5 Ways to Make Your Old Laptop New Again

If you've been putting off buying a new laptop for the family, you may have made the right choice. Many machines made in the past few years are perfectly usable and, with a bit of work, you can make an old one hum like new for a fraction of the price of a more recent model.

Try these five tips to help you get started -- any or all of which will juice up your laptop with minimal investment.

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1. Upgrade Your Browser. Let's start with the basics. Unless you're working for NASA in your spare time at home, you probably aren't doing much on your laptop that doesn't involve the browser. And chances are, you're probably using the browser that came with the machine: Internet Explorer.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, download Chrome or Firefox. This, in one fell swoop, will speed up your browsing in a matter of minutes. Want to improve things a little more? Try OpenDNS, a service that will kick-start your system considerably -- and for free. Instructions are available on the OpenDNS website. 

2. Add More Memory. The simplest way to speed up any laptop -- or PC, for that matter -- is to add more memory. Almost any laptop from any manufacturer can accept a memory upgrade. You can check out prices at Crucial.com and iFixIt.com and you can probably add your own memory at home, saving a bit of cash on installation. iFixIt, for example, has guides for upgrading almost any Mac. Also remember that you're best off increasing all your memory at once, so buy two chips from your favorite vendor instead of one.

3. Replace Your Hard Drive. One of my laptops was performing like a dump truck and I tried almost everything on this list. It turned out the hard drive was about to fail and I caught it just in time. If you hear lots of "seek time" -- i.e. disk churning and activity even when nothing is happening -- you could have a bum drive. Before replacing it, however, check your disk with the Mac Disk Utility or Window's disk tools.

Also remember that some older laptops may not support larger drives -- something to consider before investing in an upgrade. It you want amazing performance, why not look into a solid state drive, aka an SSD. These drives are amazingly fast because they have no moving parts.

4. Refresh the OS. Have you been updating your Windows or Mac with the latest software? If not, do it now. If you have and your PC is still running slowly, why not try to start fresh? Sluggishness can often be solved by reinstalling the OS completely, tearing out the cruft and junk that have been accreting in your system. While we'd recommend this as a last resort, you can simply back up your hard drive (you have been backing up your hard drive, haven't you?) and reinstall Windows or OS X. 

5. Keep the Kids Away. While we may want to blame ourselves for slowing down our PCs, too many downloads, websites, and social networks can definitely gum up the works. Why not speed up your PC by buying a new one and giving the kids the old one? Problem solved!

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