The one upgrade trick every PC or laptop owner should know

I would apologise for the over-wrought headline, but in this case it’s entirely justified. In days gone by, PC enthusiasts would overclock their processor, graphics card and even RAM to eke out a few percent better performance. Although benchmarks would show perhaps an extra 10 or possibly even 15 percent higher scores, the speed boost was often imperceptible in general use.

While this is still a great way to get more from your hardware, there’s no better way to speed up a PC or laptop than by installing an SSD. Solid-state drives are increasingly standard in new PCs and laptops, but if your machine doesn’t have one, now’s the time to upgrade.

The traditional hard disk, despite quite astounding improvements in capacity and performance over the last decade, is the last remaining bottleneck to speed. Every other major component inside a laptop or PC can transfer data in the order of tens of Gb/s but the humble hard drive doesn’t even get close to saturating a SATA 3.0Gb/s bus.

An SSD, by contrast, eschews a spinning magnetic platter and uses the altogether more modern flash memory chip to store programs and data. It’s easiest to think of it as a giant USB flash drive, but a much, much faster one.

You won’t just see an improvement in benchmarks, either. With an SSD on board, your computer will start in a matter of seconds instead of minutes, applications will load virtually instantaneously and files copy in a fraction of the time.

And thanks to the fact that prices have tumbled in the last year or so, an SSD really is the best-value upgrade for your ageing laptop or PC. The older your machine, the more noticeable the boost in speed.

Plus, since there are no moving parts, there’s much less chance of damaging an SSD and losing precious data.

Capacities still lag behind the largest hard drives, but you can now buy a 240GB model for under £100 is you shop around and wait for deals – a price that’s considerably less than a new computer. If you can manage with a smaller capacity (there’s usually only room for one drive in a laptop) you’ll be able to upgrade on a much tighter budget: 120GB models can be picked up for just £50.

Now that you're sold on the idea, here's how to upgrade your laptop to an SSD, and how to fit an SSD as a boot drive in your PC.