|From the Kenosha News on 7-24-05
Decide if it's time to upgrade or replace your computer
A fairly common question that readers ask me is if I think they should upgrade or replace their computer. Following is a series of questions that help users determine what the right strategy is.
Basically, if your computer is running reliably and doing what you need it to, you shouldn't need to upgrade or replace it, even if it's quite old. You should, however, make sure you back up your data faithfully since chances of a hardware failure increase as the computer ages.
If your computer won't run the software you need or is doggedly slow, it is probably time to upgrade or replace it. I only recommend RAM (memory) upgrades since those are easy, fairly inexpensive, and pose nearly no danger to your computer. Processor upgrades are only recommended if you have a fairly new computer with other expensive features and you really need to keep it up to speed for heavy-duty graphics work or gaming. Hard drive upgrades are especially painful since they require re-installation of the operating system, re-installation of all your software, and backup and restore of your data. I'd recommend acquiring an external USB hard drive for auxiliary storage before I'd upgrade a hard drive.
If you think you need to upgrade multiple items on your computer, it may be more cost effective to replace it, especially if it's out of warranty and not capable of running the current operating system (Windows XP or Mac OSX Tiger, for example.) When you replace the whole computer, you'll be starting with a clean system and a new warranty. You'll also have more time to set up the new one, make sure all your programs run, and move you data to it, all while continuing to use your older computer. The transition can be as fast or slow as you choose.
By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 7-24-05