Looking to squeeze another year out of your aging portable? The common ailments below can be cured for $150 or less. And if you’re not sure what the trouble is, these sites can help diagnose the problem for free. Tech Support Guy lets you pose questions to volunteer tech experts; iFixit features repair guides that show how to take gadgets apart, upgrade them, and put them back together; and CCleaner is an app that speeds up your computer by getting rid of junky, unneeded programs.
Problem: Your screen is so murky, it looks like it’s been smeared with Vaseline.
Solution: If your laptop is mostly deskbound, consider adding an external monitor. Look for an IPS LED (in-plane switching, light-emitting diode) version with a 1920×1080 resolution in the 21- to 23-inch range, which is the size where you’ll get the best bang for your buck.
What it costs: $150 for a decent 23-inch IPS LED
Problem: Your computer grinds to a halt when you open too many programs at once.
Solution: Upgrade your RAM so that it tops out at eight giga-bytes (anything past that is overkill). It’s relatively cheap, and one of the most effective ways to squeeze more performance out of your machine. Any repair or electronics shop should be able to sell it and install it within minutes, provided your machine has an accessible upgrade port. (Check your user’s manual for more information. Many newer Macs and ultra—portable Windows machines aren’t RAM upgradable.)
What it costs: $100 or less with installation
Problem: Your battery conks out faster than a narcoleptic in a mattress store.
Solution: Nothing fancy here—it’s time for new juice. Laptop batteries generally last about two years before their maximum charge starts to take a nosedive. Replacements can be had for cheap depending on the model of your computer. Many PC batteries just snap right in, but you’ll need a pro to install batteries in Macs and ultra-portable Windows machines.
What it costs: $20 and up for PCs, $129 to $199 for Macs