Best PC upgrades under £100: get a faster PC for less

What are the top PC upgrades if you've got a strict budget?

The Vertex 4 128GB then is a top-performing SSD, with enough storage for your OS and the games your playing right now for a bargain price.


OCZ Vertex 4 128GB
Price: £96
Manufacturer: OCZ
Capacity: 128GB
Controller: Marvell with OCZ/Indilinx firmware
Memory: Synchronous MLC NAND
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Form factor: 2.5-inch

CPU cooling

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Chilling your chips for fun and frosty frolics


There are multiple reasons why you should think about upgrading the cooling in your PC, and considering that effective new solutions are available for less than £50, it's also one of the cheapest upgrades you can make to your machine. So why would you want to upgrade your PC's cooler?

If you've stuck with the stock cooler that arrived with your CPU - or the budget cooler that came with your rig when you first purchased it - then it's probably not giving your CPU a lot of protection when it's getting ragged. A decent performance CPU cooler, by its very definition, will keep your processor running cooler than with a stock option.

If you're getting flaky performance from your rig when you really stress it, a quality cooler could solve all your problems. A decent cooler will also run a lot quieter than a budget or stock chiller. That could be because of an improved fin-stack and heatsink array, or because it ships with a bigger fan. Larger fans don't need to spin as quickly to shift the same amount of air across the heatsink, they therefore run far quieter than fans spinning at maximum speed.

A quieter-running rig may not be your primary requirement for your gaming PC, but it sure can make a difference to your experience when you're actually getting to hear the game and not the turbine roar of your chip cooler every time CPU load rises above 2 per cent.

Performance is going to be your primary concern with a gaming PC, and a decent CPU cooler can really make a difference. The origins of CPU overclocking came from people who couldn't afford to upgrade, trying to squeeze the last drop of performance from their existing rig.

A quality cooler will allow you to get the most out of your processor and extend its life, even if you might be shortening its actual operating life. A processor running at a higher frequency generates far more heat than it does running at its stock speeds, and if your cooler can't cope with this excess heat and shift it away from the CPU, then it will probably fall over. If you can upgrade to a cooler that allows you to keep running your processor at 1GHz over the base clockspeed, then you're going to get a good chunk of extra performance out of it.

Modern air-coolers are excellent at shifting heat around, as well as remaining relatively quiet while they're at it - but a closed-loop liquid chiller will go that extra mile especially in terms of overclocking. Where once liquid-cooling was the realm of the serial tinkerer or the clinically insane, closed-loop systems now require no real maintenance and are no more expensive than their air-cooled brethren.

Last month, we checked out the Cooler Master Seidon 120M, and it's a fantastically effective chiller, despite the single fan, for a bargain price. It's easy to fit and very good at what it does.


Cooler Master Seidon 120M
Price: £43
Manufacturer: Cooler Master
CPU compatibility: AMD and Intel
Size: 120mm
Fans: 1x 120mm PWM
Fanspeed: 600-2,400 rpm
Waterblock: Copper


The window to your digital world…


Resident technocrat, and all-round monitor-snob, Jeremy Laird, has long been of the opinion that a good monitor is a purchase that will most likely outlast the rest of the PC you're plugging it in to. It's the window to your digital world - and it's also one of the few upgrades you can make to your rig that you will use every single time you come to switch the thing on. So investing in a decent monitor is surely a sound idea.