Monday, August 8, 2016

5 Things to Know Before Upgrading Your Laptop Hardware

Once your laptop becomes a few years old, you face that familiar question: should you upgrade or just buy a new notebook? Obviously a new laptop will cost a lot while an upgrade will be cheaper, but cheaper isn’t always the best option.
Before you make the decision, there are a few things you should know. For example, there are only certain parts that you can upgrade yourself, and that too if your laptop lets you do that. Plus, upgrading parts will almost always void your warranty.
So, what can you upgrade in your laptop, and what are the risks involved? Are said risks worth the savings? Keep reading to find out.

1. Is Your Laptop Even Upgradeable?

Not everything in your laptop can be upgraded easily. Unlike a desktop PC, several parts of a laptop are soldered on, which means they can’t be removed. This is why it’s a good idea to future-proof the laptops you buy (whereas future-proofing is bad for desktop PCs).
But you first need to find out whether your laptop can be upgraded, or if it has soldered components. You can find the answer by reading the original manufacturer’s manual.

If you don’t have that, try the Crucial System Scanner tool. Run it on your Windowslaptop or Macbook and it will scan your machine to find out which parts of your device can be upgraded.
You could also simply Google it. Search for “How to upgrade RAM in XYZ”, replacing XYZ with your laptop’s exact model number. If you see a proper guide, go for it. If you don’t, you’re better off skipping the upgrade.
You can also try iFixit, one of the best DIY sites to repair electronics. It has detailed repair manuals as well as step-by-step guides on how to open laptops and replace parts. Hopefully your laptop is listed there.

2. Which Parts Should You Upgrade?

The most common laptop parts that can be upgraded easily are RAM modules, hard drives, batteries, and wireless cards — assuming none of those parts are soldered on.
Of these, RAM modules and hard drives are the easiest and most common. Indeed, adding more RAM or installing a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a hard disk drive (HDD) are among the best upgrades to improve PC performance.
And if that’s what you decide to do, we have a full guide on how to upgrade a laptop’s RAM. It’s also pretty straightforward to add an SSD into a laptop.
As for the battery and the wireless card, those aren’t always upgradeable. You will need to first research and check if those can be changed on your laptop. If yes, then finding a compatible battery is possible only through the same manufacturer.
Wireless cards, however, are simple mini-PCIe cards, which you can purchase on Amazon. If your laptop is old and you want to make it compatible with Wireless AC standards, then replacing the mini-PCIe card is one way to do it. Otherwise, you could even get a Wi-Fi USB dongle.

3. Some Parts Aren’t Worth Upgrading

Among the components of a computer, the motherboard, processor, and the screen are the main parts that you can’t (and shouldn’t) upgrade.
Most laptops are constructed with a particular motherboard and processor series in mind, and these two parts largely determine how much heat the laptop will generate. The case is hence designed so that the estimated heat can be dissipated efficiently.

The screen, on the other hand, is almost never worth upgrading. I’m not even sure if it’s possible to upgrade. You can fix a broken screen by replacing it with the same type, but just like upgrading a PC monitor is all about buying a new one, upgrading the screen also requires buying a new laptop.

4. How to Find Compatible Parts

So now that you know the basic hardware to give your laptop a new life, you need to figure out exactly what to buy. For example, laptop RAM is different from desktop RAM, and if your laptop is old, it might use older DDR2 RAM rather than DDR3 or DDR4 RAM.
When shopping for RAM modules and solid state drives, companies like Crucial and Kingston have online guides to find out compatible parts for your notebook.Crucial’s Advisor Tool is our preferred choice, but Kingston’s Memory Search is a decent option too.
All you need to do is select your laptop manufacturer and model, and the tools will show you a list of compatible RAM and SSD. Apart from the specifications for the acceptable RAM or SSD, you will also find how many DIMM expansion slots yourlaptop has, and how much maximum memory it can support.
Using the specifications, feel free to search for similar memory or storage on Amazon or other sites. If it matches the specs, it will be compatible with yourlaptop.

5. Should You Upgrade or Buy New?

There are certain signs it’s time to replace your old computer. If your laptop is running too slow, if it can’t install new operating systems or doesn’t support new software, or if it regularly has some problem, you may be tempted to buy a replacement just for peace of mind.
And that wouldn’t be so terrible. There are some fantastic laptops available for low prices these days, so instead of upgrading an old laptop and voiding your warranty, you might want to just buy a new one. For example, the Lenovo Ideapad 100s is a fantastic Chromebook for just $165!
In my opinion, and based on personal experiences as well as anecdotes from friends and family, buying a new laptop is almost always a better option than upgrading your current one.
The reason you’re upgrading is probably because some part is no longer working as efficiently as it should. Assuming this is because the entire laptop is old, then you’ll soon face similar issues with other parts that are nearing their end of life.
So unless your laptop is new and it’s only one part that’s malfunctioning, just go for the replacement. You’ll be happier in the long run.
What do you think, readers? Have you chosen to upgrade an old laptop, or did you just ride it out till you bought a completely new one? Has changing the operating system helped rather than upgrading? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Image Credit: hand holding Computer RAM by Iaroslav Neliubov via Shutterstock

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