5 cheap and easy ways to upgrade your old tech

Breathe new life into those dusty old machines.

Amazon Echo Input
That vintage speaker can be more than just a bookend.Amazon

You might be used to throwing out or giving away gadgets when they reach the end of their useful life, but wait—you've got options. Many of the electronics you consider outdated can be upgraded rather than abandoned or replaced.

We're not talking about projects that require a high level of technical skill or a lot of money, either—there are simple ways to give your gadgets years of extra life. Here are five of our favorite strategies for reinvigorating old tech.

1. Get more storage for console games

Upgrading the hard drive inside a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One isn't particularly difficult, and it'll cost you a lot less than buying a new console. This fix nets you more storage space for games and downloads, and might even provide a slight improvement on loading times, too.

Sony has its own step-by-step upgrade guide, and if you're using a Microsoft console, we recommend iFixit's walkthrough. In most cases, you'll need nothing more than a new hard drive and a screwdriver. Of course, If you're willing to spend a little more money for an easier upgrade, just buy an external hard drive and plug it right into your console.

Hard drives specifically suited for PS4 or Xbox One systems will often come branded as such, and there's a wide selection. If you're looking for an internal drive, you could go for the 2TB Seagate FireCuda ($90 from Amazon), while one external option is the 4TB WD Gaming Drive ($115 from Amazon).

2. Put more storage on your smartphone

people on a bench using phones
They've got games on their phones. More than they could ever play.Deposit Photos

Extra storage is a fine upgrade for your smartphone, too. You can never have too much room for apps, games, photos, videos, music, and Netflix downloads, and making more space is as easy as popping in a memory card—your phone will take care of the rest.

That is, if your smartphone has a memory card slot. Many still do, including the Samsung Galaxy S10 and LG G8 ThinQ flagships launched this year. You could kit out either with the 128GB PNY Elite ($29 on Amazon) or the 128GB SanDisk Extreme ($22 on Amazon), for example. Just make sure you confirm your preferred card is compatible with your phone.

The iPhones and Google Pixel phones are among those that don't have a memory card slot. Instead, you could consider upgrading to get more cloud storage. Apple iCloud upgrade prices start at $1 a month for 50GB of room, while Google One prices start at $2 a month for an additional 100GB.

3. Get a new keyboard, stand, or monitor for your laptop

This upgrade won't improve your laptop's performance, but it will make it easier and more comfortable to use. A desk stand like the Lamicall Laptop Riser ($30 from Amazon) or the Aoou Cool Desk ($34 from Amazon) gets your computer closer to eye level and reduces strain on your neck from peering down at it.

Laptops, of course, come with a built-in keyboard, but it may be easier to use a separate keyboard if you're using a stand. Buy a larger model and get the added benefit of more finger room and access to a proper number pad. Laptop connections can be made via USB or Bluetooth. Models like the Logitech MK270 ($20 from Amazon), which comes with a mouse, or the Macally Ultra-Slim ($49 from Amazon) are worth considering.

Another useful upgrade is an external monitor, though it's debatable whether this purchase fits the "cheap" theme of our roundup. If you have the budget, monitors like the 20-inch Sceptre E205W ($75 from Amazon) or the 21.5-inch Acer SB220Q ($90 from Amazon) can give you more than double the room for viewing apps, documents, and websites.

4. Add smarts to an old speaker

Senior woman with radio
Yes, Grandma, that old radio is talking to you.Deposit Photos

You may already have a number of Amazon Echo speakers around your home, but the Echo Input ($35 from Amazon) adds the same artificial intelligence-powered smarts to any speaker that has a 3.5-millimeter audio jack.

That means you can keep the high fidelity and punchy volume of your existing hi-fi speaker or TV sound bar, and still access tens of thousands of Alexa skills at the same time. Check the weather, control your smart home, find the latest sports scores, set timers and alarms, and much more.

The Echo Input requires a separate power connection, but once you've got the necessary cables in place, you can get up and running quickly with the free Alexa app for Android or iOS. These will easily connect accounts such as Google Calendar and Spotify for you.

5. Make a dumb TV smart

If your aging television set has an HDMI port, you can instantly add some smarts to it by plugging in a streaming dongle. You've got several inexpensive options to pick from, which will give you access to the likes of Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, and more.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick ($50 from Amazon) focuses mainly on Amazon services like Prime Video and Prime Music, but you get access to a ton of other apps and games as well. The Google Chromecast ($35 from Google), meanwhile, includes access to YouTube TV and works with many audio and video apps on your phone, including Netflix and Spotify.

The Roku Streaming Stick+ ($60 from Amazon) is worth considering too, as it supports 4K HDR video for apps (like Netflix) that support it. It also covers just about every video service, from Amazon to HBO, with the exception of iTunes movies.