I have pieced together my office bit by bit and I didn't spend $1000's to do it, yet I have all the hardware and communication functions that I need to do business with anyone, anywhere.
I thought this would be a good thread for people to share where they have saved money to get the stuff that they needed to do business.
The first thing is of course a computer. If you can't buy a new one right away, then you need to get your old one in as good as shape as you can.
I started with my old Compaq Presario. Painfully slow (512 MB of RAM, but top of the line when I got it), but it did the job until I could do better. If you are starting with an old computer there are some things that you can do to get it running a little better until you can get a new one.
You have to clean it out. If you are using an old computer or one with many users such as a family computer, you have to get it into shape and clean out the sludge and memory hogs that slow it down.
Some free tools that you can use are:
1. Spybot Search and Destroy will help clean out any spyware that is slowing down your system. I used to run it every week on my old computer. Now I run it once a month:
The home of Spybot-S&D!
2. Adaware. Spyware and Adware are not necessarily the same and can have different signatures. Some programs will find spyware and not pick up adware. Adaware can help you find any adware on your system that Spybot may not see and clean them out.
You can get the free version here: Ad-Aware by Lavasoft - Antivirus software, free spyware removal, firewall
3. CCleaner will help you rid your computer of broken paths, and registry issues that slow it down.
CCleaner - Optimization and Cleaning - Free Download
It is also a good idea to organize your files. Delete stuff that you don't need or haven't used in years that are taking up space. Free up some physical memory by transferring video, image and music files to an external drive or flash drive.
You can also speed up your PC by using the included tools Disk Clean up and Disk Defragmenter.
If you have done all of that and still find that it is moving slow, you can add more RAM to your system. A 32 bit system ( which is what most older PC's are) can only hold (or process) up to 3 1/2 Gigs of RAM. From what I understand, even if you put in more, it will still only be able to use up to 3 1/2. For more RAM you need a 64 bit system.
Even still, an extra Gig ( if your computer can take it) can make a big difference and it's a cheap upgrade until you can get a new system. I upgraded my old Compaq from 512MB and added 3G's of RAM and it made a big difference.
You can scan your system and see how much (if any) and what kind of RAM to buy at Crucial:
Memory upgrades from Crucial.com - About Crucial:Media Toolbox
Of course once you get your box into shape, if you don't have a decent internet connection it still won't run the web much faster. A good internet connection is crucial and one of the most important investments that you can make if you are doing business online. For me it's my most important bill and probably the highest of all of my monthly expenses..but having a fast connection saves me money on so many other things. and makes using my computer so much more enjoyable.
Your computer is obviously crucial, so you want to keep it in the best shape possible to avoid any crashes or slow downs.
Stay away from warez, P2P, or free download sites. They are littered with garbage hidden in files. This goes for any and everything...music, movies, software, free wordpress themes. All of it.
If you can't afford to buy it, then wait. A bad download can end up costing you far more than the price of the product. It is not worth it. If you are using a laptop with one drive and no back up, you are really playing with fire.
Lastly, it is also important to physically clean out your box ( tower) if you have a desktop, with some kind of compressed or canned air.. If you don't do this regularly you will be sick with the amount of dust that accumulates. Dust build up can inhibit circulation and make your computer run hot, which slows it down. It is also important to make sure that your tower has proper ventilation around the fans and that you don't have them blocked from getting air circulating.
Please share some other cost saving things that you have done, or do for your home office.