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Here's how to get more life out of your old PC

With today’s rapid pace of technological change and consumer-centric culture it’s easy to throw out your laptop or PC as soon as a shinier, flashier model comes along. The problem is: there’s always a faster, more up-to-date version waiting just around the corner.

However, you can save the environment, and your bank balance, from taking any extra strain by following these tips to get some extra life out of an older computer.

Tidy up

In everyday life, a full-blown tidy-up can help you do all manner of tasks much quicker, and your PC is no different.

Read more: How a Chromebook can replace a Windows laptop for work

You can start with something simple, like clearing your desktop of shortcuts that you don’t access often. It may not seem like a big deal, but this could help your computer start up much faster.

You can either manually remove the icons you no longer need, or if you're running Windows XP, the operating system includes a pre-installed Desktop Cleanup Wizard. Simply right click on the desktop, go to sort by and select the Cleanup function.

Remember, this will only remove shortcuts leaving program files intact, so a more in-depth clean-up may also be required.

Remove unnecessary files

Over time, your PC can become cluttered with a large number of unnecessary files, which you no longer need, and may be slowing down your device.

You can use the Windows Disk Cleanup feature in order to purge your device of unwanted information, by removing temporary files and other unneeded items such as the contents of your Recycle Bin.

In Windows 8 and 8.1, Disk Cleanup can be accessed via the Control Panel or by typing Admin into the Search box. Then the user simply clicks on Disk Cleanup, and selects which drives they want to clean, along with the types of files they want deleted.

Users may also want to uninstall any programs that they no longer need. To do so, access the Control Panel and select “Uninstall a program,” but be careful. Once they’re gone, they’re gone and you’ll have to reinstall them if you’ve been too hasty with the delete button.

Run anti-virus

Although viruses and other malware have the potential to cause serious damage, such as identity theft, in most cases, they’ll simply slow your computer down and after years of daily use, you may have been infected.

Make sure you regularly scan your device for malicious files and remove any that do crop up. Some anti-virus programs are also free to download, with Malwarebytes and Panda Free Antivirus both being highly-rated.

Organise your startup

Waiting for your PC to load up can be a tedious process, particularly as you wait for iTunes, Spotify and Skype to boot-up, even though you have no intention of immediately using them.

One quick and easy way to speed up your PC is to organise which programs automatically startup when you turn on your device. By typing “msconfig” into the search bar of the Start menu, users can then select the startup tab and choose which software packages start up automatically.

By making your startup more efficient, you can greatly increase the speed of your boot up and reinvigorate that PC that’s been hanging around for a few years now.

Update it

Sometimes, you can get that new PC feeling, without shelling out on an entirely new device. Upgrading your operating system is often a lot cheaper than buying new hardware and, providing you have the specs required to cope with the new software demands, it could help extend the life of your PC by improving performance and introducing a number of new features.

What’s more, Microsoft is currently letting users trial a preview versions of its next OS, Windows 10. So individuals with Windows 8 may want to give the next iteration a trial-run, before making a long-term commitment.

Give it a clean

This one may be for the more tech-savvy PC owners out there, but if you’re feeling brave, open up your PC/laptop and give it a clean.

Over time, PCs can get clogged with dust and other unpleasant dirt that has the potential to cause your device to heat up more than it should. This can lead to a slower performance than desired or even cause some components to fail.

A can of compressed air may be all that is required to remove unwanted dirt from your PC’s fan and other features. However, remember to be careful, as the internal workings of your computer are extremely sensitive and removing your laptop or PC’s case may void its warranty.

Still if you’re willing to go the extra mile to get your PC working like new, there are plenty of online tutorials advising the best way to clean your computer.

Disk defragmentation

Windows XP users may want to look at defragmenting their hard drive to improve their system performance. Over time, data can become fragmented or spread out, causing your hard drive to work harder and take longer to complete tasks.

XP users can click on their disk drive in My Computer, select properties and then choose to defrag their drive. This may take awhile, but heavy users are suggested to run the process once a week. For Windows Vista users and beyond, defragging takes place automatically and so is less of an issue, but you may want to check the schedule is running as it should by selecting Disk Defragmenter from the Start menu.

Overall, it is worth thinking twice before investing in an entirely new PC or laptop. You may have had it for a few years now, but with a decent tidy and some better organisation, it may be that there’s life in the old dog yet.

Image Credit: Tom Woodward

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.