How to Upgrade Your Laptop

There are many reasons why many users upgrade their laptop, rather than buying a new one. Benefits include cost savings, reducing landfill waste, and convenience.

Knowing What You Can Upgrade

First, it’s important to understand what parts of a laptop you can, and can’t, upgrade. This varies by individual laptop, but typically, users upgrade their battery, add RAM, or upgrade to SSD. Areas that you generally can’t upgrade, or that aren’t worth the cost, include the video card, processor, or screen size/quality (although you can always connect to an external monitor).

When deciding whether to upgrade or replace, you need to understand the costs versus the benefits, and whether a particular upgrade will enhance your laptop’s performance.

Adding RAM for a Slow Computer

If your computer is running slow, try a few tricks before you upgrade. Check the free disk space, and if necessary, move large files to external storage to see if that helps. Delete junk files, clear your cache, and delete any temporary files. These are all safe to delete, but over time, they build up and slow down your performance. Try defragging your hard drive and check for malware. If none of the tricks help, you might want to add more RAM.

When your laptop is too low on physical memory, it begins swapping data to your SSD or hard drive, which is much slower than your RAM chip. Not all laptops lets you access the RAM, but if yours does, this fix doesn’t require much money or time. You can expect to spend less than $50 and 15 minutes.

First, use a tool such as Crucial’s Memory Advisor Tool. Simply enter the laptop manufacturer and exact model, and the tool tells you how much memory your laptop can handle and compatible models. Once you have the new memory card, power off the computer and open the bottom panel. To diffuse any potential static electricity, ground yourself by touching something metal inside the computer such as the back of the hard drive.

Next, if all your memory card slots are full, you’ll need to remove one. Simply push apart the clips holding it in place, and the card should pop out at an angle. Lift the card by the edges, without touching the gold connectors on the bottom.

Next, carefully insert the new memory module into an open memory slot. Position it at a 45-degree angle, gold side facing down. Gently press on the top of the module until you hear it click and feel it snap into place. Now just firmly push the module flat and make sure all the clips are secure.

Upgrading Your Battery

If your laptop is having trouble holding a charge, or if you’re unhappy with the length of battery life, replacing the battery is also an easy, inexpensive fix of just a few minutes and less than $50.

Simply power off your computer, release the battery latch on the bottom, and slide out the old battery. Avoid touching the battery contacts or inside the battery bay because your skin oils can reduce connectivity. Slide in the new battery, close the cover, and power back up. Allow enough time for your new battery to fully charge.

Upgrading to SSD

Finally, you can upgrade from an HDD drive to an SSD drive. This fix is a little more expensive and time-consuming (about an hour and $150), but it also provides the most performance improvement. Check your owner’s manual or your existing hard drive to make sure you buy a compatible SSD drive.

Buy a SATA to USB data transfer cable (about $10) so you can clone the files and programs. Your SSD drive will likely come with cloning software, or you can find a free one online. Follow their instructions for cloning, so you won’t have to reinstall programs or transfer files. This may take a while, but don’t try to use your computer during the cloning process.

Unplug the SATA cable and SSD. Unplug your laptop and remove the battery. Open the laptop case and unscrew the current hard drive’s mounting brackets, and remove the drive. Put the new SSD into the bracket, slide the connectors back into place, and reattach the mounting brackets.

Before your close the case, make sure everything is working. Power it back on and check that all the programs and files look right. If everything is operating correctly, power it back off and reattach the case.

If you don’t feel comfortable completing any of these upgrades yourself, you can always take it to a computer store for the upgrade. Of course, this costs more, but it’s probably still much less expensive than a completely new laptop. You can also open up the laptop to turn off the the laptop fan.

Another great way to get better laptop performance is to optimize the laptop for gaming so you can play some of the coolest upcoming PC games.