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With Intel willy-nilly changing sockets and other various hardware vendors and industry as a whole doing various non-backwards-compatible stuff with hardware, is it actually worth the effor of sweating and trying to build a more-or-less future-proof (say, for 1-3 years) PC configuration?

And as a corollary: does upgrading a 1-year-old PC nowadays actually means swapping all major parts of its internals, like motherboard, CPU, etc.?

EDIT I'm myself a programmer, primarily on Microsoft stack (hence Windows Servers and various other Server products). Since Microsoft comes up with new versions of their products almost every year with some of them requiring latest-and-greatest OSes, upgrades are quite frequent.

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closed as not constructive by Daniel Beck, random Jun 3 '11 at 11:27

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
This depends very much on your requirements. Many users, including me, are happy with their almost-non-upgradeable laptop computers for 2-3 years. –  Daniel Beck Jun 3 '11 at 11:17
    
Regarding your edit: Mac users suffered through six major OS upgrades in the past ten years. The Ubuntu folks release two major upgrades every year. Compare that to three major Windows releases, except for (admittedly frequent) minor patches and fixes. –  Daniel Beck Jun 3 '11 at 11:33
    
@Daniel It's not only Windows. Development tools (Visual Studio) and various other products (SQL Server, IIS, etc.) get updated as well. –  Anton Gogolev Jun 3 '11 at 12:20

3 Answers 3

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This entirely depends on your definition of upgrade, and where you want to sit in the product market.

For instance, the bulk of the components of a modern consumer PC have no forwards compatibility problems. Any graphics card you purchase will use PCI-e, and motherboards will be supporting this for the foreseeable future. Additionally, optical and mass storage devices will use SATA, so you have no problems here. That rules out upgrade related issues with optical drives, hard drives and expansion cards. As an example, the DVD drive in my computer has lasted me 6 years now, and is still going strong.

Thus, all of your upgrade issues come from your motherboard/CPU. Happily, most of these can be avoided with simple forward planning. Most new motherboards support one or two SATA 6 Gbps ports, which future-proofs your SATA options. Similarly, most support DDR3 RAM, which means you should be able to use the same RAM for most of the future. The issue comes with processor sockets.

As a personal opinion, I think the upgrade cycle for CPUs is longer than for most other components. The Core 2 Q6600, which is now 4 years old, is still a perfectly solid processor for most usage applications. So long as you aren't doing something exceptionally performance intensive, you should be able to get years out of your CPU, and thus out of your motherboard.

Altogether, I wouldn't worry too much. If you assume that you need to upgrade your motherboard at the same time as your CPU, and thus view them as a single component, you can then plan ahead in that mold. I won't be replacing the Nehalem Core-i5 in my desktop machine until at least Ivy Bridge, and quite possibly a generation later. Worst case scenario, you can buy a better aftermarket cooler and overclock your CPU to get a few extra years out of it.

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No.

I had to buy a new PC (everything but the case) a year ago and at the time the motherboard I could afford supported DDR2 memory. At the time I was still using 32 bit Windows XP and so only bought 2 GB of RAM.

Now, when I come to put 64 bit Windows 7 on it I'm pricing up memory and I find that DDR2 is relatively expensive and hard to come by as the "standard" is now DDR3.

So unless you've got a lot of money to waste spend on state of the art kit that you might be able to buy compatible parts for in a couple of years time, I'd go for what you can afford.

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This is a tricky question and possibly a bit subjective. There are different things to consider when you think about upgradeability, CPU, memory, PSU, io interfaces and gfx cards are probably the big ones.

PSU: These are fairly "stable" as in the standards and connectors don't change much. Buying a bit more powerful PSU than your current needs can ease with upgrading the other parts, especially power hungry devices like graphic cards.

IO Interfaces: What I consider here are things like Audio, USB, Sata, Network and so on. These are mostly built into your motherboard and cannot be upgraded. What you can do is to plan ahead when purchasing a motherboard and making sure that it has a good amount of PCIE slots. With enough PCIE slots you can upgrade to newer standards such as USB3, SATA6 and such.

Memory: The best way to plan for memory upgrades is to buy a motherboard with 4 slots or more of memory and make sure not to use all slots. As an example, lets say you want 4gb of memory in your computer, it would be better to buy 2*2gb and leave to slots empty than buying 4*1gb and using all slots. This way you have room for expansion.

CPU: is the most tricky one as it depends a lot on Intel and AMDs product cycles. If you build a computer as a new socket or standard is launched you'll probably going to be able to upgrade it down the line. Maybe not to the newest and shiniest but you should be able to find new parts for 1-2 years.

On the other hand, if you buy at the end of a product cycle you'll probably won't be able to upgrade it at all without replacing both your motherboard and memory as well.

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