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


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 ($56 on Amazon), 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 Book Desktop ($170 on Amazon), are typically larger and heavier than the portable options, but they also provide faster read and write times.

If you really want to reduce those read and write times, pass over the conventional hard disk drive (HDD), in favor of a solid state drive (SSD), such as Samsung’s 500GB T5 Portable ($160 on Amazon). However, you’ll have to pay for that extra speed: Although the Western Digital and Samsung drives we’ve mentioned have similar price points, the HDD drive has 16 times the capacity of the SSD. And if you aim for a 2TB version of the Samsung drive—which is still only a quarter of the capacity of the Western Digital one—you’ll have to shell out $700.