Before you rush out to replace your old computer, consider a few minor hardware upgrades and software tweaks that can keep it working like (almost) new. Over time, the memory demands of the programs you rely on increase as they get revised and new features are added, so if you’re willing to invest a little money, add more RAM to help the system keep pace. As a secondary measure, try using Web applications like Google Docs (docs.google.com) and the photo editor Picnik (picnik.com) so that an outside server, rather than your processor, does most of the heavy lifting.
On the software side, check your PC manufacturer’s support site for BIOS and driver updates, which allow the operating system to properly control your computer’s hardware components, improving your system’s stability and increasing its longevity. Also remember that new software, OS and application updates, and general use all add bloat that can slow your computer down, so you may want to go even further and re-install the OS every 18 to 24 months to eliminate things like apps you’ve downloaded but don’t actually use. At the same time, make sure to limit the number of apps that launch on start-up and continue to run in the background. Those can consume a lot of your computer’s resources.
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Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.