When Do You Need to Upgrade CPU? [Necessity vs. Overkill]

Written By Steven Arends

CPU is the brain cell of a computer that needs to be fully operational during your usage. The system becomes sluggish when the processor fails to sync with a new GPU or RAM. That’s the time to say goodbye & switch to a new processor according to your need.

If your system freezes during a heavy task, it points to the CPU. But the upgrade depends on your work, whether it’s a game or rendering software.when-do-you-need-to-upgrade-cpu

This article will show you the right time to upgrade your processor. Let’s dive in.

Why Do You Need to Upgrade Your CPU?

Whether you are a gamer or a content creator, at a certain point, your CPU will not be able to cope with the latest games or applications and start sluggish behavior on the windows system. When your CPU doesn’t fulfill the minimum requirement, it will hinder your snappy event & make you fret.

The reason to upgrade your CPU depends on some criteria. An upgraded processor will help stabilize frame time in games or decrease video encoding time. For a stable frame time, you will experience smooth gaming. A minimized video rendering time increases productivity.

But how much CPU core or speed you should look for to upgrade depends on your work. Your work will sort out whether you need an immediate CPU upgrade or it can hold for a moment.

When you have decided to make the jump and upgrade your CPU, there must be a lot of questions that you have. To ease you in this process, we have a separate guide. Do check it out.

When is the Perfect Time to Upgrade Your CPU?

An adequately maintained CPU can last for many years. Also, if it is not overclocked & handled correctly, it will not slow down or can’t be seen with a blank eye.

But as the CPU is made from silicon, it will degrade over time due to heat. Dried thermal paste will also raise processor temp. Besides that, heatsinks covered with dust can also degrade your CPU faster. When should you upgrade your CPU though?

Here are some criteria that trigger you to upgrade your processor:

To Gain Gaming Performance

It is very pathetic when you are a gamer and facing frame drops in games during an action. Frame time stability is a must-have requirement in experiencing a smooth gaming session.

If you get frame time spikes, your CPU may be the culprit. CPU bottleneck happens when the game you are trying to play is either not graphics intensive or your CPU needs to be more vital for that game.

To determine a bottleneck, you can use HWiNFO software to monitor the CPU & GPU usage.
Download & open HWiNFO with sensors-only. Double-click on Core Usage from CPU section & Gpu Utilization from GPU section to open usage graph. Play a game & then check the usage graph.

We have investigated how much of a performance uplift you can get when going from a four-core to six-core processor. Check this out to help upgrade your CPU.



After you get back to the usage graph, look for which hardware uses the game most. If the GPU usage is around 60% or below whereas the CPU usage goes beyond 90%, then you are CPU bottlenecking.

When I paired AMD’s FX-6300 cpu with Radeon RX-580, my CPU was heavily bottlenecked with every software. After I upgraded to Intel’s Rocket Lake i5-11400, it was like a day & night difference. With more FPS, most games were so smooth.

Thus, an upgraded CPU will help to gain more FPS & provide a stutter-less gaming period.

When you find out about the CPU bottlenecking, this is the time to upgrade your processor.

Maximize Efficiency in Productivity

A content creator who uses CPU-intensive software that transcodes video will benefit significantly from upgrading a 2/4 cores to an 8/12 cores CPU. As most content creation software requires more cores to operate faster, it will hold you back for using a low-core CPU.

For reference, one of my friends used Intel’s i3-6300, only a 2-cores/4-threads CPU. When he tried to use Adobe Photoshop, his processor got heavily bottlenecked. Later he shifted to i5-9400, a 6-cores/6-threads chip by which he benefited greatly. For further advantage, he is now using Intel’s i7-12700, a 12-cores/20-threads processor.

Whether your application requires more core, you can find it easily. Likewise, we will follow almost the same procedure regarding how to find CPU bottlenecks for your games.duai-core-quad-core

Open HWiNFO with sensors-only. Double-click on every Core Usage depending on your chip. Use your rendering software & monitor the usage. If every core reaches at max 100% usage, you are definitely getting CPU-bound.

In this case, upgrading to a higher-cored microchip will increase your work efficiency.

Requirement of CPU Cores vs. Speed

You will generally gain more performance by higher CPU speed than more cores. But it also depends on the application you perform & CPU specification.

Overall for Gaming, you will gain more FPS by a higher-clocked CPU than more CPU cores. But it is only valid for some games, as the game engine & development vary from each other.

On the other hand, heavy workloads like video rendering or data copying need more cores to work faster. These workflows don’t rely on CPU speeds.

Depending on your need, you may require an upgrade for your processor.

If you have any confusion about CPU cores and threads, check our separate article.

Overclocking Ability

If you are tech-savvy, at a point you may want to boost your processor speed, and overclocking is the only way to do that. But not each MOBO supports the increasing of core frequency. Besides, all processors are not capable of OC too.overclocking

Usually, you need a K-series Intel chip with a Z-series motherboard or AMD Ryzen series paired with X-series MOBO will let you overclock. If you are not using those chips or mobos, You must upgrade to overclock the processor.

If you are wondering whether overclocking increases frame rates in your games, check our article dedicated to it. This should answer your existing questions about overclocking.

Does it Worth Upgrading Your CPU? Or is it Just Overkill?

You already know whether you need an upgraded processor from the above section. But will it value for bucks for you? Or it’s just gonna be a waste as you may require new memory & motherboard with it.

If you have to switch to a new chip, that doesn’t mean you have to go for the fastest & latest. Your GPU may bottleneck your overdosed CPU & thus, the upgrade will be fruitless. Your CPU cooler can also be a burden for your overpowered chip.

Here are some points you should focus on before choosing a new CPU:

  • Upgrade when it is worth it for your working case.
  • Go for a higher-end chip with an existing socket & chipset. That way you can save some bucks from buying new RAM & mobo. But that doesn’t mean you put your high-end CPU into your Potato mobo. This theory only applies when you have a decent motherboard.
  • Make sure your aftercooler can dissipate the new CPU’s heat. Otherwise, consider a new cooler.

Upgrading to a new CPU unlocks the door for other parts one by one. As you get more processing power, upgrading to a new GPU, adding more memory, or a faster storage drive can get more boost with the upgraded CPU.

But these things come later as you already sorted out that you were CPU bottlenecked. Otherwise, making changes to a newer CPU won’t be noteworthy as it seemed.


Can I upgrade my laptop CPU?

Manufacturers generally solder the CPU directly with the laptop’s motherboard. So it is not possible to upgrade laptop CPUs like desktop CPUs.

Will I need thermal paste for a new CPU?

Yes, you need to apply thermal paste every time you open up & install the CPU cooler. So after buying a new CPU & want to use an aftercooler, you will have to apply thermal paste. But there is no need for the thermal paste if the CPU comes with a stock cooler attached & you intend to keep it.

Can I upgrade a CPU without changing the motherboard?

You can upgrade the processor if the motherboard supports the same socket as the CPU. Note that if the processor is overclockable & the motherboard is not compatible with it, you will not be able to overclock your CPU.

What is the GPU bottleneck?

When your GPU usage reaches MAX, then it is called GPU bottleneck. But it is a norm for gaming as games are more graphics bound. Depending on the games dev & game engine, GPU utilization may vary & tends to be CPU-intensive resources.

Final Thought

So when the CPU is underperforming at its spec, it may be a sign to go for a new microprocessor. If your chip is relatively new, like 1 /2 years old, it’s usually optional to switch to a better one.

However, if it’s a 7/ 8 Years aged grandpa’s chip, upgrading it with a compatible motherboard is a must to get a decent workflow. Cause modern chips will be leagues faster than those old technologies.

In this article, I explained exactly when you must move to a newer CPU. I hope you found your solution. If you find any difficulties, don’t hesitate to come back & leave a comment.

About The Author
Steven Arends is a computer science graduate and tech enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in the field. He has a vast collection of computer hardware and loves exploring the latest advancements. As a contributing author to 10Scopes, Steven shares his expertise to make the world of technology more accessible and easier to understand for all readers.

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