<p> </p> <p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p>Do you really need to buy a new computer? Chances are, you can get at least another year of use out of your aging computer (these days, three years is considered old) by adding a new piece of hardware.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="text-align: -webkit-auto;">What you replace will depend on the condition of your computer and the ways you use it. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more than half the cost of what you'd pay for a </span><a href="" target="_blank" title="All-in-one PC review" style="text-align: -webkit-auto;">new computer</a><span style="text-align: -webkit-auto;">.</span></p> <p>Don’t be afraid to open up your computer. If you can assemble a piece of furniture from Ikea, you can upgrade your computer.</p> <p>You will need a screwdriver and an inexpensive anti-static wrist strap, which can be found at <a href="" target="_blank" title="Radio Shack review">Radio Shack</a> for $6. Put the bracelet on your nondominant hand and clip the other end to the computer's casing to prevent a static build-up that could damage the sensitive electronics inside your machine.</p> <p>Before you buy, make sure that a new component is compatible with your machine by checking with the computer manufacturer. Here are four upgrades, listed from easiest to most challenging, that could extend the life of your computer. Note: If you open the case, you may void the warranty.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="text-decoration: line-through;"></span></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> <p>Not every upgrade requires opening the PC case. If your monitor is outdated, you may find that buying a big, glossy LCD monitor gives your PC a bigger boost than buying a new computer.</p> <p>Best Buy currently has an Acer 21.5 flat-panel LCD monitor for $99. Fancier models have energy-saving LED edge-lighting similar to their <a href="" target="_blank" title="LED TV review">HDTV</a> cousins. For an extra $50, has an Asus 23-inch LED monitor.</p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" title="Monitor review">new monitor</a> can also be connected to a laptop and can serve as a desktop replacement. Plug a new monitor into the DVI or VGA port in your laptop. If it's running Windows 7, the <a href="" target="_blank" title="Laptop review">laptop</a> will automatically detect the monitor. You can then opt to use both displays to  see two different windows on each screen (such as your browser on one and your email on the other, or a single screen on the new, larger monitor).</p> <p>What to do with the old desktop PC? Connect it to your HDTV and turn it into a <a href="" target="_blank" title="Internet TV review">"smart" TV</a> with full Internet access.</p> <p></p>

<strong>More RAM</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Today's bigger, more complex software programs can quickly use most of a computer's random access memory, known as <a href="" target="_blank" title="Memory upgrade review">RAM</a>. With a boost of RAM, your computer will boot up faster and system-hogging programs like <a href="" target="_blank" title="Photo editing software review">photo editing</a> will run faster. A PC with more memory is less likely to lock up or behave strangely.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="text-align: -webkit-auto;">Here's how to check your PC's current RAM usage:  Right click on your toolbar at bottom of screen next to the start button &gt; Task Manger &gt; Performance tab. If physical memory exceeds 80 percent and your PC seems sluggish, you need more RAM.</span></p> <p>Determine the type of RAM in your computer: DDR, DDR2 or DDR3 are most common and indicate successive generations, with "3" denoting the most recent. Your new memory must match the type inside your machine.</p> <p>Online retailer offers a simple tool to determine how much and what type of RAM will work on your computer. Try its Crucial System Scanner Tool. It’s a small, safe download, and you’ll have results in minutes.</p> <p>You'll have to open up the computer for this one. If you're unfamiliar with the inside of a <a href="" target="_blank" title="All-in-one PC review">computer</a> , watch an installation video or visit your local computer store for a hands-on demo.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Bigger hard drive</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="text-align: -webkit-auto;">The computer's hard drive stores files. If your hard drive is nearing capacity, you've removed extraneous files and have regularly defragmented the drive (found in Windows System and Maintenance), it's time to add more storage. </span></p> <p>You can add an external drive or an internal drive. The easiest method ― no screwdriver required ― is to add an <a href="" target="_blank" title="External hard drive review">external drive</a>, which simply plugs into the computer's USB port. offers a 1-terabyte Toshiba external drive for $99. How much is a terabyte? Enough for 330,000 3-megabyte photos or 250,000 MP3 files.</p> <p>Replacing the internal hard drive may save you money. Look for 3.5-inch drives for <a href="" target="_blank" title="Home computer review">desktops</a> and 2.5-inch drives for laptops. Newegg has a 2TB Samsung EcoGreen F4 for $80.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Faster processor</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p>While your computer's processor does not entirely control the speed and processing capability of your computer, it plays a dominant role. If you are demanding more from your computer now than when you bought it, a new processor could speed things up. This is the trickiest of the four upgrades.</p> <p>You must be absolutely certain that the <a href="" target="_blank" title="Intel 2nd Generation Core Processor Tested">new processor</a> you have in mind will work in your computer. This upgrade is most suitable for newer computers. Check your computer manual or contact the manufacturer to find out what type of socket the motherboard inside the computer has to determine which processors will fit.</p> <p>For instance, if you bought a <a href="" target="_blank" title="Laptop review">laptop</a> with an Intel Core i3 processor, you could move up to an i5 for less than $200 or a top-of-the-line i7 for under $300. The socket for this series is 1156. Intel has announced it will cut the prices of this line of processors by approximately 5 percent in September and October.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p>

4 Computer Upgrades You Can Do Yourself