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6 Back-to-School PC Upgrades to Supercharge Your Semester

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Though it seems like the school year just ended, college is starting up again in just a few weeks. So now is a great time to start upgrading your tech to get you ready for maximum productivity and fun in the fall semester.

If you’re looking for the best gaming laptop or prebuilt gaming desktop for your dorm, we’ve got articles to recommend those. But if you already have your primary PC, here are 6 affordable ways to add performance, productivity and comfort to your setup.

1. Add more RAM

Whether you’re doing research for a term paper or editing photos for a multimedia project, you you’re probably using more memory than you think. And, these days, RAM is cheaper than ever. Whether you have a recent-era desktop or laptop, you can grab 16GB of RAM (2 x 8GB) for around $60 to $80 and 32GB (2 x 16GB) for $130 to $160.

If you have a notebook or a prebuilt desktop and don’t know what type of RAM your system needs or how much it can handle, you can either check your owner’s manual or visit the Crucial Advisor tool.

2. Get an SSD

If you’re still booting off of a mechanical hard drive, you might as well be doing calculus with an abacus. If you already have an SSD, this is a good time to get a higher capacity one.

These days, you can purchase a 1TB SATA SSD for only $100 to $125 or an M.2  PCIe-NVMe 1TB drive for $30 to $100 more, depending on its speed and memory type. Our list of Best SSDs and our SSD Buying Guide can help you choose.

3. Get a larger, faster monitor

Even if you have a lightweight laptop you take to class, you want plenty of real estate when you get back to the dorm. And, if you’re playing games, you’ll want a high refresh rate monitor that also supports AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync.

You can get a 24-inch, 1080p gaming monitor for less than $200, a 27 to 32-inch for a little more than that and a 4K gaming monitor for as little as $350.

4. Upgrade your keyboard

Good internal components can speed up your computer, but a great mechanical keyboard can overclock your typing, allowing you to finish your work faster and get to gaming. You can get one of the best gaming keyboards like the Patriot Viper V765 or Hexgears Impulse, our favorite for typing, for well under $100.

5. A gel wrist rest

Your typing experience will be 10 times more pleasant with a soft, but firm wrist rest that has cooling gel inside. Our favorite is the HyperX Wrist Rest, which goes for $20.

6. New laptop bag

When carrying your laptop around campus, you need a bag that’s going to protect your computer and hold your books and supplies. You can also find bags that come with power banks to charge your mobile devices, although it might be smarter to bring your own battery and toss it in a pocket.

Laptop bags can cost as little as $25 or as much as $250, but the most important thing is that you have plenty of pockets. For students, we recommend a backpack style bag, though some will prefer messenger-style products.

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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.