Is there a 386 computer lurking in your office? To extend its life, consider these options:

· Upgrade it by replacing the 386 chip with that of a 486. Improve Technologies (800-777-6231) is one of many manufacturers that offer a kit. For less than $100 (the most you should spend to upgrade), the Improve chip improves speed but not storage space or random access memory (RAM), so if the application you wish to run demands more memory than your computer has, this solution won't work.

· Send it out to pasture as a dedicated fax/modem, bulletin-board system, or on-line service terminal, or possibly a word processor. If you purchase 386-based communication software, you could eke out another year of life from the computer. For faster performance, the machine should stand alone rather than be networked. Or dedicate it to DOS-based word-processing programs, which run better than Windows-based applications on a 386.

· Donate it to a charity or nearby school. Many recipients are picky, but some are happy to have almost any computer. Tax deductions are limited.

· Throw it away and deduct the full value of the system without limitation. Or investigate one of the many salvage companies -- such as RTI (800-929-0029) -- that pay a token amount or credit for a trade-in. RTI retrieves useful parts, like gold plating, and then grinds up the useless bits for recycling.