I know what you’re thinking; technology and saving money? Absolutely! Who doesn’t use computers these days. Who hasn’t had an issue with their computer or laptop every once in a while?

junior birdman
dolanh via Compfight

The price of some computers has dropped since the days when a good computer used to cost around $1,500. True, some of the Apple computers will come in at that price but overall, they’re not overly expensive.

This means you have a usable computer. But if you’re doing more than writing some emails, you probably have the need for a bit more performance, as well as protection from outside attacks.

It can be expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing. The Geek Squad at Best Buy is pretty good, but if your computer isn’t still under warranty it might cost you $99 just to have them look at it… and then they’ll recommend some things that will cost you extra money.

Not everything I’m going to share is free, but it’s a less costly option and will give you what you need if you have any of these issues.

1. Free AVG

Do you have an antivirus program on your computer? If you don’t, shame on you. If you’re not sure, double shame on you. lol We can fix that. There are a lot of programs on the market, but for my “money” I’m going to recommend Free AVG. It’s a pretty comprehensive program that not only protects your computer from viruses but will scan your email as well.

It’s easy to install… as long as you’re paying attention. They have a paid version and many people install that one (it’ll show you both even if you download the free program), which is free for only a couple of weeks, so you have to make sure you install the right one. Also, they might ask you if you want to install their toolbar. Sure, it’s a nice level of protection but you probably already like whatever search engine you normally use so be aware and don’t install it.

The two best things about this program for novices is that you can set it up to it’ll automatically update itself without bothering you (though occasionally you’ll come back and see it asking you to reboot), and you can set it up to run once a week at a certain time so you’ll know it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, since many people download the program, think it’s going to do everything without instruction, and find later on that it’s never run at all.

2. RAM

If your computer is moving sluggishly or your hard drive keeps making all kinds of noises while you’re on it, that’s a good indication that your computer might not have enough memory to run things properly.

These days, browsers let you open a lot of tabs. Turns out those tabs, along with all the other stuff you might have running, uses up a lot of the memory that comes with your computer. If all the things you have open overtax the memory you have installed, your computer goes to the hard drive for help. That puts stress on the drive and slows things down to a crawl.

Adding memory, or RAM, can save the day. We call it a chip, but it’s a long green strip with a lot of things on it that you push into a slot inside your computer (yes, you’re going to have to open your computer but that’s not a big deal… as long as you turn it off first). It’s very easy to do, as long as you make sure to push it all the way in (you’ll hear a snap).

RAM 60/365
Amélien Bayle via Compfight

These days, RAM doesn’t cost all that much. You can buy memory with the capacity of 1GB through 8GB. You might have to look at your computer’s specifications to find out what the upper limit is but many of today’s computers can easily handle an upgrade to 16GB. Depending on how much you use your computer, you can decide how much more memory to add, though the recommendation is to at least double what you already have.

Prices can range from $8 for a 1GB chip up to $65 for an 8GB chip. If you have a specialty computer it’ll cost you more, but if that’s the case you probably don’t need this advice or any other advice I’m giving in this article. 🙂

3. Zone Alarm

For the first suggestion I talked about an antivirus. Even the best antiviruses can’t stop everything on their own if you’re not a careful web surfer. What you need is a firewall, which is a program that helps to mask what’s known as ports on your computer, which is basically the electronic access point for how you get online. By masking the port, certain types of viruses can’t be activated from remote locations because they’re hard to find, and it at least gives you more time to take care of the virus.

Zone Alarm has been around a long time and has always been pretty steady. It’s also free to use, although they also have a paid version. The only thing you’ll need to determine is if you want to see every alert, because sometimes programs you already have will start to update and Zone Alarm will ask you if you approve. If you’re not upgrading something at the time, you’re probably going to want to know so you can deny it. Or you can tell the program not to alert you of anything, in which case it’ll only pop up when you know you’re adding something new. This one depends on your comfort level.

4. External drives

Lucky for you, it’s easier to add storage if you have a need because your main drive is getting full, or there are certain things you don’t want to leave on your computer all the time. The main two options are flash drives and external hard drives.

A flash drive is a tiny storage card or gadget that can hold anywhere from 4GB up to 64GB; that’s pretty amazing. It’s small enough to put in your pocket or hide away somewhere, and some of them look pretty innocuous in case you want to hide it somewhere so that only savvy people might recognize what it is. You can get these things for literally less than $5 if you shop in the right place, and even the largest flash drive can be found for $15 or so. It’s a great way to store all of your music files and image files without taxing your main drives capacity.

An external hard drive offers way more storage capability, anywhere from 250GB up to 1TB (that’s terabyte; that’s extreme storage power) and the price range starts around $20 and, on the low price end, up to around $55. Of course, it’ll cost more if you want different types that might be faster or offer more security but if you have basic needs, these will save you a lot of money.

What are you waiting for? Get computing!

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