Avid computer enthusiasts make it a point to build their own PCs. They’ll source their own PC components to build a new rig, or purchase the necessary PC upgrades for their current one. But for some of us, as much as we want to DIY, we don’t have the luxury or possibly the budget.
This is why some of us resort to buying a pre built PC. But is a prebuilt computer worse than a custom-built computer? Can you upgrade a prebuilt PC even?
We’ll answer those questions and more in this article…
What The Heck Is A Prebuilt PC?
A prebuilt computer can be defined as is. It’s a plug-and-play PC with all the components installed. Pre built PCs have different specs according to brand, much like a mobile phone. Some pre built PCs are meant for office work so it may not have an upgraded CPU and it may also have outdated RAM generation.
However, there are also pre built PCs that are meant for gaming. Brands such as Alienware are known for their top-tier prebuilt gaming rigs and already contain all the PC upgrades that you need for gaming.
Much like laptops, retailers will offer the option to upgrade certain PC hardware like the graphics card, RAM, storage, or CPU even. But it might cost you a few more bucks to do a GPU upgrade.
Now, there are three categories for prebuilt PCs:
- Standard Prebuilts are your regular PC and will contain the standard PC parts necessary for a full desktop PC.
- Factory Prebuilts are manufactured in a factory and will probably contain exclusive versions of certain parts like CPU and GPU unavailable to the public.
- Boutique Prebuilts are the most expensive amongst the three as they’ll have all the high-end computer parts and are shipped from the manufacturer to the customer directly.
Can You Upgrade a Prebuilt PC?
For the most part, yes, you can definitely upgrade a prebuilt PC. Some give you the option to upgrade GPU, CPU, RAM, HDD/SDD, and even power supply unit.
What you really want to look out for in determining whether or not a prebuilt PC can be upgraded to your liking is motherboard compatibility.
Because the motherboard acts as the backbone of the system, you have to make sure that the upgraded major components that you’re getting can be accommodated by the motherboard. Otherwise, you’ll have spent your money for nothing.
Fpr example, many pre built PCs may not have motherboards that have a PCIe x16 slot, so upgrading your video card may be out of the question.
What Parts Can You Upgrade?
Prebuilt gaming PCs, or a standard PC for that matter, will give you enough room for upgrades. CPUs and GPUs are two common components that people will choose to upgrade first, but other components such as RAM, power supply units, and cooling fans can be upgraded too.
Take into consideration that prebuilt PCs are specific to their brand, so you might want to check the exact model number of your PC first.
Why Do You Need to Upgrade the Prebuilt PC?
There are two reasons to upgrade a prebuilt PC:
- to replace outdated parts
- if a system’s components are defective or no longer as efficient as they need to be
More often than not, people upgrade their PC with costly components to improve speed, remove CPU bottlenecks, add cooling setups, or just improve in game performance.
How Do You Upgrade a Prebuilt PC?
For this section, we will assume a few things:
- First, you have a motherboard that’s capable of accommodating modern components such as CPU and GPU
- Second, you have enough RAM slots
- Third, you have a decent enough power supply that will complement your desired upgrades.
How Do You Upgrade Your GPU?
A lot of prebuilt PC owners will almost always upgrade their GPU first above anything else. Unless you’re the proud owner of an Alienware Aurora with an RTX 3070, then a GPU upgrade is probably the first thing on the list. Or in some cases, an assembled PC might not have a GPU installed, to begin with.
First and foremost, you’ll need to make sure that your motherboard contains a PCIe x16 slot so you can replace your current GPU with an RTX graphics card, or something recent. What’s amazing about this PCIe slot is that it’s backward and forwards compatible, so you can use graphics cards that are either recently released or to be released soon (we’re looking at you RTX 40-series).
On the other hand, if your motherboard doesn’t have a PCIe x16 slot, then you can’t upgrade your GPU. You’ll need to purchase a motherboard with said PCIe slot and then upgrade the GPU.
How Do You Upgrade RAM?
The biggest problem with upgrading RAM isn’t the lack of available RAM slots, but rather it’s inability to be backward compatible. Some motherboards on prebuilt PCs will only take in DDR3 modules, so they may not accommodate DDR4 RAMs.
And it’s a complete waste of money if you’re replacing DDR3 RAM with the same generation, so much like upgrading graphics cards, you’re just going to have to replace the motherboard if you want to use next generation RAM.
How Do You Upgrade Storage?
Prebuilt PCs will always come with an HDD storage preinstalled, but it’s another thing to see preinstalled SSDs. In case you have a preinstalled SSD, you can simply just look at the PCIe SSD slot in order to determine what upgrade to purchase.
You should prioritize upgrading storage capacity first if your SSD is lower than 500GB. If your motherboard can accommodate an NVMe SSD, then go for that one instead.
Always Prioritize Your Upgrades
Now that you’ve determined what parts can be upgraded, it’s time to decide on which upgrade to go for first. If you’re going to do some gaming most of the time, then you’ll need to upgrade your GPU and SSD storage capacity.
Is It Worth It To Upgrade A Prebuilt PC?
A prebuilt PC is kind of similar to a laptop. You have enough wiggle room to upgrade certain components, but you’re kind of limited in terms of how big of an upgrade you want. A prebuilt gaming PC will almost always have the latest parts installed, but sometimes, we just want more power out of our prebuilt gaming PC.
Based on personal experience with having owned prebuilt computers back in the day, upgrading was worth it for a couple of reasons:
- There was a huge improvement in performance after upgrading
- I was using these prebuilt computers for work and for gaming so it made sense to upgrade
A few years down the line, I transitioned into building my own PCs and that meant sourcing my own GPUs, RAM modules, CPU and CPU cooler, and other parts. But my point of reference for building were prebuilt gaming PCs and trying to base my build on their exact specs, or something close to it.
If you’re in the market for a new PC, a prebuilt PC with modern GPUs and a new CPU will probably be a good investment for you. If you want a big upgrade from your old system, then you can either go for the high-end rigs like Alienware Aurora. They’ll cost you about a few thousand dollars, but they can last you for more than five years.