What Does Upgrade Mean?

An upgrade (UPG) is an updated version of existing hardware, software or firmware and is usually sold at a reduced price with a full version. Free upgrades may be included with an original purchase. Most upgrades are available for online download or via CD-ROM.


The purpose of an upgrade is improved and updated product features, including performance, product life, usefulness and convenience.

Techopedia Explains Upgrade

Hardware upgrades may include a central processing unit (CPU) replacement, new graphics card, extra hard drive or additional memory, such as random access memory (RAM). Software upgrades may include:

  • A new word processing version, such as Microsoft Word
  • An anti-virus program, such as Norton Security Suite
  • An updated OS, such as Microsoft Windows 7

Most software upgrades or patches are available for free download from a product website but do not typically include total program replacements. Firmware upgrades are often available for free download and automatic installation via Universal Serial Bus (USB) or other connection. In certain cases, a new and complete software version may be available at a price lower than the original program, such as Adobe Photoshop CS4.

Software upgrades are designated by number. Hypothetically, a version 10.03 may be a minor upgrade for specific bug repair, while version 10.4 may provide more substantive enhancements. Version 11.0 may be a more advanced product release with completely new features.

Any upgrade is subject to performance degradation risks, which surface under any of the following conditions:

  • RAM and installed RAM are not compatible.
  • Installed hardware drivers are unavailable or not compatible with the OS or other hardware.
  • An upgrade may have a programming bug, resulting in loss of hardware or software functionality.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.