrade is warranted if top-tier graphics performance is required for your games or virtual reality projects. To evaluate how your current setup stacks up against that of dedicated cards, visit gpu.userbenchmark.com.
3. Get a Faster Storage Drive
Your hard drive needs to be upgraded if either of these two things happens: (1) you want faster performance, or (2) you’re out of storage space.
Making the switch from a traditional hard disk drive to a solid-state drive is one of the best improvements you can make to your computer. These are much quicker than a regular drive because they don’t use a spinning disk but rather flash memory.
Write speeds of 100 Mbps are possible with a 5400RPM drive, 150 Mbps with a 7200RPM drive, and over 500 Mbps with a solid-state drive. The write speeds of premium SSDs, such as the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, can reach 3300Mbps and beyond.
A faster data drive has repercussions for the rest of your setup. This equates to quicker response times in applications that utilize large files (like video editors or RAW photo editors) and shorter times required to complete tasks like booting a computer, loading apps, launching games, and more.
There’s also the issue of available storage space. You should replace your storage unit with a larger one if you regularly find yourself in need of more space despite your best efforts to clear it out. When a drive is full, not only can no new data be stored on it, but it can also cause performance issues. Keep at least 10 GB of space available on the hard drive for the operating system.
Solid-state drives used to be criticized for their high price and low storage capacity compared to traditional hard disk drives. This isn’t a problem any longer.
The SanDisk SSD Plus is a great example of a 1TB SSD that is both affordable and widely available. Even if you need more space, many people can fit in there comfortably. This mash-up of technologies strikes a happy medium between speed and compactness.
4. Upgrading the Processor
Changing out your computer’s processor is a much more involved process than the ones we’ve discussed so far. It’s not just one of the more pricey upgrades, but also one of the more physically challenging to install. Problems with socket compatibility should also be considered.
A processor upgrade isn’t always a good idea, and it might not give you the boost in performance you’re hoping for.
You can evaluate how various processors stack up against one another with the help of cpubenchmark.net’s benchmark tests. These evaluations demonstrate that incremental changes rarely yield significant enhancements.
Upgrading from an Intel Core i3 to a Core i5 or from one generation of processors to the next is not a worthwhile investment unless the upgrade is substantial. Don’t choose something simply because of its higher claimed processing speed.
Processor upgrades are costly and often necessitate purchasing a new motherboard and possibly additional RAM. A BIOS update may be necessary even if your motherboard technically supports a new processor. It’s annoying, so make sure you check before you buy.
If your computer’s processor is the slowest part of the setup, you may want to consider replacing it.
5. How Upgrading Software Can Improve Performance
A lot of the software installed on your computer is probably set to update automatically. If not, you probably immediately hit the Update button when notified of new software updates.
It’s the appropriate action to take in the vast majority of scenarios. However, this is not always the case. Most software presents its version number as a Major number. Minor. Revision. When a version number changes from 0.0.0 to 0.0.1, it usually only contains bug fixes. If the version number is 0.1.0, then there have probably been some bug fixes and minor additions made. Updates considered minor or revisionary should be applied immediately.
Version number changes that are considered major updates are treated differently. It’s almost a given that newer versions of programs will use more resources than older versions; if your PC’s hardware is already being stretched to the limit, that should be your first priority.
System updates are in the same boat. When it comes to performance and security, incremental updates are mandatory but complete re-releases are not. Because of this, they will likely be buggy and may perform poorly on your computer.
It’s best to wait until you’re absolutely certain that upgrading your operating system won’t turn out to be a downgrade before doing so if your computer is running smoothly.
When you want your computer to feel faster without spending any money, playing around with the software is a great option. If you’re looking to speed up Windows 10, our guide is a good place to start.
What Other PC Parts Should You Upgrade?
Since all the other components of a computer are attached to the motherboard, this makes it the most complicated upgrade. Only if you are set on upgrading to a new processor that is incompatible with your current setup should you give this some thought. As a standalone speed boost, it’s not very effective.
Besides these, there are a number of other factors to think about. To give just one example, a serious photographer would benefit more from a higher-quality screen than from a faster-loading version of Lightroom. Similarly, switching to a mechanical keyboard can increase a writer’s output.
Think about how you can improve your overall PC experience rather than just the speed of it. While velocity is a factor, it is not the sole determinant of success.
If you already have a kit, it’s important to only purchase additional components that are compatible with it. PCPartPicker is a useful tool for figuring out which parts you need to replace or add to your computer.
The Best PC Upgrades for You
RAM, solid-state drives (SSDs), and graphics cards are the primary areas to focus on when deciding what to upgrade on your personal computer. It’s best if upgrades are always made to suit your unique requirements. Finding the source of your system’s problems is crucial before deciding on a hardware upgrade.