Building a new PC is fun, exciting, and. . . expensive. After you̵
Do you really need brand new parts?
When it comes to a new PC, most of the time people think of new parts, and for good reason. When you create a new desktop, you want a computer that will perform better than the one before. However, this does not mean that some parts cannot be reused.
Let’s take a look at the most important PC parts from most to the least reusable, as well as some of the other considerations for each one.
Keep the peripherals
Of course, when you’re building a new PC, you can save money by keeping your old peripherals. This includes monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, webcam, headphones and all other devices. Even if you want to upgrade, it’s easy to buy something later and plug it in.
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To keep top candidates
The following are the easiest components to keep in a new build. Some are pretty simple things, but their costs can add up if your budget is tight.
The case and the fans
Of all the parts that you can reuse from a previous build, the case is the most likely candidate. If you have a quality model that is still in good condition, there is no need to change it.
However, if you have an old school case (see the first picture above), it’s a good idea to change it up. This includes both older PCs and newer, pre-made boxes from Dell, HP and Lenovo.
These older cases weren’t really designed for ease of use. For the most part, all components are clogged, the lid is closed and everything is forgotten. In these cases, sometimes not even a full-size motherboard is required, which is an important consideration.
Modern housings, on the other hand, make it easier to assemble components, ensure proper airflow, and are designed for cable management.
When you have a modern case that takes care of all of these functions there is no real reason to change it. The only exceptions would be if the case is defective, the internal wiring for the front panel has stopped working, or you want a case with a front panel and a Type-C connector.
If you keep the old case, you can keep the fans if they are still working. Just make sure you clean them well. If you don’t keep the case, see if the old fans will fit in your new one. The operating instructions for the case indicate which fan size is accepted.
The power supply
There are three types of PC power supplies: rugged units that seem to last forever, mysterious power supplies in pre-built systems, and lemons that last two years or less. If you’ve had a good quality power supply for more than two years, you can guess which warehouse you’re falling into.
In certain circumstances it is worthwhile to keep power supplies. The first is if they are still under warranty. High-quality power supplies can be guaranteed for up to 10 years, so that they can apply to multiple builds.
The other problem, of course, is power. Do you have an old PSU with enough power to power the more advanced monster you’re building? If not, it’s time to switch.
A final problem for power supplies is whether you have a modular or a semi-modular or non-modular unit. If you’re not modular, consider switching.
Fully modular and semi-modular power supplies give you more freedom in choosing the cables you need in your PC. This reduces clutter which is better for cable management. It also makes it easy to close the back when you finish the build.
Maybe keep it
After the no-brainers, we come to the “Well I think you can keep them” sort. The following components are likely to work fine, but may not provide the performance enhancement that you expect from a new PC.
The graphics card
The graphics card is one of the easiest components to determine. When you just need it to play a single game, like Civilization VIThen you can keep your GPU while the game is still going well.
However, if you want to play the latest brand new titles, check out the minimum requirements for each game. You will quickly get a feel for how long it will be before you need to replace that graphics card.
Once the minimum requirements for triple-A gaming exceed your graphics card’s model number, it’s time to switch. However, you can likely bring in another round or two of game releases if you’re particularly tight on cash.
Keeping the old card is only for those willing to accept between 30 and 60 frames per second at 1080p. If you want more than 60 FPS, higher resolution, or the latest gaming features (like real-time ray tracing), you’ll need a new graphics card.
Yes, you can reuse storage drives. In many ways, they’re probably the easiest parts to transfer between machines. However, we have some limitations, which is why we did not include them in the “Keep” section.
One drive that you probably shouldn’t continue to use is your primary startup drive. It works hard and is the most likely candidate for failure. Plus, as NVMe prices go down, you can find solid deals on fantastic drives.
If your secondary hard drives and SSDs are working just fine, they might be candidates for reuse. Just make sure they won’t die by checking their SMART stats. A good SMART rating doesn’t guarantee a drive won’t fail, but it is generally a good guide.
Another good rule of thumb is to replace the drives after about five years. If you roll the dice and plan to use an older drive, make sure you have a solid backup plan in place to protect your data from sudden disaster.
Reuse of RAM is possible because this is such a stable part. RAM types don’t change as often as CPU and GPU generations. If you keep the RAM, make sure it is compatible with your motherboard. For example, if you have DDR3 RAM, it definitely won’t work on a DDR4 motherboard.
Remember, RAM prices look reasonable again. If you’re saving money by reusing other parts, you may want to upgrade your memory or even use fancy RGB memory for a more elegant look.
CPU coolers can be expensive. If the old one is in particularly good condition, you may be able to reuse it. However, you need to make sure that it is powerful enough to cool your new CPU (check the TDP). It must also match the socket on your new motherboard.
Also, remember that of all the parts you don’t want to fail, this is an important part. If it does, the expensive new CPU can be damaged. A new one will likely be more reliable for this critical job.
Parts probably shouldn’t be saved: the CPU and motherboard
Now we come to the parts that you should probably (definitely) replace. If you’re building a new PC, you probably shouldn’t keep the CPU even if it works fine.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use it on a second system with a range of spares. Just don’t use it in your new PC. The CPU is one of the main drivers of PC performance, which is why you will primarily be building a new rig.
If you keep the CPU, you will likely keep the motherboard as well, as finding a new one for an old CPU can be difficult. If you keep the CPU and motherboard, you are definitely in the upgrade section, not the rebuild section.
There are exceptions, however. For example, if you’ve bought a modern processor like the Ryzen 9 3900X for your old PC, you’ll obviously want to reuse the CPU.
Upgrade against a new PC
There are a number of components that should be reused in a new setup. Remember, there is a fine line between upgrading and building a really new system when reusing parts.
You can make a new system overhaul worthwhile by cutting costs wherever you can but making the meat of your new system fresh.
There is nothing wrong with making simple upgrades to an existing setup. However, if you keep too many old components, you won’t get the performance boost you want from a new build.