Facebook Twitter

Don’t trash old computer — upgrade it

SHARE Don’t trash old computer — upgrade it

Computers become obsolete so quickly, buyer's remorse is pretty much built into the price. But instead of trashing your 1- or 2-year-old model for a new one, consider upgrading.

The easiest, cheapest and often most effective upgrade is expanding your computer's random-access memory. The bigger the RAM, the more quickly programs boot up and the faster your computer can perform several tasks simultaneously.

When shopping for RAM at a computer store or online, you'll need to know the exact type of RAM you have. If you can't find that information in the mountain of documents that came with your computer, the retailer you plan to buy from may know if you provide the make and model of your PC. If the retailer is unsure, you can find the information on the RAM strip in your computer.

You'll also need to find out how many ports are available for RAM strips if you plan on doing more than just replacing the existing strip. Again, check your computer literature, or ask a retailer. RAM is much more of a commodity than other computer parts, so the brand you buy doesn't really matter.

How much RAM will you need? For maximum improvement, consider upgrading to a total of 512 MB of RAM, or two 256 MB strips. This will cost about $100, and in some cases will shave boot-up and program start-up times by 75 percent. But adding even 128 MB to the RAM you have now will result in a noticeable increase in productivity and a decrease in frustration.

With your RAM enhanced, the next most useful upgrade is usually increasing your computer's hard-drive space by adding another hard drive. This will increase the speed at which your computer can open files.

You have two options here: Install a second hard drive inside your computer, or buy an external drive. Although the internal drive is slightly faster, installation is usually a job for a professional. You can have it done at your local computer store for up to $50 more than the cost of an external drive.

The easier option is to buy an external hard drive and avoid the hassle of bringing your computer in to the shop. A 40 GB external drive using a USB connection runs about $200.