Laptops are fantastic, and I think we can all agree on that. They’re amazing machines that allow us to access a major part of our personal or professional life digitally, on the go.
However, they come with a big drawback — upgradability. You see, all that portability means that they have limited room and limited power, which translates to smaller and weaker parts. This also means parts that are soldered on to the motherboard. The only thing you can actually change is the RAM, the storage drives and probably the WiFi card. As you can guess, that doesn’t allow much room for improvement, especially if you have an older machine.
However, if you’re like me, and stuck with a machine slightly behind the generation for a while, you can extend its life a couple more years.
Also read: How to migrate the OS from HDD to SSD?
Reviving my dead machine
My four-year-old HP AB522tx went dead a couple of months ago when I was trying to run some image procession simulations. It turns out that the HDD had been slowly dying.
An HDD replacement and a lot of headaches later, the machine was up and running. A few weeks on, when I was unusually annoyed by the sky-high framerates on the machine while playing games, I decided to overclock it, which went fine for a week.
After a long gaming session, the laptop couldn’t bear the loads anymore and thanks to the extremely versatile cooling solution, the motherboard was toast.
Now if you’re stuck in a situation like this where you know your machine is old, but you can’t shell out enough to buy a new one, you really need to pick your upgrades wisely.
First, make a note of everything you can upgrade. On my machine, I had an extra RAM slot and a CD drive, which I could trade out for a caddy. All this lead to this potential list of upgrades:
- 480 GB SSD
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- HDD Caddy
- Motherboard replacement
And some extras, which don’t really increase performance but make the experience liveable.
The first thing to get for me was the motherboard. I happened to find the exact model in Nehru Place — India’s largest IT market — in New Delhi.
Next up was storage. This is by far the biggest upgrade you’ll see especially if you’re upgrading an old machine. SSDs have really come down in price, but they’re still quite expensive.
I decided to go for a 480GB SSD by Kingston. It fits precisely the budget and 480GB is ample space for Windows installation, software and games. The 1TB HDD would replace the CD drive thanks to a standard 9.5mm caddy.
So that’s storage resolved, and frankly, you could just get away with that. But wait there’s more.
I realised that the Nvidia 940M on the machine was pulling memory from the RAM, despite having 4GB of dedicated graphics memory, That leaves me with 4GB of RAM, which isn’t enough to get the work done.
So another 8GB DDR3 1600MHz stick was added to the setup to fix a bunch of problems.
Honestly, that’s all you can upgrade on most machines. Is it enough to turn the machine into an absolute beast? No.
But is it enough to make it last another year? Yes, absolutely.
Now I have a system that boots up in under 10 seconds, is capable of editing 1080p video and run games relatively well. And that should get me through the year, hopefully.
This was my experience upgrading an old machine and dragging it just a bit longer. Let us know in the comments below if you have some experiences of your own or if my mistakes helped you out.