10 cheap and easy upgrades for your old PC

Economical upgrades that will extend the useful life of your PC

[via techradar]
Is your old PC starting to feel a little sluggish? Upgrading a desktop computer really isn't as difficult as it sounds.

The components are modular, the slots uniform and systems are expressly designed for expansion.

In most circumstances, you won't even need a screwdriver as most modern cases are held on with dinky little catches.

Here are 10 upgrades that even your granny could do.

1. ReadyBoost
Want to speed up Windows Vista? ReadyBoost uses up to 4GB of flash memory as a disk cache for your hard drive, making file access and program launching faster. You can use a USB stick, Compact Flash card, SD card or any kind of removable memory to do the job.

2. Intel Turbo Memory
Similar to ReadyBoost, Intel Turbo Memory enhances the caching capabilities of your hard drive by swapping frequently accessed data into flash memory. The upgrade is fitted into a PCI Express Mini Card port - so is ideal for notebooks. You can pick up a 1GB card for around £30.

3. Second hard drive
Most desktop machines have a secondary HDD fitting dangling inside the cabinet, ready to plug in another hard drive. It really is just a case of slotting in the drive, connecting a power lead and data connector. Check first whether the system takes IDE or SATA drives - then use it to back up files, store photos, video and music.

4. Solid state drive
Solid state drives are faster and run cooler than their hard drive cousins, but cost more. Still, they make ideal second drives in an older system. Bung in a modest 64GB for around a £100 and use it to store frequently accessed programs - you'll see performance gains that warrant the price tag.

5. Graphics card
The default upgrade for gamers, swapping out your old graphics card is a fairly simple task. Most modern graphics cards fit in a spare PCI Express slot - though AGP cards are still available. PCI Express cards need an extra power-boost and will need to be hooked up to your internal power supply.

6. New monitor
Cathode ray tube monitors have gone the way of the dodo - so if you're soldiering on with one of those bulky old things, think carefully about upgrading to a flat, LCD display. Starting at around £120 for a 22" screen, you'll get a plug and play upgrade that gives you more room in your office and a lot less radiation cooking your kidneys.

7. NAS drive
Strictly speaking, plugging a NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive into your router isn't an upgrade - it's adding a peripheral. But, an external, shared drive on your network may well be the most useful computer purchase you'll ever make. With 500 GB drives starting at around £80, it's a thrifty addition to any system.

8. Install Linux
Need to breathe life into an old computer? Install Linux, we say. Ubuntu makes the open source OS easy to install and if you can't quite let go of Windows there's comprehensive documentation for dual-booting the two operating systems on the same machine.

9. Extra USB ports
Older desktop machines come with fewer USB ports. Don't bother with external hubs that collapse under their ambitious load; add a USB 2.0 card in a spare PCI or PCI Express slot. It should cost you around a tenner.

10. More RAM
Adding memory's the easiest upgrade of all, with spare slots available in most desktop machines. Click on "My Computer" and choose "Properties" to find out how much RAM you currently have, then go to Crucial's Memory Advisor to find out what type of RAM you need and how much your system can cope with. Prices vary - but a 1GB module will usually cost around £30.

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