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Should I Upgrade CPU or GPU First?

Should I Upgrade CPU or GPU First?

Whether you should upgrade your CPU or GPU first depends on your personal needs and the present arrangement of your computer. When considering a PC upgrade, deciding whether to prioritize your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) or CPU (Central Processing Unit) relies on your unique needs and the current status of your system. To make an informed decision, consider your individual needs, budget, and the current constraints of your system. It’s also worth considering whether your motherboard and other components (RAM, storage) are compatible and balanced with your chosen upgrade to achieve the optimum overall performance. Before upgrading the CPU or GPU, consider these factors.

Determine Your Usage

If you are a gamer or perform resource-intensive jobs such as video editing or 3D rendering, your GPU is critical in delivering smooth graphics and high frame rates. In such instances, replacing your GPU should be a top priority, especially if your existing GPU is old or struggling to keep up with modern demands.


In terms of performance, GPUs age faster than CPUs. If your GPU is over four years old, you’ll likely notice a substantial performance difference compared to newer ones. Upgrading your GPU can revitalize your system’s gaming and graphical skills.

Consider CPU Benefits

Upgrading your CPU can often be more cost-effective than investing in a high-end GPU, especially if your CPU no longer meets your processing needs. A CPU update can bring considerable advantages in various tasks, including multitasking and productivity.

Long-Term Goals

Consider how long you plan to keep your computer before upgrading. Updating your CPU and GPU is a good option if you think long-term. If you prioritize, consider which component will most likely become a bottleneck and address it first. If you want your system to be relevant for several years, consider upgrading to a more powerful CPU or GPU.

Balance and compatibility

Ensure your CPU or GPU is compatible with your motherboard and other system components. Aim for a balanced system. If your CPU is highly underpowered, a strong GPU will not reach its full capabilities, and vice versa. To maximize total performance, consider the synergy between the CPU and GPU.


Set a budget for the upgrading. Because high-end CPUs and GPUs can be costly, it’s critical to invest your budget where it will have the most significant impact on your unique demands.

Difference between a CPU and a GPU

The critical difference between a CPU and a GPU in a computer system is their tasks and functions. A CPU is a computer’s central control unit, directing and handling a wide range of tasks required for the computer’s operation. It is sometimes called a general-purpose processor because it takes a wide range of computing functions, including operating system execution, application execution, calculation, memory management, and input and output operations.

A GPU is designed for a specific task, notably graphics rendering and parallel computing. It works with the CPU and excels at picture rendering, video processing, and highly parallel computations. While GPUs are extremely fast at their specialized tasks, their scope is limited compared to CPUs. They excel at repeated and fundamental operations necessary for producing images and completing sophisticated mathematical calculations for applications such as 3D gaming and scientific simulations.

Remembering that a GPU depends on the CPU for data and instructions is crucial. Non-graphics duties are handled by the CPU, which also prepares data for the GPU to use when producing images or conducting other specialized computations. In essence, the CPU and GPU coordinate within a computer system, with the CPU handling a wide range of tasks, including overall system management, and the GPU focusing on specialized, data-intensive graphical activities.

The Importance of GPU and CPU in Computing

The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and the Central Processing Unit (CPU) play essential computing roles. The GPU is a specialized electronic circuit designed to operate memory quickly and expedite image synthesis for display. It is used in many devices, including embedded systems, mobile phones, personal computers, workstations, and game consoles.

Modern GPUs excel at efficiently performing 3D graphics rendering and image processing jobs. They are essential for jobs requiring significant graphical horsepower, such as gaming and video editing. GPUs can accelerate particular computations by up to 100 times compared to a traditional CPU. This improved efficiency is due to their dedicated design for processing complex mathematical and graphical calculations, making them essential for individuals involved in graphics-intensive tasks.

On the other hand, the Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brain of a computer and is responsible for running programs and orchestrating the machine’s general operation. Because of its critical role, selecting an appropriate CPU is critical when configuring a computer system. Given the wide range of CPU alternatives available, one must fully grasp one’s processing requirements before making a purchase selection. CPUs are available in various configurations, each tailored to specific processing requirements, making choice an essential part of constructing or upgrading a computer system.

Improved Performance with CPU or GPU Upgrades

Upgrading your CPU or GPU can impact your computer’s performance, but your benefits depend on which component you choose to update. In short, boosting your CPU improves overall system efficiency and multitasking capabilities, while upgrading your GPU improves graphics-related tasks, gaming, and visual quality. The decision between upgrading your CPU or GPU is based on your unique needs and the present constraints of your system. Both components can considerably improve your computer’s performance and user experience. These are indicators that it is time to upgrade your CPU:

  • Slow Performance: If your PC takes more than two minutes to turn on and off, ignoring the usage of an SSD, and even after adding thermal paste, there is no substantial improvement in speed, it’s time to consider upgrading.
  • Unable to Overclock: If your CPU is locked and you can’t overclock it to improve performance, or if your CPU’s clock speed is obsolete and can’t be successfully overclocked, upgrading becomes a viable alternative.
  • Software needs: Some software applications or games may have specified CPU or GPU power needs. Examine the system requirements of the program you use to see which components require an upgrade. When your present CPU struggles to keep up with modern software, which frequently demands greater processing power and efficiency, upgrading to a newer CPU with advanced capabilities becomes a viable option.
  • CPU Bottleneck: If your CPU becomes the bottleneck in your system, meaning it can’t give the required performance while other components in your PC are up to date, it’s time to upgrade. This circumstance frequently results in inferior performance and can be irritating, especially in gaming scenarios.

These are the signs that it may be time to consider a GPU upgrade

  • Excessive CPU Heat: When your GPU cannot operate to its full potential, your CPU adjusts by working more, resulting in excessive heat generation. If you’re experiencing this, it’s a hint that you should consider upgrading your GPU to help balance the workload and reduce heat.
  • Consistent Frame Drops: If you see constant frame drops while gaming or processing videos, and your CPU is adequate, but your GPU is struggling, it’s a good indication that you need to improve your GPU to retain smooth performance.
  • Longevity: GPUs typically have a four-year lifespan. If your GPU is older than this, it may struggle to handle future graphics-intensive tasks. To stay up with changing software and gaming demands, you must upgrade your GPU.

Upgraded CPU

An updated CPU improves overall system performance by managing numerous activities such as operating system operations and program execution.

Clock Speed Increase: Newer CPUs frequently have more incredible clock speeds, measured in gigahertz (GHz). A faster clock speed indicates that the CPU can execute instructions more quickly, resulting in a more fluid and responsive user experience. This is especially useful for jobs that need single-threaded execution.

Multithreading and multitasking: Modern CPUs frequently have several cores and threads, allowing for improved multitasking. Upgrading to a CPU with additional cores will enable you to run numerous apps simultaneously without experiencing substantial performance degradation.

Operating System Responsiveness: A faster CPU can increase your operating system’s responsiveness, eliminating lag and improving system boot times.

Productivity: CPU increases help with tasks that require a lot of calculation, such as video transcoding, 3D rendering, and scientific simulations. It can potentially cut the time necessary to complete these jobs dramatically.

Upgraded GPU

A GPU upgrade primarily improves graphics-related operations and visual experiences.

Gaming Performance: A more powerful GPU is essential for gaming since it can provide excellent frame rates, higher graphics quality, and smoother gameplay. It also lets you play the most recent games at greater resolutions and settings.

Rendering and video editing: GPU acceleration is required for video editing and rendering activities. When dealing with high-definition or 4K video, upgrading your GPU might result in faster video rendering and better editing workflows. Graphics-intensive applications benefit from a strong GPU, such as 3D modeling, CAD (Computer-Aided Design), and simulations. Upgrading these applications can result in faster rendering and more responsive performance.

Improved Visual Quality: A more powerful GPU can enhance the visual quality of games, films, and graphics-intensive programs. Higher resolutions, improved textures, and real-time ray tracing for more realistic lighting and shadows are all included.

When Should You Upgrade the CPU or GPU?

The best update frequency for your CPU and GPU depends on several factors, and there is no uniform answer to this subject. The age of your current components, computer usage patterns, and the currency of your software applications are all issues to consider.

If you’re working with older CPU and GPU components, now might be a good time to consider upgrading. However, you may not need to upgrade anytime soon if you’ve recently purchased these components.

According to a study by PC Gamer, people change their CPU and GPU every 3.5 years on average. While this period may look lengthy to some users, others may feel compelled to upgrade more frequently to keep up with the latest improvements in gaming technology. A hardware upgrade may appear complex, but it is critical to recognize that such changes can considerably improve your overall gaming experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I upgrade first, CPU or GPU for gaming?

If your GPU isn’t drastically limiting your performance, upgrade your GPU first. The GPU has a more significant impact on gaming visuals and frame rates. However, if your CPU is obsolete and producing apparent performance limits, try updating it before your GPU for smoother gameplay. To make the best decision, evaluate your situation.
Determine which component is currently limiting your game performance. This can be accomplished by checking your system’s performance while playing games. If your CPU is continuously running at or near 100% utilization, but your GPU is not, your CPU is likely limiting your gaming performance. Some games are more CPU-intensive than others. A CPU upgrade may provide a noticeable gain if you primarily play games that rely substantially on CPU performance (e.g., strategy games, simulations). A GPU update may result in a more significant performance improvement for graphically demanding games.

What should I upgrade first, CPU or GPU?

Your current hardware and priorities will influence whether you improve your CPU or GPU first. Upgrade your CPU first if it is a bottleneck and restricting gaming performance. If your CPU is relatively new and the GPU is the bottleneck, consider upgrading the GPU for better graphics and frame rates. Examine your system’s requirements to identify which component will deliver the most significant advantage.
If you’re experiencing stuttering, long load times, or your CPU is continuously maxed out, increasing your CPU can help reduce these issues, particularly in CPU-intensive jobs. If you’re having trouble rendering graphics, getting poor frame rates, or running visually demanding games smoothly, focusing on a GPU upgrade may bring a more obvious gain in performance. Examining the precise performance limitations you’re experiencing will allow you to make a more accurate decision about prioritizing a CPU or GPU upgrade.

Shahbaz Ahmed


Shahbaz Ahmed serves as the CEO of Gammahed. He studied from Aptech and earned certification of ACCP. As an Aptech Certified Computer Professional, he's armed with a solid foundation in the intricacies of technology. With an impressive gaming journey spanning over 18 years, his passion has led him to become a writer, dedicated to guiding fellow gamers through the realm of gaming hardware. Having personally encountered and conquered numerous gaming-related problems during his early years of gaming, Shahbaz Ahmed now shares his invaluable expertise to help others navigate similar challenges.