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The portability and convenience of owning a laptop is great, but it may not be the best computer to work on if you’re concerned with productivity.

Here are some ways to add strength and speed when you’re working on your laptop.

Set Up: Get a USB Mouse

Whether you’re working at home, in an office or at a café, using a USB mouse with your laptop could significantly increase your productivity. It increases the surface area you can cover without lifting your hand and lets you scroll faster, saving you time.

And portable mice can come cheap.  The Kinamax MS-U3266 Mini High Precision ($6.99) is a small, lightweight mouse that has an optical sensor, scroll wheel and a retractable cable so you can avoid tangled wires.

If you’re looking for a mouse with the works, try the Logitech (Stock Quote: LOGI) VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse ($69.99).  It has a tiny USB receiver, smaller than a nickel, that you can store inside the mouse when you’re not using it.  When you store the receiver, the mouse shuts down to save battery power. It has forward and backward buttons for quickly navigating the Internet and five programmable buttons.

Start Up Smarter, Go Faster

One common problem that hinders productivity is how long it takes for your computer to start up.  If too many programs are set to run automatically when you turn on your computer, the programs you don’t really use may slow down the programs you actually need.

There are a number of launch tools that can help you find and weed out unnecessary programs or temporarily disable automatic startup of specific programs. With the free program Quick Startup, you can browse and get detailed information on individual applications that run automatically, and you can add, edit, and temporary disable them.

Increase Your Disk Space

Freeing up disk space can also speed up your laptop.  Using the disk cleanup utility on your computer, you can see which files you can delete. You can also temporary Internet files, empty your recycle bin and identify the programs you don’t use.

And with Windows ReadyBoost for Microsoft Windows Vista (Stock Quote: MSFT), you can use a flash drive to improve your computer’s performance without an expensive upgrade to add memory.

Protect Yourself from Spyware

In addition to causing security concerns, spyware can slow down your computer’s performance.  Good thing there are several free anti-spyware utilities available.  If you’re working on Windows Vista, you probably already have Microsoft Windows Defender.  And Spybot Search & Destroy is a popular and free anti-spyware tool.  If you’d pay money for a faster spyware scan, try Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.

Strengthen your Signal

Strengthening your wireless signal could prevent you from losing your Internet connection if you move out of range of your router.  You can get a range extender, but a much cheaper way to boost your range is by using aluminum foil.  Like the back of a satellite dish, a curved piece of aluminum foil placed around the router antenna will actually direct your signal further.

Bonus MainStreet Tip: Interested in portable computing, but not in the market for all the hardware that a laptop offers? Consider a netbook. They're a good look for the recessionary e-mailer on the go.

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