How I’ve Managed to Get 10 Years from my Computer and How You Can Too

inside a computerHello, my name is Joe and my computer is 10 years old.

I work in the IT field in my day job, so an admission like that is often greeted as though I am admitting to suffering from alcoholism or some terminal illness. Many of my coworkers habitually upgrade their PCs every 2 years or so.

I used to live the tech glam lifestyle too. I bought the latest and greatest hardware and software. I ran on the gaming treadmill: constantly upgrading my hardware so I could play the latest game. What happened?

I got smart.

Well, OK, I had kids and my wife left the workforce to care for the kids. Living on a single income has a way of focusing a person on what they find to be most important, and I could no longer justify spending any extra money on my tech toys. The result of all this is that I’ve become fairly adept at squeezing more longevity out of my PCs. I like to think I’m my family’s Mr. Scott, chief engineer of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek – always beating the odds to do the impossible with limited resources at hand, only less glamorous.

Here’s how I’ve managed to get 10 years each out of 2 windows PCs and how you can too.

Keep an orderly house

A computer’s hard drive is a lot like your desk. Windows can find what it’s looking for a lot more easily when the files are neat and orderly. To this end, it is essential that you defragment your hard drive at least every 3 months. You should also run defrag after you have installed or uninstalled a program, or deleted a lot of files. The windows defrag utility is OK, but if you aspire to attain power user status, you may want to check out WinContig or JKDefrag. Both programs are safe, lightweight and offer more advanced options.

Trim your guest registry

Make no mistake – most programs on your computer are guests that are only there because you invited them to come and stay. If you don’t visit with them often, or can get by on the day to day without them – toss them out on their ear. Most people notice that Windows slows down over time. It’s snappy and responsive when they first get the computer, and a year or two later, it’s a dog. One major reason for this is registry bloat.

Every piece of software you install on your Windows PC is entered into a registry file to some degree. It’s just like a registry in a hotel. The more you install, the bigger the registry gets and the more entries Windows needs to pour through to find the one it needs at any given time. This can have a major impact on performance over time. So, clean out the clutter and uninstall any programs you don’t use anymore.

Uninstall that tax program from 2006 – you don’t need it anymore. Chances are very good that you could export your tax return to a PDF file, and not even need the original program to view or print it, should the need arise. Besides, as long as you keep the original install disk or setup program, you can always get back to it again.

After you’ve trimmed some of the fat and removed the programs you no longer need or use, download a registry cleaner. One of my favorites is Free Windows Registry Repair.

What a registry cleaner does is go through the registry, and verify that the entries are still valid. Sometimes the guests forget to tell the clerk when they’ve checked out. It’s the same thing with software – sometimes the uninstall program doesn’t remove its registry entries. A registry cleaner goes through the registry and knocks on doors. If the guest is no longer staying there, it removes the name from the registry.

Once you’ve done the above, download a copy of CCleaner. It’s a disk cleaner and registry cleaner in 1. Its disk-cleaning mode will remove temporary Internet files, temporary system files and empty the recycling bin.

Keep an orderly registry

Just as your computer’s hard drive can get cluttered and disorganized, so can the registry. Once you’ve trimmed the registry – organize it. There are a number of programs available to defragment a registry. One of my favorites is Quicksys RegDefrag.

Another great program to have is PageDefrag. PageDefrag not only defragments the registry files, but the swap file as well. The swap file is also known as a page file or “virtual memory.” When Windows starts to run out of available RAM, it will swap or “page out” data that is not being used at that specific instance to the hard drive, thus creating “virtual memory”. This is one reason RAM is so important – it’s much quicker to access than the hard drive. So, keeping an orderly swap file (or page file) is essential to performance.

Stay the course

Once you’ve cleaned out the clutter, and jettisoned the old applications it’s a good idea to try and avoid cluttering the registry again. One of the best ways to do this is to use portable apps when possible. Portable applications don’t rely on the registry, which makes them portable (you can copy one install from computer A to computer B and it will work just as well). Beyond the portability of these applications, not relying on the Windows registry also means less clutter and better performance. Two really great sites for portable applications are and You can find replacements for MS Office, web browsers, email and more. And the best part is that they’re all free. In fact, you’ll likely find that you can replace software you’ve paid for in the past with these free apps, and that alone could save you quite a bit over the years.

On to the hard stuff

So that covers some techniques to improve performance of your computer as it is, but what if it still isn’t enough? What if you need new hardware? Sometimes you just need a bigger hard drive or more RAM. The trick is often knowing which it is that you need. You really only need a bigger hard drive if you are running out of space. For the most part, a new hard drive is not going to improve the performance of your system. There are some cases where it can, but it’s more the exception than the rule.

If your system is slow to respond when you have a number of applications open at once, or after you’ve been browsing a lot of websites, you may need more RAM. If you notice performance improves when you close a lot of running applications, and only use one application, then it’s a good bet you could use more RAM.

I’ve been able to extend my PC’s useable lifespan tremendously by maxing out the RAM. The best part is – it’s dirt-cheap on an old(er) system. For about $100-$125 I was able to upgrade 2 PC’s to the maximum supported RAM, and one of them used a relatively rare and pricey form of RAM. Most upgrades for older models will set you back anywhere from $20 to close to $100. Still, when you’re comparing $125 to $600 – $1,000 for a new PC or laptop it’s a big savings. I’ve gotten some of the RAM from memory4less, pricewatch and even eBay. If you go the eBay route, just be sure you buy from a reputable seller and don’t spend more than you would at one of the other sites, or it’s not worth the risk.

The bottom line is that you may not need a new computer when you think you do, and you certainly don’t need one every 2 years. Prudent application of frugality and a little figurative elbow grease can save you a bundle. Oh, and every piece of software mentioned in this article is 100% free, so what do you have to lose? Just make sure you back up your essential data first – just in case. It’s good practice before making changes to new and old systems alike.

Image courtesy of A. Belani

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55 Responses to How I’ve Managed to Get 10 Years from my Computer and How You Can Too

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Thank you very much for this article!!!!

  2. allison says:

    Great article! Thanks for the tips!

  3. Mike says:

    Agreed! Great article.

  4. Special Ed says:

    I would suggest that rather try to extend the life of a PC for 10 years, a better option might be to buy a used pc. I buy, repair, upgrade, and sell pc’s and I can tell you that people will sell or throw away a perfectly good computer for little or no reason. You can buy a 2 or 3 year old PC for easily around $100 or so. It’s like buying a used car. You just have to look around. This could be a better option that trying to run Windows XP and modern programs on a machine built for Windows 98.

  5. MollyJ says:

    I really liked this story. Very different, very useful.

  6. David Mitchell says:

    Outstanding article! Thanks for sharing this.


    This is great article.Thanks for the insight

  8. Monkey Mama says:

    I don’t think you would put a new OS on a very old PC. Why would you need to?

    I agree thought with both points. Keeping a computer for a long time (over a decade) is quite simple if you keep up the computer. We have done so many times. (We tend to buy one new computer for my husband who does graphic work, every few years, and the rest of us get the hand-me-downs. But the kids don’t need much so it works).

    Buying used is also a way to save most of the computer costs. But it’s kind of the same concept. You would probably be willing to keep it longer than average if you bought it used.

    I always giggle when people look at all our computers and see $$$$$$. We don’t spend that much on them – maybe $100 per year or something on average. We have 4 up and running computers.

  9. Carol says:

    I wonder if any of the programs mentioned work with Vista? Also, is upgrading RAM really a do-it-yourself job? We have a 3yo laptop with 256MB ram that was a dog. I would like to upgrade it and keep it for a backup. We just bought a new computer with Vista 64bit and I’d like to keep it for a while.

  10. ThiNg says:

    Upgrading RAM is really easy. Don’t get psyched out by the industry. Geeks (I am one), want you to think everything we do is magic.

    I used to feel the same way about working on my car or doing electrical work. Changing RAM is no different then installing a new ceiling fan. Open everything carefully (make sure the power is off), follow instructions, close everything back up.

    And believing you need VISTA or whatever new thing they come up with is just marketing hype. Lots of us are using Windows 2000 and still managing our businesses.

  11. poster says:

    Good article. Unplug the PC when it’s not being used. Remember what the PC is for – to get info. from. When you focus on that, you realize that you don’t need to swap it out. I’d recommend keeping a machine longer rather than buying used more frequently. Any time you buy frequently, even it’s cheaper, it’s bound to increase your costs for a couple of reasons: 1. buying anything spurs additional purchases and 2. you may unexpectedly need more software or hardware for it than you had planned. Always use your purchases for as long as possible like the article encourages.

  12. Gail says:

    Great article and one I think I will bookmark for hubby–we have agreed that only one of us ‘messes’ with the computer. Having an arrangement like that relieves much frustration as only one of us has to remember what we did to the computer!

    My laptop that I used for my online business literally feel apart. As it was something important to have we went off shopping. I found what looked right for me for $500. The salesgirl tried to talk me out of it as she claimed it wasn’t speedy enough, blah, blah blah. I bought it anyway and it is great, especially the fact that it already was set up for WiFi so I can leave our rural home and go to the library to do major downloads and uploads (plus check out a few books) for free. But the important thing was I KNEW what I needed. I don’t play games other than solitaire. I didn’t need a processer that smoked, I just needed a computer to do the few things I asked of it and this one certainly does!

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  14. Ben Kloosterman says:

    10 years is a big ask.. It would have been a very expensive computer in 98 ( eg 400 Mhz) and it couldnt run most modern software ( Office 2007 ( or 2003 or even 2000) , vista etc) . Not running the later software can be a big deal if you need to work with certain file formats.

    I preffer to buy cheap computers with expandable/modern mother boards (Celerons/Semprons were great) , after 2 years i buy a CPU upgrade and later a memory upgrade and i get a good 4-5 years out of them and can run the latest software.

  15. Jennifer says:

    Great article… I’m going to have to try out a few things. I have a laptop that is slowing to a crawl despite my best efforts (being non-tech-geeky, and knowing just enough to be dangerous), and I certainly don’t have the money to be replacing it anytime soon!

  16. Juan Ramon says:

    Sometimes, if there’s too much junk and gunk under the hood, I recommend re-installing the OS from scratch. I also recommend doing so about once a year. That way you’ll have a fresh and clean machine as if it was bought from the store.

  17. Rickbob says:

    This is all good info., but I have yet to hear from any PC Gamers. It’s a whole diff ball game when you’re a gamer. You need high end Graphics and lots of RAM not to mention a hefty processor to keep up with todays system intensive games. Anyboy know where to get cheaper or even reasonable gaming PC upgrades ?

  18. Rod Morrill says:

    Also, Remember to replace the CMOS Battery at about three-year intervals.

    Do a Flash Upgrade of the BIOS at around 4 and 8 years from purchase, ESPECIALLY if the machine was made before year 2000.

    Replace COOLING FANS if they start to make noises.

    Keep the inside of the cabinet free of dust and spider webs. Especially clean air intakes and vents. Be CAUTIOUS of causing any STATIC electric discharge in there. Ground yourself, and, oh yah, UNPLUG it first.

    Get those “Security Updates” as long as your OS is still supported.

    E-Mail accumulates HUGE chunks of Drive-Space territory. Go through and DELETE everything you don’t NEED in your Inbox AND Sent box older than 3-months. Be sure to EMPTY the Delete folder.

  19. Ldftluke says:

    From a gamers standpoint, the article lags just a bit. One of the major problems with the new games is not memory, but graphics. Most graphics cards (ATI for example) will work for about 2 years, maybe 3 at the most with new games that come out. This is assuming that you keep current with any new device upgrades (downloaded for free from the manufacturer’s website). Once you pass that 2-3 year window, you can still play the new games, but you have to adjust the graphics settings lower (which would extend your computer about another 2 years). By 5 years, there really isn’t anything you can do if you want to play the newest and the coolest but to put the money down for new hardware or an entirely new computer.

  20. Yvonne says:

    Good article but what do you do when your computer tells you you don’t have enough space to defrag?

  21. Paul says:

    Joe is all wrong on these recommendations and cannot believe he is an IT person. To keep PC hardware running a long time you need to supply it with good clean power (with a good power conditioner) and clean out the inside (with a can of air and a vacume) at least twice a year.

    All his other recommendations just keep your OS running, not the hardware running.

  22. Mike says:

    A non-technical thing you can do to make a computer last longer is to keep the dust out. From time to time, power down, open the case and vacuum out all the dust. The dust prevents proper airflow and the extra heat (and dust itself) can be bad for some of the hardware.

  23. ThiNg says:

    All of the recommendations for vacuuming miss one important thing. The nozzle of your vacuum cleaner can discharge static electricity.

    I NEVER vacuum inside the case (just the fan grills from the outside). I recommend ONLY using compressed air in the inside. No matter how careful you are, you will eventually touch the vacuum nozzle to something critical and then zap.

    For the non-techies. Don’t be so afraid of it. I’ve done tonnes of stupid things over the years. Live and learn.

    (just so you can laugh – I once wanted to protect a video card I was placing in storage so I wrapped it in cling film…you know, the stuff that uses static electricity to stick to itself? Well as you may have guessed, that card never worked again.)

  24. T. McDaniel says:

    enjoyed your article, thanks for the free info.

  25. Phillip says:

    Great article! Ofcourse keep the old-laptop – just like one comment the industry is after money; the more they make the more they want. Keep your equipment clean and up-to-date and you will be happy for years. My first pc is a 2002 pill/zt1230 (no longer available from HP) but one of the best ever “built-from-a-bucket-of-bolts”
    turn the thing up side down and open CAREFULLY up-grade yourself SAVE the CASH – walla’ it works. When you read about Windows98 or 2000 still at peak-performance it will be YEARS before XP or Vista will be outdated. Just keep trusting MSN/MS.

  26. Colli says:

    Great article Joe! I’ve been in IT since the time of punched cards and this is one of the cleanest, least jargon filled articles I’ve ever read. For once, an article that everyone can understand.

  27. DG_W says:

    So let me get this straight…your computer is ten years old. What OS do you use, Windows 95? Maybe Win98? How about those onboard graphics, using a “whopping” 16MB of memory? Just how many components have you upgraded?

    Maxing out RAM costs $100, according to this article. A ten year old computer has about a 10GB hard drive, which would be too small for any amount of programs. And if you upgrade to a larger hard drive, you probably have to upgrade your OS to be able to access ALL the new hard drive’s space. It all adds up.

    Or…you can go on Craig’s List and find a used Pentium III, with a 40GB hard drive, plenty of RAM, and better graphics, all for $100…the price of your extra RAM. And a Pentium III will run circles around a ten year old computer.

    This article is a fallacy…

  28. Joe says:

    I agree with post 27….this article has some good tips, but outside of helping your PC to stay running at it’s optimal capacity, no-one should expect a 10 year old PC to be usable with current software or peripherals.

    Like the other guy said, this article is worthless to anyone that doesn’t use windows 95 or 98 and just surfs the internet or checks their e-mail.

  29. What He Said says:

    @DG_W –

    Damn straight. 🙂 I have a 1GHz laptop that is about 4 1/2 yrs old running XP. It’s tolerable (barely) for basic Office app use, web browsing, and playing music. I upgraded the RAM a couple of years ago to keep it usable.

    I have no illusions about its remaining useful life. Maybe one more year, two max.

    I think if you can get 5 years out of a PC you’re doing pretty well. Much beyond that, and a buying a cheap used PC is a much smarter move.

  30. Tony says:

    Hey DG_W,

    This article isn’t a fallacy bc the Pentium III came out 10 years ago this upcoming February. A Pentium III running at 450MHz or 500MHz won’t run circles around a 300MHz Pentium II. If you were to mention a PC running over 1GHz, I might agree with you but I still see PII’s being used in low-budget companies and it suits them. With Windows 2000 and Office 2000, you can be about as productive as you are with the latest and “greatest” (Vista isn’t great at all. Way too bloated!). This article is one of the best written articles regarding PC maintenance. I’m using an almost 6 year old Inspiron laptop which has a 3.2GHz processor and it works just fine! I’m able to use video conferencing, IP Telephony, Office 2007, watch movies, play many games (well, we’re not talking about the latest 3D graphics but still entertaining), burn and encode my movies…almost anything most users here would do. As an IT professional, I do crave the bigger and badder machine but is it really necessary? Kudos Joe Morgan for making an article even my mother can follow! 🙂

  31. says:

    I think you are completely dillusional about making your PC last 10 years! Unless making it last means using it as a bookend or door stopper?
    Although I do agree that you should run some housekeeping on your OS using these utilities, you have totally ignored the other 50% of your PC – HARDWARE.
    With the “American – I want high quality with cheapest price” way of purchasing computers today you have better odds of winning the lottery than having a computer last 5 years. Most of the components on your mainboard, power supply, video card have a limited life span. CPU sockets and chipsets change so quickly that if your mainboard goes bad after only 3 years – you will be hard pressed to find a replacement. Let alone spend $200-$300 for the repair when you can invest that into a new PC.
    I tell my customers that a 5 year old PC is like a 20 year old car. You don’t have a payment any longer, but you are spending money each month to keep it running. And don’t forget that time means money – you can only get so many cups of coffee in one day! If all you need is a glorified typewriter – you hit the nail on the head. If you use your PC regularly to conduct any kind of business, you will actually save money by replacing your PC every 5 years. And please, stop buying computers because they are the cheapest priced or discounted, there is a reason for this (throw away computers, good for 2 years at most). You didn’t buy your car because it was the cheapest price!

  32. Anne says:

    I don’t think this article is all that out of line. I have a 7 year old mac running the latest OS release and a virtal XP and it’s doing just fine. The key is that it was a top of the line system when I bought it. If you buy the cheapest computer you can find, this isn’t going to work. You have to buy more computer than you “need” in year 1 to have it still be viable in year 10.

    I think one important point is that this is your HOME computer. I would never be able to put up with my home computer at work; but for what I use it for at home it’s just fine. I even occasionally open up a relatively new version Photoshop to fix a logo or something for a family member. Not sure if I’ll get 3 more years out of it though, my USB ports keep losing power. Stupid hardware.

  33. Gail says:

    I find it interesting how many of the commenters are jumping down this poor guys neck because “there is no way his 10 year old computer can do/play all the latest and the best”. This was a column writtten for the Savings Advice crowd (as in frugal folks). I can’t imagine trading in a computer so I can run (and buy) the latest and best games and software. If this was a work computer I can see the possible need for software that can perform professional functions might be needed that isn’t adaptable to an older computer, but games? No way. To many of the comments have focused on the latest and best games available and I just don’t think that what most frugal folks want to spend their money on them. I know I sure don’t. I’ve got way better things to do with my time than play games for hours nor did I ever let my kids play games on this expensive piece of equipment. Far cheaper to pick up a board game or two at yard sales and interact with your kids and spouse.

    We use our computer for business purposes and one of my husband’s frustrations, when we ended up with dead in the water computers and had to get a new one is that the programs that work the best for him, no longer worked on the newer platforms, thus you are forced to buy new software even though nothing was wrong with the old software.

    Give the original poster a break and remember that this article was written for frugal people who are trying to live their lives without forking over their money for unnecessary purchases.

  34. jamie says:

    Let’s see you try and run the latest software and games on your ancient pc that belongs in a museum.

  35. ROD says:

    This Computer I’m responding to you on, IS 10-years old. See my prior post #18 to see how I’ve kept it running. And, yup, running Win ’98. Gail’s post #33 is also ‘right on the mark’.

  36. Gerald says:

    There are some good thing that Mr. Morgan wrote about that were quite accurate (celaning registry, defrag, upgrading RAM, etc.). However, I disagree that keeping you computer for 10 years is a prudent thing to do – regardless on how frugal are. In my opinion, I think a computer should be kept no longer than 5 years for a couple of reasons:

    1) If you are running Windows 98, (and I believe Windows 2000 also, but I’m not sure on this)Microsoft has stated that they have discontinued support of both of them. So any worms, viruses, trojans that have been released on to the Internet after Microsoft ceased support, those machine will be exposed to possible infection.

    2) If you decide to upgrade your OS to XP you may not be able to download & install XP Service Pack 3 (your machine may be too old to handle it, as is the case with mine that I’m writing this on – a Dell Inspirion 1150 with a 2.4 Ghz processor with 1GB of RAM (the max for this machine by the way)). Which means that this machine could be exposed to viruses that could bypass your anti-virus software and attack your OS directly. Secondly, if your machine is over 2 years old, you could not upgrade to Vista (which I never would recommend anyway) due to the system requirements on Vista is 1GB alone. Which simply means you would 1GB of RAM just turn on your machine.

    My advice: If your computer is 5 years or newer take the advice layed out in this article. It will serve you well. If your computer is more that 5 years old, use it as a big doorstop and buy a new computer.

  37. Agnes says:

    Just found this article and am impressed with the user friendly information. Will comment further after I have initiated the advise. Keeping my compter clean is very important but always notice when it is slowing down usually I have my tech pay me (actually I pay him at $100 per hour) a visit at least once a year to clean everything
    ( both my desktop and laptop)up and I am ready for business again.

  38. Agnes says:

    Downloaded the Winconfg to further defrag, saved to zip as instructed but no prompts to run???

  39. Joe Morgan says:

    To Agnes,

    Thanks for reminding me just how bare-bones wincontig is!

    The zip file contains the program, readme and language files but no install or shortcuts.

    When you unzip it to a directory (say “C:\Program Files\WContig” for example) you only need to run the WinContig.exe.

    If windows prompts you to pick a program to open the zip file, you may need a separate utility to handle zip files. I would suggest 7-Zip, and it has an install program 🙂

    You can get 7-Zip at:

    After you install that, you can open, view and un-zip zip files.


    I actually have 2 computers that are at about the 10 year mark:

    a laptop: COMPAQ M700 (PII 366 Mhz!) with the only upgrade being the RAM (from 64MB to 384MB).

    a desktop: This is one I built from scratch. It has an Intel VC820 motherboard, 256MB of RDRAM, a PIII 733Mhz, 40 GB Quantum Fireball HD, 30 GB WD Caviar HD, and a GeForce 256 with 32MB on board RAM.

    Admittedly, these are not used for the latest, greatest games. (Go back and re-read the opening 3 paragraphs of the article.) But I assure you both these machines are more than adequate for word processing (I don’t need office 2007) and web surfing (If I wanted to watch streaming videos that it seems every site tries to captivate me with, I’d watch Television.) and email.

    I use Open Office, Firefox and thunderbird on Windows 2000 SP4. Microsoft stopped supporting w2k in 2005, and yes there are safety and security concerns that people should be aware of. For the most part, a good virus scanner, firewall and safe surfing eliminate most (if not all) threats.


    Thank you for the comments. I am glad many of you not only understand that frugality can be applied to technology but that you have also found this article helpful.

  40. Gerald says:

    Mr. Morgan,

    Thank you for clarifying what you use your computers for: (word processing and web surfing). You also stated that would not use your computers for streaming video – which denotes personal choice and may not be another’s choice.

    Thirdly, you have admitted that computers that are using obsolete Operating Systems such as Windows 98 and 2000 are vunerable to “safety and security issues”.

    Fourthly, you are assuming that users have safe web surfing habits. Safe web habits coupled with an obsolete OS and a “good” virus scanner can never make the user “safe”. This lulls the frugal user into a false sense of security. There is asolutely NO reason why every computer user – frugal or otherwise should not have their OS upgraded to at least Windows XP Service Pack 2 (preferreably SP3). To say that anything less than that is “ok” is wreckless for the user and dangerous to the web community at large, because there is now another possibly infected machine on the Internet.

    Mr. Morgan, remeber your core audience. They are not power users and do not keep up with what computer industry does for the most part. These are people who have machines to do the most basic of computing tasks. It is the repsoniblity of yourself – as well as people like me to educate these users with correct information to keep their machines safe and promote a pleasant computing experience.

    Once again, your software, RAM upgrade suggestions are excellent. I do agree with you that you do not need to the latest “barn burning” computer to do basic computing tasks. However I reaffrim that every person who uses their computer for more than an email or print server need to upgrade their machine if its more than 5 years old. If its less than 5 upgrade to XP SP3 – and what ever you do stay away from Vista!

  41. mudclam says:

    Filenames don’t tell me much about what I’m deleting. When I run Registry First Aid, I have no idea what most of the listed files are, so how can I make a decision to delete them or not? I quit using my registry cleaner because each time I tried it, I had to just blindly delete stuff, and sometimes my online games wouldn’t work afterward and had to be re-downloaded. Is there a simple, user-friendly registry cleaner?

  42. Joe Morgan says:

    @ Gerald,

    I think we can agree on the points you make regarding OS and security concerns. You also make an excellent point regarding the target audience as well. I made a conscious decision not to get overly specific about OS versions and hardware when I wrote this piece. My intent was to provide some tips that people could use for free to restore a little life to the computer that was once much faster but has since become cluttered. In short, people often upgrade their hardware when it is not necessary given their use of the computer. I’ve seen many people buy new computers after just 2 years with their old one and all they use a computer for is word processing and e-mail.

    By stating that I haven’t upgraded to win XP or beyond and that I have gotten 10 years out of my computers is not to suggest that everyone should do so. It was meant to be illustrious of just how untrue the “need” to upgrade every 2-3 years really is for many people. Obviously there are segments of the population that require the latest and greatest, but there are many people who just don’t.

    @ mudclam

    The registry cleaners listed in this article provide a backup of the registry changes they make. CCleaner, for instance, prompts you to save the changes prior to performing the clean. Free Window Registry Repair creates backups in the program files folder. In both cases, these backup files have an .REG extension which means you should be able to right click them and select Merge. This will essentially undo any of the changes, i.e. put those registry entries back.

    So, if you find that your apps don’t run properly after performing a reg clean, you can Merge the changes back into your registry and be back to where you were before you ran the registry clean.

    As for user friendly registry cleaners… these are actually two of the best I’ve seen. They are really no less user friendly in terms of reporting registry keys than the premium applications I’ve seen. This is due for the most part to the fact that registry keys are program specific and the cleaner can’t really know what those keys mean, only that they point to files that are no longer installed.

  43. Gerald says:


    I do appreciate that you understand my concerns regarding the OS issue. My biggest concern is that novice users (whom we both agree the piece was intended for)do not take your article as “gospel” and not do anything with their machines. It seems that after all this correspondance, we are both on the same page. We just want users to be pratical and safe in their computing.

  44. Liz says:

    Great article … All I want to do is get an old 10 year old computer going just to give to a single mom with two girls (11 AND 13Yrs.). THEY never had internet at home. My computer was built 1998 has windows 2000., 4.2 GB.HD and 196,148 KB mem. but it is working online. And thats all they need. I would like to put more memory on it and another harddrive. All the other old computers I find don’t have that type of memory card.(I know enough to be dangerious)

  45. Gerald says:


    As I stated in previous posts nobody should be using Windows 2000. Microsoft does not support the Operating System anymore. You should have the OS upgraded to at least Windows XP(you can buy copies on ebay). You shlould make sure that they have the most current anti-virus software. As far as their hard drive is concerned, unless it is less than 50% full, you will need to upgrade the hard drive (40GB should be the minumum and they’re cheap too). The amount of memory that’s in the computer is fine. In short, to keep the computer safe from viruses as well as having enough hard drive space for the computer to keep working it will cost you appox. $200-250 (Windows XP-$100, anti-virus software $35-50 if you find it on sale, hard drive-$50(40GB is minimum. You may not be able to find a hard drive that small anymore)). Also, make sure that you go on to download and install all critical updates. Once all that has been done, the computer will be safe to give to anyone. Hope this helps.

  46. ThiNg says:

    I was one of the people who agreed with most of the original article but post #45 by Gerald is a good example of my problem with this.

    Liz, I can go out a buy a second hand (ex-office lease) Dell PC for $199. The PC will have a 30 day warranty, Pentium 4 processor, 40GB HDD, 1 GB RAM, etc.

    There are at least 5 stores within 15 minutes of my house that sell off-lease machines and they are all about the same price.

    My personal rule of thumb, and this applies to cars, electronics, pc’s etc., is that you should NEVER spend more than 50% of the value in a repair or upgrade. The machine she has can’t be worth more than $50-$75 dollars, so don’t dump $200 into it…

  47. Gerald says:


    That is true that you can buy an off-lease computer for about $200.00. However, Liz may not live in a place where an off lease computer may be available.

    Secondly, Liz will still have invest $35-50 on antivirus software so that the machine will not get infected.

    Third, the machine may not come with licenses (CDs). If they dont, she will still have to purchase a license. In short, even in an off lease purchase you will spend $50-150 depending on the purchase.

    If you can provide Liz the names and phone numbers of those 5 stores, she can do the research for herself.

  48. ThiNg says:


    The off-lease machines where I am come with the WinXP license Key still on the towers. You can download or order copies of the OS if needed.

    AVG Anti-virus offers a completely free (includes daily updates) version of their virus software. I use it on 10+ machines and run virus free.

    I live in the southern half of Ontario, Canada, so if you are in my area Liz, I will definitely send you the names of local shops. But a quick internet search in your area would also work.

    You can definitely do what Gerald suggested and I do upgrade machines all the time, but you SHOULD reach a point where the machine you are upgrading is older than what’s available used.

    If I buy a PC and use it for 5-10 years, my machine will be older than machines that are ex-lease (2-3 years) old.

  49. ThiNg says:


    Here is a quick example of what I was referring to (it’s $50 more but has more stuff):

    Intel Pentium 4 2.8Ghz HT

    1.0GB RAM
    80GB Hard Drive
    CDR Burner + DVD-ROM Drive
    Windows XP Professinal COA
    Onboard Ethernet + Audio
    1.44MB Floppy Drive
    6 x USB2.0 Ports (2xfront)
    Keyboard & Mouse

    100% Guarantee
    30 Day Warranty


    I would take this quote in and then haggle them down. Take out the keyboard and mouse, forget the DVD-ROM, CD-RW (salvage from my old machine). That would clear some cash off the top (admittedly not too much).

    I didn’t mean to criticize your post Gerald. It was meant as a tip. When you start getting close to the $200 mark for any upgrade, you are not far from the ex-lease price zone.

  50. Gerald says:


    I’m not sure how things works in Canada, but in the U.S. where I live The Product Key and the COA (Certificate of Authenticity) Key (sticker found on the hardware) are different. The product key is orange and is only found with the software. Without the Product Key you can not load or activate Windows. So having the COA without the Product Key will be useless if you live in the U.S.

    BTW, I did not view your responses as being critical. I have to assume (since I dont know where Liz lives) that she is in a semi or rural area of the U.S. (if she lives in the U.S. at all) where computer hardware and sofware may be harder to come by than where you live.

    The bottom line is that by dialogue like this, ideas can be formed, solutions can be created, and more people are having a safer computing experience. because of this, we in the online community will be better off for it.

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