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Sunday, 24 November 2013

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Top 10 Free Upgrades to Make Your PC Better

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Chances are right now, you aren't using your PC to its absolute fullest potential. Maybe it's a little slow, maybe your monitor's colors aren't quite right, or maybe it's just dusty and loud. You may not even realize these things are happening. But with a free afternoon, you can improve it from top to bottom without spending a dime. Here are 10 ways to do just that.
Note: Most of these tips are completely free, though they do depend on what you have lying around—and how nice you want things to look. You can elevate your monitors with a few books, but if you want something nicer, you may want to buy or build a cheap stand. Keep that in mind when going through the tips, and enjoy your newly upgraded computer.
1. Install Better, Free Software
Still using Adobe Reader to read PDFs? Still using a bloated, expensive antivirus suite? You can probably improve your experience (not to mention make things run a little faster) with a better program—and often, the better alternatives are free! Check out our App Directory for Windows and OS X for more.
2. Perform a Little Maintenance
A little maintenance can go a long way in making your computer feel like new. If you haven't done it in awhile, you might want to clear out some old files, uninstall programs you don't use, and so on—check out our guides to WindowsMac, and Linux maintenance for more.
3. Overclock Your Processor and Graphics Card

If you're willing to do some serious tweaking, you can get more bang for your buck by overclocking your computer's processor and (if you're a gamer) graphics card (if you have a netbook or Atom-based PC, we've got a guide for that too). It can harm your computer if done improperly, so be sure to do lots of research before you jump in, but it can really help speed up high-power processes like video encoding or gaming. 
4. Keep It Running Quietly
Cleaning the dust out of your computer will help it run quieter, but with a few software tweaks, you can take it even further. Check out a program like SpeedFan (for Windows) orsmcFanControl (for Mac) to control your computer's fan speeds. That way you can have them ramp up when you need them, but keep them running on low, quiet power when you don't. They're both free, but if you're willing to spend a bit of money on making your computer silent,you have some other options too
5. Ditch Unreliable Wireless and Go Wired
Wireless internet and peripherals are convenient, but convenient doesn't always equal "best." If your computer's on a wireless network, chances are you'll get slower file transfers between machines, and a less reliable connection to the internet (which can cause problems with gaming, streaming, or video chat).
6. Make Your Workspace More Ergonomic
While it may not improve your PC per se, having an ergonomic setup can make your PC easier to use and really improve your experience at the desk. For example, raising your monitor to eye level means you don't have to look down at them.
7. Improve Your Speaker Setup
You don't have to spend a ton of money to be an audiophile—in fact, you can probably improve on the setup you already have for $0. If your speakers aren't at ear level, try to raise them so they are, or at least angle them toward your ears—you really will hear a difference. If you have a subwoofer, make sure it's balanced properly with your speakers. Turn your subwoofer all the way down, start playing music, then slowly turn it up until you just start to hear it
8. Remap Your Unused Keys

Can you remember the last time you actually used the Print Screen key? Or Caps Lock, or Insert, or, Pause Break? Most of us can't, so why not turn those keys into something more useful? You can remap any key to another one with a tool like SharpKeys, or give them new functions altogether with programs like AutoHotkey (which, coupled with Nircmd, can do some pretty useful stuff) And if you want to label those keys.
9. Calibrate Your Monitor(s)
If you haven't calibrated your monitor since you bought it, chances are its colors are a little off. You can seriously improve the image quality by taking it through the built-in monitor calibration tool that comes with Windows or OS X. You'll find Windows' tool in Display Control Panel, and OS X's in the Display section of System Preferences.
10. Clean Your Hardware, Inside and Out
If your PC didn't come out of the box yesterday, it's probably gotten a little dirty over time. Dirt and dust not only makes things look gross on the outside, but can cause heat problems on the inside of your computer (and thus make your fans run really loudly). Take a little time to give your hardware a good cleaning.