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One Family's Extreme Tech Makeover

One Weak PC, Many Users

Angela and her tweens, like many other families, were sharing a single desktop computer. That was fine when Sophie and Max were younger, but now it causes arguments. The machine was agonizingly slow and kept crashing because the games Max downloaded were rife with viruses and spyware.

The Solution: A new Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and a do-it-yourself PC tune-up

Angela needed her own machine, so she tried an HP laptop with a 15-inch wide-screen display and built-in wireless networking. "I had no idea how much I would love being able to head to a coffee shop and just hang out with a computer," she says.

But the family PC was still a problem. The hard drive was packed with electronic junk, and dust bunnies had accumulated inside the case, causing the system to wheeze and run slowly. Dust can make a computer overheat and shorten its life span. After unplugging the machine Angela carefully took off the outer case and removed the dust with a handheld vacuum. "It made a big difference," she says.

The machine's 150 GB hard drive was equally clogged, with barely 1 GB available for storage. (You should always leave at least 20 percent of your hard drive free, so Windows can use it to store temporary files and do other necessary housekeeping chores.) To clear it out, Angela turned to the PC Tuneup tools in Symantec's Norton 360 software suite, which deletes unnecessary files and reorganizes the drive's data. She also had Max trash 30 GB of old Pokemon videos.

To create even more room, she moved the family's iTunes library onto an inexpensive external hard drive. Some models (such as the LaCie Ethernet Disk mini-Home Edition Personal Media Server) allow numerous networked computers (like the family's PC and Angela's new laptop) to access its stored data.