Prolonging Computer Use — Tips and Tools

Install an open-source operating system Many open-source, Linux-based operating systems are designed to use a minimum of system resources. In other words, they’ll run just fine with an older processor and 128 MB of RAM. For example, Xubuntu is an officially supported variant of Ubuntu that needs less speed and less memory than the main distribution. Fluxbuntu is even less resource-intensive, but it’s not officially supported by Canonical (the folks who develop and maintain Ubuntu). Bear in mind that making the switch to Linux often requires retraining for your systems librarians, your regular staff and your patrons. On the other hand, Linux distributions, such as the ones mentioned here, are becoming increasingly user-friendly, so the transition from Windows isn’t as hard as it used to be. For more information, see our article on Open-Source Software in Libraries.
Add some memory The cheapest way to make an old machine run faster is to add some RAM. It is generally cheap these days, but you need to be careful and buy RAM that’s compatible with your motherboard. How to Upgrade Your PC’s RAM has some good advice on buying and installing RAM.
Clean out the junk Computers slow down after a while due to spyware, disk fragmentation, temp files and so forth. Read Preventing Trouble on Windows Through Regular Maintenance for tips on how to keep your computers clean.
Use it for spare parts Old computers can be a source of replacement parts — expansion cards, memory modules, hard drives, etc.
Keep it as a temporary or swap computer When a computer crashes, it’s nice to have spare machines on hand. You can roll out one of your older PCs while you’re repairing the newer one. Also, if you have guests or new employees, you can set them up on one of the older machines until you’ve prepared their permanent computer.
Use it as an OPAC station If you dedicate a few computers to searching your online catalog, you might as well use older machines. Searching the OPAC usually doesn’t require a lot of power.
Use it as a test machine Experimenting is a great way to learn about technology, so your staff might appreciate the opportunity to play on some of your older machines.