If your laptop is a few years old, you've probably considering scrapping it in favour of a new machine.

However, before you head to your nearest computer store, check out these 15 simple software and hardware upgrades that can give your laptop a new lease of life.

Control your laptop with a nod and a wave

When was the last time you used your laptop's webcam? Instead of letting the camera languish, try any of several software tools that can turn it into an input device. Though some of these apps are intended for people with physical impairments, anyone can use them to boost a laptop's controls.

For instance, the Windows tool Camspace is pitched at gamers, but you can configure it for any application. It identifies objects in the webcam's video feed and uses your movements to control the mouse and keyboard.

Eyetwig, a Windows and Mac OS X utility, translates head movements into mouse control, letting you point and click without touching anything.

Enable mouse gestures to speed up input

On certain laptops, multitouch gestures instantly activate commands. You can use motions with any touchpad or mouse, however - just install StrokeIt to script specific mouse movements to activate commands. For example, you could hold the right mouse button and make a 'Z' shape to go back a page in Firefox. Take that, multitouch!

Recover a lost laptop or destroy its data

Protect your laptop. Your hardware is valuable, and your data can be priceless. What if you could summon a lost or stolen laptop back to you? You can, with recovery software that tracks your missing laptop's location when it's online; typically such apps also give you the option to destroy machine's data remotely.

LoJack for Laptops handles these tasks with its service for PCs and Macs. Some computers can load its tools into the BIOS, too, so if the thieves reformat your disk, the laptop can still send out its call for help.

Stream music and video from the cloud

Don't bother trying to merge your desktop media files with those of your laptop. Instead, sync or stream the files online.

MP3tunes focuses on this ability. Like many music services, MP3tunes can sync your original files to its servers and then stream them to your laptop through a web browser or another application. You can even access your media on a Logitech Squeezebox music player, and other stand-alone devices.

NEXT PAGE: Share your mobile internet service

  1. Speed up your laptop
  2. Share your mobile internet service
  3. Bump up performance
  4. Add a missing interface