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My main computer that I use for all my day to day work is pushing 3 years old, and it’s really starting to show it’s age. I realize that 3 years doesn’t sound like that long, but it’s the longest I’ve used a computer since the 386 I built my freshmen year of college. But in these economic times I’m sure most of us aren’t able to replace our computers as often as we would like. I find myself in a constant battle in keeping mine from crashing and losing hours of work. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but is there anything we can do that can help prolong the life of our aging machines? Here are a few things that I have found that has helped:

1. Hardware Upgrades: Sometimes over time we can develop some hardware problems that are easy to tackle ourselves.  Two upgrades we can do that make a huge difference are RAM and Harddrive.  If you find your aging computer slowing down, make sure you have the maximum amount of RAM your computer can handle.  If you don’t know the maximum amount for your machine head over to Crucial.com, and run their memory scanner and they will tell you how much your computer can take.  You can also buy the upgrade from them, and their prices are some of the best around.  Another upgrade that can make a big difference is upgrading your hard drive.  Chances are your computer came with a small, slow drive that upgrading can make a huge difference.  If you drive is too full it can slow you down, also upgrading to a faster drive can make a big difference in performance.

2. Clean up the hard drive. You may not feel comfortable swapping out your harddrive, and if you have a laptop it may not be easy.  But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.  You can defrag your drive to help speed it up.  I would also clean off unneeded programs and files to free up space.

3. Clean install. This is much more drastic, but often times using the system restore disks your computer came with reinstalling everything often helps fix problems that can be difficult to find and fix another way.  Now if you feel you need to take this step make sure you have a good backup and all the install files for your software because this will result in erasing your hard drive back to the way it came from the factory.  If you are planning to upgrade your computer to the latest operating system (Windows 7 or Snow Leopard) this can be a great time to do this.

4. Find a New Use For It.  You may find that your old computer is just not worth upgrading or fixing so you do take the step to get a new one.  That doesn’t mean the old computer is now completely useless.  You may be able to turn it into a home server to keep your photos or music on so you can share them with other computers in your house.  Or maybe that old laptop will be perfect to your spouse, parent, or child.  I find often times other people in my life don’t have the same requirements that I have, and while my old computer may not be great for editing video anymore, it may be perfect to check facebook or playing webkinz.

What do you do with your old computers?  How old is too old?