Q: “I want to upgrade my PC so it can handle my audio programs better. Which is a better choice – more RAM or a new processor?”
A: Although both upgrades will improve your computer’s performance, you need to decide exactly what you want to improve. In general, a RAM upgrade will increase your application’s track count. Increased memory means more space for throughput of more audio data; hence, more tracks. You should buy RAM carefully. Frequently generic or “no name” sticks fail under the stress of constant audio throughput. Also, find out whether you need to add or replace RAM in pairs. Some computers require this. Finally, as is the case with just about anything you install in a computer, be certain to ground yourself before handling and inserting RAM. Static discharge can damage the chips.
Upgrading your processor could give you greater handling capacity for plug-in effects and instruments. However, the differences can be marginal unless you upgrade from one class of CPU to another. For example, moving from a Pentium III processor to a Pentium 4 will definitely result in better performance. But changing from a Pentium 4 that runs at 2.8GHz to one with a 3.2GHz speed might result in a performance boost that only a benchmark test could reveal.
Another issue with CPU upgrades is the likelihood that you will need to replace the computer’s motherboard. Most motherboards and chipsets are designed to accommodate specific families of chips: only Pentium IIIs with 370-pin sockets, for example. When choosing a new CPU and motherboard you need to make sure your other components, such as RAM and video cards, are compatible with the new hardware.