1~Keep it clean. Any hardware geek will tell you that dust, dirt, grime and funk keep a computer from running peak. And any hardware geek with a shred of pride will show you a computer case clean enough to eat out of. Dust impedes fans. Dirt creates a thermal layer that makes things overheat. Grime blocks connections. (No joke: I’ve seen computers “magically” start working again just by cleaning dust from the case and motherboard.)

2~Keep it in working order. It should go without saying, but using flaky or error-prone hardware puts the rest of the system at risk. So don’t be afraid to splurge on a new 200W power supply for your 450Mhz desktop if the old one is acting funny. Or an extra 64Mb for your aging Thinkpad. It’s worth it. And so is a little protection: An added layer of ventilation or a better fan is not overkill if you care about the hardware you’re running.

3~Do your homework. It’s an obvious analogy, but not having a basic understanding of the inside of your computer is kind of like not having a basic understanding of the inside of your car. You don’t have to know how to field-strip and overclock an Athlon box, but you should at least have an idea what might be wrong when something misbehaves inside your K6-2+ 550.

4~Pick the OS that fits. Don’t expect straight Ubuntu to run on a 333Mhz computer. Don’t expect straight Xubuntu to run on a 166Mhz box. But don’t feel bad because your machine doesn’t play well with the distro of your choice. For every favorite distro there’s a second place finisher, and there’s no shame in using a different flavor on a different machine. I regularly use a lighter distribution (like Arch, SLAX or Zenwalk) on machines that can’t handle Ubuntu’s bulk.

5~Pick a filesystem that fits. If you don’t know what that means, read more about filesystems and find one that’s appropriate for your hardware. I’m not going to just tell you which one is right, because it depends on your processor, your hard drive, your IO connections and your file workload — all at the same time.

6~Use a smooth desktop. I’m not a big Gnome or KDE fan, and if you’re on an old machine you probably aren’t either. There’s nothing wrong with them — they’re just too heavy for everyday purposes. If you’re running an old machine, take the time to learn Fluxbox, Openbox, IceWM or even FVWM. A svelte window manager can be the difference between life and death for an older machine.

7~Lighten the load. Throw out the stuff you don’t use, or don’t want in the way. Drop the unwanted packages, services, features and frills that slow you down. Sure, my 300Mhz Pentium II can do pure transparency and composited windows, but I don’t run that nonstop. I save it to show off to other geeks. If it’s too slow, it’s got to go.

8~Or better yet, start from scratch. It’s more effective than sifting through a bulky installation. And it’s almost a guarantee that any system you customize from scratch will perform better than one you rip the guts out of. If you take charge of what’s on your machine and add only what you want, the end result will always be faster. Some distros work this way by default.

9~Learn to love the terminal. You can get an amazing number of things done in a terminal window, and on a slow machine, this is critical. Don’t be afraid to relegate tasks like music management, IRC, e-mail, file management or torrent downloading to a terminal window. Old machines thrive on console applications and the final product is generally indistinguishable from that of a chunky GUI app.

    And last but not least and MY favorite!

10~Show it off. Make it pretty. Repaint it. Cover it with stickers. Mod the case. Let your kids illustrate it. Doom it up. You’re more likely to keep and use a machine that looks good and makes the local geek green with envy … than one that looks like a heap of dirty junk. No matter what speed it runs.

Thanks to the help of Arch Linux , Linux , Ubuntu , Hardware for these suggestions!

My suggestion on number 10 is cover it with rhinestones! Can there ever be enough glitz??? Nawwwwww!!! More is better! {wink}

~The Baby Boomer~