Cheap Ways to Upgrade Your Laptop

19 Comments

My laptop is starting to get a little long in the tooth. But while sometime soon I’ll need to buy a replacement, in the meantime, with a few dollars and some relatively inexpensive and easy-to-install upgrades, I’ve managed to keep the old machine humming along.

Here are some cheap ways to put off the day you’ll need to buy a new laptop.

More Memory

memoryMy machine was originally fitted with 1 GB of RAM, which seemed like plenty at the time (and fitting more would have been hideously expensive when I bought it). It was really starting to creak under the strain of running multiple web apps, AIR widgets, and apps like Photoshop (s adbe), all of which demand huge amounts of RAM. If your machine is constantly having to use its swap space, performance will be notably impacted.

Maxing out the memory on my laptop cost just $50, and the difference in performance is huge, especially when switching between applications. Fitting the memory was easy and took no more than five minutes, although on my machine the second module is hidden under the keyboard, which proved a little fiddly to remove.

The Crucial Memory Advisor tool is useful for figuring out which memory upgrades might be available for your machine.

Larger Hard Drive

driveIf you’re running out of space, you have a couple of options. You can either buy a replacement drive, or buy an external one.

I opted for an external portable drive for a couple of reasons. First, it meant that I wouldn’t have to reinstall my OS and all of my apps. Second, a portable drive gives me some additional flexibility. Now I can easily copy large amounts of data between machines and if I need to transport my files, I can just slip the drive into my pocket. The drive I bought was a 320 GB Seagate Freeagent Go, which looks sleek and works well. You can get a drive like this for around $75 (you pay a little more for higher capacities).

New, Higher Capacity Battery

If your laptop is getting on a bit, chances are that its battery life is notably diminished. Rather than buy an expensive replacement from the manufacturer (Dell charge more than $150 for a replacement battery for my machine) look for compatible versions on eBay.  While you’re at it, why not look at getting a higher-capacity battery? I picked up a 9-cell unit on eBay for just $50 that lasts much longer than the original did.

Bluetooth

If your laptop didn’t come with with Bluetooth installed (mine didn’t), you might still be able to purchase an inexpensive Bluetooth adapter for it; check with your manufacturer. Bluetooth opens up communication with whole host of useful gadgets such as mice, keyboards, headsets, cameras, printers and mobile phones. I’ll do anything to reduce the amount of wires cluttering up my desk, so buying a Bluetooth adapter that cost less than $20 was a no-brainer.

Note: Upgrading components on a laptop is not always as straightforward as it is on a desktop. Make sure to consult your owner’s manual before buying any upgrades, unplug your machine and remove the battery before starting work, and take precautions to avoid damaging your equipment with static electricity (use an antistatic wrist strap, or ground yourself periodically on an unpainted metal surface).

How have you upgraded your laptop?

19 Comments

Ed

can I add external Ram to Emachine E330?
trying to add to Ram, 256, been told motherboard wont take it, nut read about altering ms software to allow ?

can anyone help?

dinu

nice tip, I am considering an External Hard drive .. any brand that u guys suggest ?

Simon Mackie

@John B – I guess that’s the risk you take for not buying an “official” battery. But at a third of the cost of an official battery it was risk I was prepared to take, and it’s worked out OK for me.

John B

I bought a battery off eBay for my old dell at one point and it worked great, for about a month, then stopped holding any more of a charge than my old battery, (interestingly enough, it was guaranteed for a few days less than it lasted). I’m sure there are good batteries out there, just do your research!

Simon Mackie

@Steven – I don’t know the brand of the batteries I have, I bought them off eBay (I have two batteries from two different sellers from Hong Kong – they look similar but they’re not identical). All I can say is that I’ve never had any problems with them.

@Stu that’s probably a better idea than getting an internal adapter, but I like not taking up a USB port.

Steven

Thanks, great list!

How about the safety (overheating) of compatible batteries? Are there any brand names or labels to look for?

Andy Harris

Very good article. Common sense for techies but very helpful to the uninformed.
Regarding netbooks, I bought an Acer Aspire One D150 and immediately upgraded the memory to 2gb. It cooks and I’m really enjoying the netbook because it really does handle everything I do (browse, email, write).

Ron Amelio

This is a great article. With netbooks as inexpensive as they are nowadays, I think if people looked at what the truly *need* a laptop for, they might be able to get a new netbook for even less than upgrading their old laptop. Some great pointers, though.

Ron

Shekhar Mehta

Thanks for sharing this nice article with us..In this recession time this article will help people to reduce their cost of maintaning their system..

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