Popular Science

You might not actually need a new computer. Try these upgrades first.

Give new life to an old machine.
Laptop

Boost your laptop's performance.

We all know our computers have limited shelf lives—otherwise everyone would still be rocking desktops from the days of Windows 95. But when exactly does that machine get so old and sluggish that you need to replace it?

Good news: There might still be life in your current computer. You just need to improve the aging hardware's speed and reliability with one of these affordable upgrades. Better news: Each hack is simple enough that you can attempt it yourself.

1. Connect an external hard drive

When your computer runs out of disk space, it has no room to temporarily save and swap data as you work on files. This means, as room starts to run out, your machine may begin to slow down or start crashing on a regular basis. Plus, of course, you won't have any space left to save anything new. Plugging in an external hard drive can alleviate this problem in minutes.

To find the right hard drive, you may have to choose between portability and capacity. So-called "portable" drives, such as Seagate's 1TB Backup Plus Slim (), pull power entirely from a computer's USB, and more importantly, they take up very little room. Drives with more storage space, such as Western Digital's 8TB My), are typically larger and heavier than the portable options, but they also provide faster read and write times.

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