Ready for an unconventional upgrade? How about this: You can turn an old, pokey external hard drive into a blazingly fast one with about 10 minutes of your time and $15 of your money.
See, most modern computers have at least one USB 3.0 port. You can plug an older, USB 2.0 drive into one, but you won't get the faster throughput afforded by the newer technology.
Thankfully, you don't need to get a new drive just to enjoy speedier file transfers; you just need a new drive enclosure.
You can buy one for around $15, give or take $5, and from there it's a fairly simply matter to transplant your old drive. Just unscrew the old enclosure, remove whatever screws are holding the drive in place, then separate the drive. Now install it in the new enclosure using the provided instructions (if you even need them; it's a pretty self-explanatory procedure).
There are only a couple important considerations here. First, make sure you choose an enclosure that matches the physical size of your current drive. For example, if it's a number of years old, it might be a 3.5-inch drive (in which case you should check to make sure it has a SATA interface, otherwise you might have trouble finding a USB 3.0 enclosure).
Or you could have a 2.5-inch drive. If so, double-check the height: most are 9.5mm, but there are 7mm and 12.5mm drives out there as well. Be sure to choose an enclosure that can accommodate your size.
Second, decide if a plastic enclosure will do the job or if you should spend a few extra dollars for an aluminum one. If you travel a lot and need a drive that can take a pounding, aluminum might be the better bet.
Newegg is one vendor that offers a wide selection of external drive enclosures. Using the column on the left, you can narrow down the options based on size and other features.
This is a surprisingly easy and effective upgrade that not many people think to try. If you have a USB 2.0 drive and a USB 3.0 port, it's well worth the time and expense.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.