Trying to get anything done on an old laptop can feel like pulling teeth, if having your teeth pulled were as painful as waiting 10 freaking minutes to load a YouTube video. If you're still limping along on that ancient Dell or iBook you got in college, here are a few simple tweaks and updates that will make it work almost as well as the day it came out of the box.
One of the easiest things you can do to improve performance on an older device is clean it. Not because it will work better knowing it looks shiny and new, but because you're getting rid of all the gunk and dust that could be causing it to overheat and slow down. Give the exterior a thorough once-over with both a cleaning wipe and compressed air can, paying extra attention to the keyboard and vents where dust is more likely to accumulate. And if you're in it to win it, go ahead and carefully remove the bottom to do a deep dusting of the hardware inside.
Switch to a lightweight operating system
Many times the bulky baked-in OS you're running on an old PC laptop can be the primary reason things have slowed to a crawl. Instead, revive things by switching to one that uses up significantly less memory, like one of these.
Stop programs that launch at startup
Having your most-used applications and programs up and at 'em the minute your machine starts may be convenient, but it comes at a cost. Disable them so you're not overwhelming your elderly laptop from the get-go. To do this on a Mac open System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items and disable everything. Windows users: download this utility to deselect auto-start programs individually.
Offload unnecessary programs entirely
If you haven't used Final Cut since college, there's no sense in having it around just to keep your already-full hard drive company. Same goes for all of the media you've been hoarding. If you're using Spotify, Apple Music, or any other on-demand streaming service, there's no sense in hanging on to those MP3s you've been amassing since Napster's heyday. Just let go, man. But if you can't, move things onto an external hard drive.
Fix specific broken parts
If your keyboard or trackpad is royally messed up, consider some workarounds or replacement options. Trackpads are notoriously difficult to replace, but an easy alternate fix is to simply switch to an external wireless mouse. Replacing a keyboard is slightly less daunting -- scope out your options here and look up your specific model's user manual online for installation instructions.
Add some RAM
If you want to beef up your machine's ability to multitask, consider installing some RAM, which acts a little like the Tin Man's oilcan to make your machine more nimble when running several programs simultaneously. Use this site to find the right kind of RAM for your particular model, and get cozy with Lifehacker's handy installation guide.
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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist and has been using his 2006 iBook as a doorstop for the last few years.