Resources and Upgrades
A large part of building a computer is doing the research into how components fit together. Every time you upgrade one part, it may mean that you have to replace others.
For example, changing your motherboard will may require upgrading your CPU, adding a GPU may mean upgrading your PSU.
There are many sites dedicated to finding, reviewing, discussing and selling PC hardware. A google search will usually turn up one of the following sites:
The technical terms used and speed of change can be hard to keep up with, but hopefully the SDLW program has prepared you for getting started.
Upgrading or Replacing Parts in your Computer
In this sections we will give you some tips on how and where to get upgrades.
If you are based in Brisbane, there are a few stores that sell on-line with pick-up available. This is usually the cheapest way to buy locally.
For regional areas, we suggest you support you local retailer and find a store as you can usually ask for items to be ordered specially. If you can't buy local, try to find a store with cheap or free shipping.
For small, light items like RAM or even SSD drives buying internationally can be cheaper.
We don't endorse or associate with these stores in any way - this workshop is just about showing you how the online ordering process works.
Finding and Purchasing Parts Online
With so many types and brands of computer components, finding the exact type you need can be hard. We will go through using a store based search system, then introduce usingPCPartPicker, which searches many stores at once.
You will usually need a credit card to make online purchases, but some stores will let you pay when you collect from the store.
Parts you can easily upgrade or replace;
- an extra hard-drive
- a replacement hard-drive for your OS.
- more RAM.
- a dedicated GPU.
An Extra Hard Drive
The best use of an extra drive is usually as data storage. This means its a place to store files, but your operating system isn't installed on the drive.
Do I Need an Extra Drive?
When your drive is about 90 percent full then it's time to think about a new drive.
For example,if your drive is 200gig, you can use about 180gig.
To check the amount of space, in the terminal use the disk free command (df).
-h flag gives you human readable numbers - that means gigabytes. You will see something like this.
Where does it fit?
To buy the right part, you will need to know;
- the form factor (3 1/2 inch)
- the connector type (SATA)
- the capacity you want (in Gigabytes)
Lets have a look at ordering from a Townsville store Digital Matrix Computers for an example of using a local store.
To make sure this is the part we want, check the name for ;
- the form factor (3.5“ means 3 1/2 inch)
- the connector type (SATA)
- the capacity you want - 1 terabyte= 1000 gigabytes.
Next - add it to your shopping cart
You will need an account to buy your part. Some stores let you buy without an account, but its a good idea to make an account to track your order. Done!
Do you need another SATA cable for your drive? If so remember to order one.
Using your New Drive
Once you have installed your new drive you will need to format it to a linux native format - like EXT4. Check out the format section of workshop 03.
a Replacement Hard Drive
The most 'bang for buck' of upgrades is installing an SSD. Your computer will boot much faster, and programs will load very quickly.
The important thing to know about installing an SSD is that SSDs are almost always 2 1/2 inch format(remember what size your hard-drive bays are?) so you will need a 2 1/2 inch to 3 1/2 SSD adaptor.
Lets try using pcpartpicker to find the right part. To make sure we get a store we know, we will use the options to search only umart. We will then search in Umart store itself for an SSD adaptor.
First up, go to pcpartpicker,make sure you are in the Australian store (with the Australian flag) and select 'Individual Parts'
pcpartpicker will now show you all the parts it can find that fit in the storage list. You should see some labels you recognise. Don't worry if there is too much detail, we will be making our choice easier.
And this time we will be taken from pcpartpicker to the Umart store. Where we can add the drive to our shopping cart.
Umart opens another window for us - lett get an estimate for shipping to Townsville - $18 seems about right.
Using Your New Drive
To get the best use of your new hard drive, you should use it as your system drive. This means fitting the drive inside your computer, and re-installing Xubuntu.
Extra RAM will increase the number of tasks your computer can perform at the same time.
Finding the right kind of RAM is important. For best performance you should use the same kind of RAM you already have installed. In Workshop 01 we found the RAM type when we removed it.
Because RAM is small and light, it can be cheaper to buy large RAM sizes from overseas. These prices will change over time but as an example;
- a single 8 gig stick of RAM to fit your computer is about $90 to buy locally ship to Townsville.
- The same product costs about $85 to ship New Egg in the U.S.A.
- Two 8 gig sticks (16 gig total) costs about $170 to buy locally ship to Townsville.
- Two 8 gig sticks (16 gig total) costs about $150 to ship from the U.S.A
We will leave it to you to find the best RAM, just remember any RAM that breaks under warranty will need to be shipped back to where you bought it from.
A dedicated GPU is an expansion card that uses a PCIe slot.
While your computer is not designed for gaming, a dedicated GPU card will go along way towards making a budget gaming PC.
- PCIE slot - GPUs need a 16x PCIe slot. Does your computer have one?
- Form Factor - remember your computer is a low profile form factor? This means you need a GPU card that will fit, meaning a low profile card.
- Power Supply - GPUs are power hungry often needing a separate plug from the main PSU. Check if your computer has this option.
Fortunately, the most popular GPU maker NVIDIA has released a budget range of GPUs called the 1050 to suite these needs. You can read a very technical description on Anandtech.
Buying a GPU
Once again, you can expect to get slightly cheaper prices by buying overseas. However, if your GPU fails, shipping it back overseas to be fixed can remove any savings made.
Googling is the quickest way to getting a solution, and most results will come from either:
As Xubuntu is based on Ubuntu, most problems and solutions are common across the two systems. Where you will find differences are in the desktop environment (desktop).
Just remember that Xubuntu uses the XFCE desktop when searching or asking for help and you will be off in the right direction.
If you would like to try another desktop you can always install it and switch between the two. Switching between desktops uses a desktop manager. Your Xubuntu system comes with LightDM installed. Some alternative desktops are;
Upgrading your Packages
Its good practice to upgrade your installed packages when possible. Xubuntu will prompt you to upgrade automatically with a GUI, but you can also upgrade manually with the 'Software & Updates'' from the whisker menu.
Updating with the Command Line
This is as simple as updating your sources.
sudo apt-get update
Then upgrading packages
sudo apt-get upgrade
Ugrading your Distribution
Upgrading your distribution (distro) is the process of moving from one version of your OS to a more recent version.
Once a newer version of Xubuntu becomes available, you will be prompted to automatically upgrade.
This is a step to be considered carefully, as you may have software that does not work with more a new version of your OS.
Before You Upgrade
As this workshop series is based on Xubuntu 14.04 LTS, a distro upgrade would go to the next LTS version, which is 16.04 LTS.
Upgrading with the GUI
The “Software & Updates” System Settings can be used to upgrade.