Game-changing gifts: these sub-$100 PC upgrades improved my everyday life.

(Image credit: Future)

I use my PC every single day, whether it's for doing work, posting missives on social media, 3D printing or doing programming projects with my son. I've found that even a relatively inexpensive change to the inside of my computer or my work environment can have dramatic effects on my comfort and productivity. 

Whether it's adding more RAM so I can run all the apps and tabs I want at once, changing my keyboard's keycaps or getting a 10-port USB hubs so I can have all my ports in front of me, several recent upgrades have made a huge difference for me. An artist needs their tools!

So what about the techies in your life? Now that we're in the heart of holiday gifting season, you can give them presents that will change their present and future. Or you can spend a little money on improving your workstation and workspace. These are 10 sub-$100 PC upgrades that changed my life.

Sub-$100 PC Upgrades: Quick Links

More RAM: Go to 32GB, 64GB or More

You really cannot have enough RAM in your PC. As I type this, I have 50 Chrome tabs open, a chat application running, a code editor, a database program, and Spotify playing music. With all of that going in Windows 10, I'm eating up 27GB of RAM. If I do just a little bit more today, I'll easily pass over the 32GB threshold. 

The minute your computer exceeds the bounds of its physical RAM, it starts relying heavily on virtual memory, which swaps data to your disk and even the slowest RAM is orders of magnitude faster than the fastest SSD. 

You should have enough RAM that you'll never have to worry about using it all. Recently, I upgraded from 32GB to 64GB and that was a game-changer for me because I could run all of my applications and have a virtual machine running in a window so I could test new versions of Windows or Linux.

Whether you're buying RAM as a gift for someone else or for your own computer, you definitely want to take your PC to the next plateau. If you have 16GB, try going to 32 or, better yet, 64GB of RAM. If you or your giftee has an older computer with just 8GB of RAM, moving to 16GB would be huge.

Before buying RAM, you need to know what type of RAM the target computer requires. Many newer (as in the last year or two) computers use DDR5 RAM, but lots of computers (even new ones) still require DDR4, which is cheaper and plenty fast. If you're upgrading a laptop, you need a laptop SODIMM as desktop memory won't fit into a laptop and vice versa. 

Obviously, if you're buying RAM for someone else, you need to know exactly what make and model of computer they have and how much RAM they have right now. If you don't know what type of RAM your system needs, check the motherboard or computer manual or use Crucial's memory finder

Fortunately, there are a lot of great RAM deals this holiday shopping season. Here are a couple of my favorites.

TeamGroup T-Create (2x 16GB) 32GB DDR4 RAM: now $49 at Amazon

TeamGroup T-Create (2x 16GB) 32GB DDR4 RAM: now $49 at Amazon (was $59)
This 32GB kit is so inexpensive that you could buy two of this and have 64GB for less than $100.

G.Skill Ripjaws S5 (2 x 16GB) DDR5-6000: now $89 at Newegg

G.Skill Ripjaws S5 (2 x 16GB) DDR5-6000: now $89 at Newegg (was $97)
This 32GB kit runs at up to 6,000 MHz. Use coupon code DLCZ5376 to get it at this price.

Larger SSD or Second SSD

Let's face it. These days, 500GB or even 1TB of SSD storage isn't what it used to be. Just install Windows 10 or 11, put on some productivity apps, play a few games and store some media files and you're pushing up against the limit of your capacity. And when you use up most of your space, your SSD slows down.

To test new versions of Windows or Linux, I download and run a lot of virtual machines. Each of these eats up about 80GB of disk space all by itself. So when I added a 2TB SSD to my existing 1TB SSD, I was able to stop worrying about clearing space every time I wanted to create a new VM.

Right now, you can find a lot of holiday sales on 1, 2 and 4TB SSDs. If you want to spend less than $100, you can get either a very speedy 1TB drive or a solid, but not-top-of-the-line 2TB drive. 

When you're buying an SSD as a gift, you need to decide whether this is going to replace the giftee's current C drive. If you or your giftee has a 1TB already and just need a D drive, you can get away with a 1TB secondary drive

However, If they have a laptop, chances are that it only has room for one drive so the replacement ought to be both higher-capacity and more performant. If you're replacing a boot drive, get one of the best SSD enclosures so you can clone the existing disk before you upgrade.

Here are a couple of my favorite sub-$100 SSD deals right now.

Solidigm P41 Plus (2TB) SSD: now $89 at Newegg

Solidigm P41 Plus (2TB) SSD: now $89 at Newegg (was $106)
This 2TB PCIe 4.0 drive offers speeds of up to 4,125 MBps reads and 3,325 MBps writes.

WD_BLACK SN850X (1TB) SSD: now $84 at Amazon

WD_BLACK SN850X (1TB) SSD: now $84 at Amazon (was $159)
This SSD is notably fast and capable of reaching read/write speeds as high as 7300 / 6300 Mbps. It uses a WD Proprietary controller and connects using a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface.

Snappy Mechanical Keyboard

If you're like me, you're tapping out around 400 keystrokes a minute when you get going. So, a great keyboard could make the difference between flowing in your work and getting sore fingers or wrists.

I love love love my Akko 3098B mechanical keyboard, which allows me to do my best work. This is a 96-percent keyboard so it's compact but still gives me a numpad and function row. It runs in either wired or wireless mode with three wireless profiles so I can hit a key combo and change machines.  

It has hot-swappable keys so I can swap in the switches I want (Kailh Box White switches in my case) and it has feet that allow me to keep it at a comfortable angle. Oh, and the ASA keycaps it comes with are pretty good. 

If you want something less expensive, which already comes with the right switches (Kailh Box White again) on board, the Patriot Viper V765 is just $39 right now. It has a gorgeous RGB light show and a great, sci-fi aesthetic. It's not wireless but if it's just sitting on someone's desk, that should be fine.

Patriot Viper V765 Keyboard: now $39 at Amazon

Patriot Viper V765 Keyboard: now $39 at Amazon (was $79)
This gorgeous, RGB keyboard features Kailh Box White clicky switches, the best kind you can get, along with a magnetic wrist rest.

Akko 3098B Mechanical Keyboard: now $89 at Amazon

Akko 3098B Mechanical Keyboard: now $89 at Amazon 
This mechanical keyboard has hot-swappable switches, multiple Bluetooth profiles and a great design.

Powerful Productivity Mouse

How many times a day do you reach for your mouse, click its buttons and use it to navigate around the desktop? Hundreds? Thousands? A better mouse could make  your wrists and shoulders more comfortable, allow you to target text or enemies in a game more accurately and provide added functionality via customizable buttons or extra scroll wheels. 

I'm not much of a PC gamer so my mouse of choice is Logitech's MX Master 3S. The 3S has a number of key features which really changed my life. Its magnetic scroll wheel automatically (or manually) changes from ratchet to smooth mode, depending on how fast I'm moving down a web page. Its secondary, left-side scroll wheel allows me to zoom in and out on web pages or move horizontally on spreadsheets. 

The wireless mouse also has three different profiles so I can easily switch among my desktop, laptop and Raspberry Pi either by hitting a button or via software. Its sloped shape and rubberized surface are easy on my hands. And its up-to-8,000 DPI sensor allows me to configure the mouse pointer to move as quickly or slowly as I'm comfortable with -- a key issue when I'm working on four 4K monitors at once.

Perhaps the best thing about the MX Master 3S is Logitech's Logi Options+ utility software, which allows me to customize each button and scroll wheel by the app. So my left scroll wheel or my thumb button can have different functions whether I'm in Chrome, Excel or Notepad++. That's a real-game changer for you or whoever you gift it to.

The MX Master 3S isn't on a huge sale right now, but you can get it for $5 off the $99 MSRP at B&H.

Logitech MX Master 3S Mouse: now $94 at B&H Photo

Logitech MX Master 3S Mouse: now $94 at B&H Photo (was $99)
This powerful mouse features 7 buttons, a thumb wheel and a main scroll wheel that uses magnets to change its feel based on your activity. It also has a comfy ergonomic design, 3 wireless profiles and awesome customization software.

Comfy Wrist Rest

This might seem like a minor thing, but for me it's a major one. I can't live without my HyperX Wrist Rest with cooling gel. I get sore fingers almost immediately if I don't have it on my desk, gently pillowing my wrists. 

The wrist rest comes in several sizes. The full-size one, which is the one I use with my 96-percent keyboard is just $15 now.

HyperX Wrist Rest: now $15 at Amazon

HyperX Wrist Rest: now $15 at Amazon (was $95)
Your wrists will thank you for spending $12-$15 on HyperX's gel and foam wrist rest. And with several sizes, you don't need to use one that's bigger than your keyboard anymore.

Power Desktop USB Hub

I don't know about you, but I have a metric ton of USB devices that I need plugged into my desktop. These include my keyboard, wireless headset dongle, podcast microphone, USB speaker, USB card reader, external SSD and connections to various microcontrollers.

On top of just having the ports, I need the ability to turn each one on or off. That way, I can switch between my headset and my speaker, just by turning one of them off. And I can reboot a Raspberry Pi Pico or Arduino board, just by clicking it off and on.

My favorite USB hub by far is the Sabrent HB-BU10, which also tops our list of the best USB hubs. It not only has 10 ports and plenty of bus power, but it has superior build quality and snappy on / off buttons that click into place.  

If you can live with 7 USB ports and switches that have a more plasticky feel, I really like the Rosonway 7-port hub which is $32 now. We recently bought one for testing and are impressed by the fact that it  has a combination of Type-A and Type-C ports and three of the 7 ports can operate at USB 3.2 Gen 2 (aka 10 Gbps) speed.

Sabrent 10-port USB Hub (HB-BU10): now $49 at Amazon

Sabrent 10-port USB Hub (HB-BU10): now $49 at Amazon (was $59)
Our top-rated USB hub, the Sabrent HB-BU10 has enough power for each of its 10 USB 3 ports. Each has a sturdy on / off switch and a light to tell if you it's enabled. Great for switching audio devices.

Rosonway 7-port powered USB Hub With USB 3.2 Gen 2: now $32 at Amazon

Rosonway 7-port powered USB Hub With USB 3.2 Gen 2: now $32 at Amazon 
This powered hub has on and off switches for each of its 7 ports. Three of the ports support 10 Gbps speeds and two of them are USB-C.

Fancy Keycaps

Once you've gotten a keyboard you love, you can almost certainly make a huge improvement by getting custom keycaps. The right keycaps not only look gorgeous, but also make the typing experience more comfortable.

Last year I was gifted a set of the Drop MT3 Dasher keycaps, which are just amazing. Their MT3 profile means that they have the tall height and indented surface of terminal-style keys. The dark and light blue keys are meant to look like those on an old Data General terminal and are reminiscent of the ones they use on the Severance TV show.

Drop MT3 Dasher Keycap Set: now $79 at Drop

Drop MT3 Dasher Keycap Set: now $79 at Drop (was $120)
This gorgeous keycap set is made to look like those on old Data General terminals. But even if you don't like nostalgia, you'll love the two shades of blue and, more importantly, the sculpted MT3 profile.

Power Tower

If you're like me, you have a ton of different devices you need to plug in. In my case, it's four monitors, a couple of desktops, a laptop, a powered USB hub and, often, a Raspberry Pi. 

To help me manage all those cords and not have to swap them in and out, I have a power tower on my desk with 12 outlets and 6 USB charging ports. While I could have a power strip, I much prefer a power tower because it is vertical and sits on top of my desk, rather than on the floor. 

A power tower can also give you fine grain control of your power usage. My unit has a single on / off button that turns all of my devices off so they don't use any vampire power when my computer is shut down. However, my son's power tower has two power switches that each control half of the outlets.

My particular model of power tower is not a sale. But here's one that is.

SMALLRT 12-outlet Power Tower: now $21 at Amazon

SMALLRT 12-outlet Power Tower: now $21 at Amazon (was $33)
This power tower has 12 outlets with an on / off toggle on each set of three. There's also three USB Type-A and one USB-C charging port.

A Wireless Headset

Sometimes I have to take calls or record episodes of my podcast using my PC and I don't want everyone in my house to hear my conversation. That's where my wireless headset comes in.  I can even walk away from my desk without dragging a wire with me.

I have a very comfortable and powerful Logitech Lightspeed G733, which has great padded ear cups, a 2.4-GHz wireless dongle and a removable mic. This particular model is now just over $100, ringing in at $109 on sale. It seems to last forver on a charge and even has attractive RGB lighting.

Logitech G733 Wireless Headset: now $109 at Amazon

Logitech G733 Wireless Headset: now $109 at Amazon (was $119)
This wireless headset has epic batter life, built in RGB, 2.4-GHz wireless, comfy padded earcups and a removable mic.

A Better PC Case

If you build PCs like I do, you know how important it is to have a good chassis. A great chassis not only looks good, but has excellent air flow and plenty of room for your motherboard, GPU and storage drives.

My current case is the gargantuan Lian Li Lancool III, which has been a real game-changer for me, because it has so much room inside. Mine even has seven case fans.

However, the Lancool III costs quite a bit more than $100. It's $149 right now.  Here's a more affordable option.

Phanteks Eclipse G360A Mesh Mid-Tower: now $69 at Amazon with rebate

Phanteks Eclipse G360A Mesh Mid-Tower: now $69 at Amazon with rebate (was $99)
Grab a small discount on this airflow-inspired mesh PC case from Phanteks. The Eclipse G360A offers an ultra-fine mesh front panel to help airflow but also to keep as much dust out of the inside as possible.  With a glass side panel and 3 x included D-RGB Fans and D-RGB light strip, plus 360 radiator cooling support in front or the top of the case, this is an ideal budget case for a gaming PC with flair. 

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
  • evdjj3j
    How about we change the name of the site to tomsadvertisements since haven't seen a tomshardware worthy article in a while.
  • Dementoss
    evdjj3j said:
    How about we change the name of the site to tomsadvertisements since haven't seen a tomshardware worthy article in a while.
    T'is a common problem with all sites taken over by Future Publishing.
  • USAFRet
    Dementoss said:
    T'is a common problem with all sites.
  • Amdlova
    Have to transfer 500gb games folder to another ssd when I see the 150mb/s all time why I don't have a spinning rust?

    I see lots of 22110 enterprise ssd on ebay I will get one to put my games 7000mb/s drive working at 150mb/s lol
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    The major problems with adverticles (adverts presenting as articles) like this is that they are highly opinion based as far as the actual products go, and often don't present the best value or products to buy. While the author may love them, how many people would look at the Akko 3098B, for example, which uses their own switch type, has 10 reviews, and would say "Sure, I'll pass on Razer (which use their own decent switches) or any of the many inexpensive mechanical keyboards which use Cherry MX switches and I'll buy this one for $98!"? Likely about zero.

    Oh, and the "HyperX Wrist Rest: now $15 at Amazon (was $95)", it has a list price of $19.99, not $95.
  • evdjj3j
    Dementoss said:
    T'is a common problem with all sites taken over by Future Publishing.
    I know, I rarely go to Anandtech and at one point it was the home page on my browser. They could replace everyone but Jarred with AI and no one would notice.
  • cats_Paw
    I mean... the site did write "just buy it" to the worst GPU release generation.
    Not of the last decade, just the worst (price to performance).

    It's been years of this :D.
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Thankfully there's Techpowerup and Techspot which still does great GPU reviews