Frustrated with the slow speed of your PC, you might think it's time to junk it and get a new one. And that might be true. If your computer's more than five years old, most experts think it could be time to move on, especially if you're using a laptop, whose hardware is harder to tinker with. New computers can be incredibly cheap, and you can get one that matches or exceeds your old PC's power for less than $500.
But money's tight these days, and even though in computing terms $500 is a good deal, you could see huge jumps in performance for as little as $10. That's right, upgrading can be extremely affordable, and can add two or three years of life to your machine. If speed's your main concern, here are the two most recommended hardware upgrades:
Memory, or RAM, is the resource your CPU uses to get stuff done. A RAM upgrade is, dollar for the dollar, the most cost-effective upgrade you can go with. A new stick of memory generally runs from around $10 to $50 (check Crucial Memory or CompUSA for deals).
If you use Windows XP, you'll want 1 GB for optimum performance, and if you use Vista, try to get up to 2 (or even higher!) GB. Remember, before you buy any RAM, you should check your PC manual to find out what type of memory your PC uses (such as dual channel) and how to install it. If you don't want to be bothered with all that, Crucial, a RAM manufacturer, provides a free scan to determine memory upgrades at their website: www.crucial.com.
New Hard Drive
While the electronics in your computer can be expected to last up to ten years (provided they don't melt from overheating!), moving parts don't do so well. Consider this: your hard drive can spin at speeds of up to 10,000 rotations per minute. All that spinning takes its toll, which is why hard drives seldom see their fifth birthday, and sometimes don't even see their first. Installing a second hard drive is a great way to add more disk space, but replacing your dying drive with a new one will give you a speed boost.
To check the health of your hard drive, Seagate offers a free hard drive diagnostic tool. If your drive is dead, or on its way out, a replacement will set you back anywhere from $60 to $200. CompUSA usually has good deals, and if you're up to the challenge you can probably install the drive yourself (CNET provides a reliable how-to guide for hard drive installation).