With just a few software changes and one hardware replacement, you can bring your old computer back to life.
An elderly relative who is not good at using smartphones asks for a computer that mainly visits websites, works on documents and prints, and says ‘don’t spend any money. I have an old PC from 2007 that still works, is there any way to make it more comfortable to use? I’m willing to lie that I didn’t spend money on a small investment in hardware upgrades.
You don’t have to waste a lot of money on a PC to meet modern standards. In the era of dual-core processors and low-end graphics cards, even older PCs can handle web browsing (including streaming video) and print jobs well. 4 GB of RAM is enough for light computer work. One of the hardware upgrades I recommend is replacing the hard disk drive with an SSD. With an SSD, your computer becomes much newer and stronger. These days, a popular 256GB SSD like the Samsung 870 EVO costs $40, which should be plenty of capacity for the needs of older relatives.
First of all, you need to remove the accumulated dust inside the PC. You don’t want clogged airflow to degrade system performance. It is also recommended to replace the old thermal paste on the CPU. If you don’t know what’s good, Arctic Silver 5 is the thermal paste most people use.
On the software side, a completely free program is available. If your PC is currently running Windows, but your old Windows 7, Vista, or XP, you should switch to the latest operating system to protect against security threats.
The simplest solution is to switch to Linux. Pick a beginner-friendly Linux distribution and add Chrome or Firefox for web browsing for opening document files created in Microsoft Office.
If you’re worried that Linux might be too technical or unfamiliar, Neverware’s CloudReady software transforms your system into a giant Chromebox. The PC will act as a desktop-style crop book, which greatly simplifies the browsing experience. I explained how to install Cloud Ready in How to turn an old laptop into a Chromebook.
Elderly relatives can open, view, and print Microsoft Office documents via Google Docs or Spreadsheet, as well as create and edit their own files using a cloud-based text editor.
The final option is that if you have a Windows 7 license, you can convert it to a free Windows 10 license. Windows 10 is slower than most Linux distributions and slower than CloudReady, but it’s arguably the most familiar to anyone using the device.
Regardless of the operating system you choose, you should minimize the number of other programs installed. Do not bring systems with unnecessary background processes. If you’ve done this enough, it will be much easier to gift a working PC without breaking too many orders of an old relative.