We've been living with an older PC for a few years, but like many users, we don't really want to spend too much money on upgrading it fully, since we've added a couple new laptops to step in for the PC's deficiencies. But using a PC for 5-7 years is possible, you only need to know which parts to upgrade when performance begins to hamper productivity...
We've mentioned a few tips before, but if you combine those with the ones elaborated in this list, you'll probably be able to squeeze a few extra years out of your PC. The main reason we've kept our PC so long is we live abroad, and we don't plan on taking our PC with us back home (just the hard drives). We've also switched to Macs for daily use, while our older PC is shared as a backup machine. Even an old machine can see it's twilight years being used regularly for less CPU intensive tasks or for operating legacy programs you find useful.
1. New mouse & keyboard: Since most users still use the traditional combination of a ">mouse and keyboard, it makes sense considering updating these accessories alongside other hardware. Consider an ergonomic keyboard upgrade if you've been feeling the aches and pains using an older keyboard.
2. New hard drive and RAM: Storage has become remarkably cheap, so it's probably the first upgrade we'd recommend behind RAM if performance/utility is what you're looking to improve with an older machine. We've found 2TB hard drives for $66; installation is rarely more difficult than consulting a few how-to pages online and following directions, even for a Luddite.
Upgrading RAM can be the most bang for the buck upgrade anyone can make to any computer. Usually maxing our RAM with older computers is an affordable option. Check sites like Ramseeker for prices of modules specific to your machine.
3. New graphics card: Have you always dreamed of a multi-monitor setup? Adding another graphics card to your computer will improve its performance and usually permit the addition of a secondary screen. If your computer can't handle the load of the new resolution, then replacing your graphics card with a new one will improve graphical performance for a variety of operations (especially if you're still holding onto the PC for gaming).
4. New monitor: Coupled with a new graphics card, a new monitor will do wonders for your aging computer. You can spend quite a bit of money on this, but you don't need to if you want to do this on the cheap. You can spend about $150 to $290 and get something that will get the job done. The Asus 278Q is a 27-inch monitor that costs $290.
5. New speakers: Since many people now use their computers as the main way they consume media (to watch movies, TV shows, listen to music, etc), it's common sense to upgrade your desktop speakers. Not all speakers are alike, but you can find a lot of different types that will do the job.
6. Upgrade OS: If you are still running Windows XP or Windows Vista, you should most definitely upgrade your OS to Windows 7. It's less bloated and will get the most out of your computer, even if it's a bit older. Some of our colleagues have been able to install it on an old Pentium III.
7. Format: Most users are unaware that regular formats will keep their PCs functioning nicely and without problems. It might be a pain to have to reinstall all of the programs that you need, but it will allow you to ensure that you clean up your files and programs regularly. Once a year should be enough for most PC users.
8. Defragging hard drives: Through repetitive use, hard drives can become fragmented, and running the defrag utility in Windows will allow you to free up some space and sometimes result in improved performance. If you haven't done it before, you can access it through the Control Panel -> System and Security -> Defragment My Drives under Administrative Tools.
9. Reduce load of system drive: It's well known that hard drives function better if they aren't loaded up to the max. The figure most often recommended is leaving about 30% open space on your drive. If you have an external hard drive or another hard drive inside your computer, make sure that you move your files to it so that your system hard drive remains at 30% use. When you add another hard drive, move your data and documents to your secondary drive, while retaining the OS and programs on the main drive.
10. Regular malware & virus scans: If you have an older PC, it's usually a prudennt idea to run scans on it each week. We keep this automated and let the computer do its work while we sleep away.