Supercharge Your Computer Productivity for Less

Photo (cc) by Håkan Dahlström

My computer runs incredibly fast and has an incredible display, and people who look at it are insanely jealous. Did I spend thousands of dollars on the latest technology? No, I just applied a few strategic upgrades and a configuration trick or two to a 5-year-old computer that I paid $100 for.

Here’s how you can do the same to your computer…

1. Install a solid-state drive (SSD). This unsung little box is the greatest performance enhancement to hit computers since the hard drive itself. Rather than using a series of spinning disks, it runs on the same type of memory used in USB flash drives and your camera’s memory chip. Upgrading to one of these drives will dramatically reduce the time it takes to start your computer and open programs. The downside is that a small, 64-gigabyte drive will set you back $100, so you’ll probably need additional storage if you’re saving large media files. As an added bonus, solid-state drives consume less power than traditional ones, so laptop users can expect to get more life out of their battery. Even better, prices are dropping and storage is increasing as the technology matures.

2. Increase your storage. You can never have too much extra hard drive space, but fortunately, new drives are incredibly cheap. A 1-terabyte drive (1,000 gigabytes) costs around $100, and 2 TB drives sell for under $200 – the same price I paid for a 20-megabyte drive 20 years ago.

3. Double your monitors. People who work on just one screen gasp when they see how I pull up a website on one monitor while composing a document on the other. Utilizing multiple monitors was once a technical (and costly) achievement, but now it’s a fairly simple process. If your video card doesn’t already have two outputs, you can order a new one that does for under $20, or just add a second card for even less! Next, just go to your display properties in Windows XP or Windows 7 to designate one monitor as the primary and to extend your display to the other. It’s that simple.

4. Try portrait mode. You wouldn’t view a movie on a narrow, vertical screen, so why look at documents on a widescreen? One of the advantages that a flat-screen display has over an older CRT is that it can be easily rotated from horizontal mode (called landscape) to a vertical configuration (called portrait mode). This allows you to view an entire document, Web page, or spreadsheet, rather than just the top half.

5. Arm yourself. Once you have multiple flat-screen monitors, you can run out of desk space very quickly. To fix that problem, buy monitor arms so that your displays float above your desk. These can be expensive, but I have had great luck with these arms from 3M that cost about $75.

6. Configure your computer for maximum speed. You don’t need to spend lots of money or become a super-nerd to get the maximum performance from your computer. If you’re running Windows 7, you can just tell it to run faster. In Windows Explorer, right-click on My Computer and choose Properties. Next, choose Advanced System Settings and select the Advanced tab. Finally, click on Performance Settings and choose “Adjust for best performance.” You have just disabled all of the visual effects built into Windows that rob you of much of your performance. Besides, I find these animations unnecessary and distracting. Also, try these 3 Tips to Make Your Old Computer Young Again.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
60% of People With This Disease Don’t Know They Have It
60% of People With This Disease Don’t Know They Have It

Millions of people overlook this potentially potent condition that tends to strike women and older adults.

21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On
21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On

With some items, it makes sense to pay a little more rather than hopping on the lowest price.

7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement
7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement

Make even one of these money mistakes, and you’ll probably end up eating ramen noodles in your golden years.

Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

5 Renovations That Can Impact Your Home Insurance
5 Renovations That Can Impact Your Home Insurance

Home improvements can affect your home insurance policy for the better, the worse or both.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020
These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

15 States With the Largest Homeless Populations
15 States With the Largest Homeless Populations

Some of the states with the highest rates of homelessness might surprise you.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.