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How to Extend the Life of Your Computer

Call off the funeral arrangements for your computer—a second life is only a few steps away.


  • : Unplug any electronic device before opening it. To ensure you don't produce an electric shock inside the computer, ground yourself by touching something metal before touching the inside of the computer.
  • Step 1: Open your computer Turn off and unplug the computer. Carefully remove your computer's case with the screwdriver.
  • TIP: To further protect from electric shock, wear an antistatic wrist strap, available at electronics stores, and attach it to your computer to ground you.
  • Step 2: Clean your computer Using the compressed air, blow away dust and debris that have accumulated inside. Screw the cover back on and give the exterior plug-ins and keyboard a once-over with the compressed air, too.
  • Step 3: Transfer large files Transfer any large files, like presentations, music, photos, or giant databases, onto an external hard drive. Clearing out files over 50 megabytes frees up valuable hard-drive space and keeps your machine running smoothly.
  • Step 4: Delete unused programs Locate, uninstall, and delete any programs you don't use. For PC users, you’ll find a simple Add or Remove function in the control panel. For Mac users, open the Applications folder and click and drag unwanted programs to the Trash. Then, empty the Trash.
  • TIP: Limit the number of programs that run automatically when you turn on the computer. It will increase your overall processing power.
  • Step 5: Remove temporary files Every time you access a web page or read an email, your computer stores information in temporary files, which take up disk space. Macs automatically delete temporary files, but PCs do not. To manually do so, use Disk Cleanup, located in System Tools.
  • TIP: Empty out your Recycle folder or Trash weekly. Simply placing files in the bin does not remove them from your hard drive.
  • Step 6: Scan for viruses Scan your hard drive for infected files with an antivirus and anti-spyware program. Many programs locate and report harmful files for free, but charge a fee to remove them. Find an antivirus program that scans your system at least once a month.
  • Step 7: Defrag Over time, files on a PC's hard drive fragment, slowing down your computer. To "defrag" a Windows operating system, open My Computer and right click on the C drive. In the Tools tab, under Properties, you’ll find Disk Defragmentation. Defragging takes several hours, so be sure to leave enough time.
  • TIP: Macs that run OS X operating systems don’t require defragmentation.
  • Step 8: Fix permissions On a Mac, permission errors can clog the system. Before and after you install new software, go to Finder, click Go, select Utilities, and then Disk Utility. Click on Macintosh HD, and click Repair Disk Permissions.
  • Step 9: Check your RAM Adding random-access memory (RAM) will improve your computer's performance and extend its life. To check how much you currently have, on a PC, go to the Control Panel. Click System, and then the General tab. At the bottom of the page you should see the amount of RAM. On a Mac, in Finder, go back to the Utilities folder, and click System Profiler. Click the Memory tab.
  • Step 10: Determine your RAM type Every computer model requires a different kind of RAM. Visit the manufacturer’s website to find out what kind of RAM you should install.
  • Step 11: Install RAM Turn off and unplug your computer, and put on your wrist strap if you have one. Remove the cover to access the RAM slots, located near the (usually green) metal plate known as the motherboard. The computer will either have empty slots for extra RAM, or you'll have to replace old RAM with new RAM to increase capacity. Now enjoy your computer's new lease on life!
  • FACT: In 2008, the number of personal computers in use reached one billion worldwide.

You Will Need

  • A computer
  • A can of compressed air
  • A Phillips-head screwdriver
  • An external hard drive
  • Antivirus and anti-spyware programs
  • A new RAM chip
  • An antistatic wrist strap

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