When you use a particular device or machine every day, you get used to it. Use it often enough and it becomes like a part of you, and as a rule, that’s a good thing. But what happens if that favored device, and in this particular instance we’re talking about a desktop or workstation, starts to fall way, way behind the technology curve?

While it’s always possible to get a new machine, there are ways that you can coax some more performance out of that favorite old machine and save some money in the process. Before shopping for a new computer, consider the following measures first. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Wipe The Slate Clean, Start Over

Computers are like rugs; when they are used a lot, they tend to accumulate a lot of crap. In many instances of computer slow-down, it’s not the hardware that’s at fault, but rather the software, and that includes the operating system.

Once you have all of your important files backed up on an external device (or on the cloud), wipe the hard drive and start again. Reload your operating system, bearing in mind that it may have some upgrades that should be installed as well.

Conduct scans for viruses and malware using a trusted utility. With these measures in place, you stand a good chance of experiencing a dramatic uptick in response time.

Add Some Hardware

We’re not talking here about replacing the CPU. That’s going to cost you, and you’re not guaranteed of a noticeable improvement in processing speed. The key is RAM. Fortunately, most systems, even older models, make it easy to upgrade their RAM. Invest in some extra memory, and your old system will be better able to handle new software.

If your new applications rely on excellent audio and/or graphics (in the latter case, CAD comes to mind), then you may want to consider upgrading your video and sound cards. Even cards that have a greater level of sophistication will run on an older machine provided it has adequate RAM and the right OS.

Use Off-Site Storage

Hard drives lose performance the closer they are to reaching full capacity. Consider taking advantage of cloud storage and moving a lot of those files off your machine. The freed-up space on your hard drive will usually result in an increase in performance.

If you don’t want to trust the cloud, consider picking up an external hard drive. It will cost a little more, but the overall long-term benefit of not taxing the internal drive will be worth the investment.

Forget This! I Want A New Machine!

As useful as these measures are, inevitably even the most dedicated user will throw up their hands and decide to get a new computer or workstation. Fair enough. Here’s what you should be looking for in that new machine.

Power Supply. As the article “Do You Have The Power?” points out, “the best processors in the world won’t do you any good if your processor’s power supply isn’t up to the task.” Power is often overlooked, but it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a heavy-duty muscle machine.

Easily Upgradeable. Computer components are always getting better, and that’s why we’re even talking about upgrades and refurbishing in the first place! So when it comes time to get a new machine, make sure it offers options for expanding things like memory.

Processing Power. This depends on what you’re using the system for. There’s a big difference between, say, your average household PC and a dedicated workstation that handles things like CAD. Decide what the system will be used for first; that will make choosing a processor a lot easier.

Operating System. Are you a Windows or Mac person? Furthermore, if you’re a Windows devotee, do you really want to deal with Windows 8? In that particular case, see if the system comes with an optional OS downgrade to something less insane, like Windows 7.

At the end of the day, the question of when to refurbish and when to replace comes down to personal preference, influenced by factors such as budget. But it’s good to know that, just because a system is getting old, doesn’t mean that it needs to be junked right away. It’s possible to breathe a little extra life in that machine!