The age of the two-year PC upgrade cycle has passed. The new trend is to hang on to your older hardware and eke as much use out of it as possible--making it a smart move to put your money on some nifty peripherals and accessories. Here are just a few examples of the hottest add-ons entrepreneurs are currently buying to improve the performance and extend the lifespans of their computers.
External hard drive: When you've finally maxed out your built-in storage, look to an external hard drive for more breathing room. What's more, it has the bonus of portability for the times when you need to travel from machine to machine.
The convenient Personal Storage 5000DV ($299 street, 800-2-MAXTOR, www.maxtor.com) features 120GB, Firewire and USB 2.0 and is also hot-swappable. A Firewire port or USB 2.0 is a much faster way to connect than a regular USB port. If you don't have one, you should check out an add-on Firewire or USB 2.0 card for between $50 and $100.
CD-RW drive: When you really don't need a DVD component, a plain CD-RW drive works just fine. Now is as good a time as any for you to upgrade: Speeds are now faster than ever and prices are low. These new drives will leave your old model in the dust. An internal drive costs less than an external drive, but an external can be shared among multiple computers. CenDyne's Arsion 40x 12x 40 ($130 street, 714-556-1020, www.cendyne.com) features an external drive, 40x write, 12x rewrite, 40x read and USB 2.0.
Monitor: Nothing will give your computer a brand- new look faster than simply replacing that old CRT with a sleek, modern flat-panel display. Prices are still pretty good, and you'll definitely appreciate the spacious, flicker-free viewing.
The MultiSync LCD1560v from NEC-Mitsubishi ($329 street, 888-NEC-MITS, www.necmitsubishi.com) is a basic, budget-friendly 15-inch flat screen. If you're willing to spend a little more cash, you can move up to a 17-inch monitor or even add a digital connector and other neat features.