5 upgrades to power up your PC this back-to-school season

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The back to school 2023 period is looming, so enjoy the holidays while they last – and consider upgrading your tech. Starting the new semester with a powered-up PC or laptop means you'll be fully prepared for maximum productivity and efficiency.

If you're looking for the best student laptops or perhaps one of the best gaming PCs for your dorm, feel free to check out our recommendations – but if you already have a PC or laptop, here are five affordable upgrades you can make to power up your system.

1. Upgrade your storage

This should be the first port of call for any planned computer upgrades. If you're still rocking an old mechanical hard drive, it's definitely time for a change; even just a simple SATA SSD will let you transfer files and load games orders of magnitude faster.

Nowadays, storage is cheap; you can pick up a 1TB SSD for less than $40 in the US right now (around £40 in the UK). If you want one of the best SSDs, you're probably looking at an M.2 SSD – many modern laptops will have the option to upgrade the M.2 drive yourself with just a screwdriver, and it's similarly straightforward on a desktop PC. Just be sure to check you've got the correct size SSD for your system!

2. Get more RAM

Leveling up your RAM is another staple of the PC upgrading process, and on a desktop it's usually as easy as unclipping and removing the existing RAM sticks and then slotting in replacements. Laptops can be a little trickier, as many will have the RAM soldered in place, making it impossible to remove safely.

If you are able to upgrade, getting some of the best RAM is one of the simplest ways to tangibly improve your PC's performance. Most pre-built systems will come with 8GB or 16GB (or even less) of DDR4 RAM; a 32GB desktop memory kit from a reputable brand will only set you back around $50-70 (£50-70).

Just be sure to bear in mind that, as with a new drive, you'll need to double-check that the RAM you want to buy is properly compatible with your computer; DDR5 memory won't fit in DDR4 slots, for example.

3. Get a proper monitor

While most students will rock a compact laptop for everyday tasks and going to classes, that doesn't mean you have to settle for a small screen in the comfort of your dorm. Being able to plug your laptop (or desktop PC, if you've got one) into one of the best monitors for serious work – or, let's be honest, Netflix and gaming – is frankly great.

Since the shift to hybrid and remote working, most of the TechRadar team bring our laptops into the office now only to hook them up to a larger display, and the same principle rings true for students, who might find some of their classes taking place via distance learning. You might even want to consider getting a laptop dock for instant, easy setups, too.

4. Buy a wireless mouse

Naturally, if you're rocking a desktop PC, you'll need a mouse anyway, but a wireless mouse (either one that uses Bluetooth or a USB dongle) can be an absolute lifesaver at college.

No more will you have to worry about wires getting tangled behind your desk, or spend ages trying to complete a simple task with an unresponsive laptop touchpad. In fact, all but one of the mice listed in our best mouse guide is wireless, a fact that speaks for itself. Wires, begone!

5. Buy a new laptop bag

Having a good laptop bag is a must – and these days, most of the best laptop bags are designed to carry much more than just a laptop, giving you plenty of space and a degree of internal organization that is invaluable to students, especially those carrying lots of college materials around with them.

Although many prefer messenger-bag-style options, we'd generally recommend a proper backpack-style bag for your laptop. You can get a perfectly serviceable laptop bag for as little as $20 / £20 – but if you want something that'll last you through multiple years of college, don't be afraid to spend a little bit more.

Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.