Soon, students will be going back to school and taking with them many of the supplies they will need for the year including the now all-important laptop computer. Choosing this computer, something that needs to fit all of the student’s needs, is very difficult for both the attendees and parents. But the solution may not be buying a new computer, but instead upgrading and using the same laptop.
Do you need to buy a new computer?
Of course, a new computer may be the right way to go. If your computer shipped before 2006, it is probably time to buy a new unit. If your computer is damaged and this hinders its performance greatly, it may be easier and cheaper to just buy a new one. Also, if you require high performance such as with gaming, media production, and 3D modeling, then you may want a new computer to increase your productivity. But, if your needs are average such as web browsing, simpler media playback and production, and office work, you might want to save your Benjamins and use the same computer.
Step 1: Get the Necessary Manuals
When tinkering around with any electronic device, it helps to have a manual ready to provide instructions if necessary. For laptops, this is pretty easy because you can just go to the manufacturer’s website, click on support, and type in your model number in order to download the manual. Also, you may even have the manual in paper or saved somewhere on your computer already. Before each process, familiarize yourself with the steps.
Step 2: Upgrade RAM ($50)
RAM is one of the easiest upgrades you can make on a computer, and it also provides a great impact. Go to your computer’s manual or support site and find out the max amount and type of memory your computer accepts. Then, you need to find a good deal on this online most likely. I recommend Newegg or Amazon for the best prices and the brands G.Skill, Corsair, Kingston, OCZ, Patriot, Crucial, Mushkin, and PNY for best results. Don’t be afraid to read reviews either. When your order arrives, installation should be as simple as removing a cover and installing the modules.
Step 3: Upgrade the Hard Drive ($50 for HD, $100-200+ for SSD)
If you are running out of storage or want faster application response, this is for you. If you need more storage, I suggest buying a high capacity 7200RPM hard drive with 500GB or more of storage. I recommend Seagate, Fujitsu, Western Digital, Toshiba, and Hitachi drives. If you have more money to spend and want pure speed, get a SSD. 60GB ones cost about $100 and higher capacities quickly increase in price. I recommend Crucial, Corsair, Intel, OCZ, Kingston, and Patriot drives. Installation may be slightly more complicated than RAM, but should involve similar steps of removing a bottom cover and unscrewing the drive/drive tray from the system to replace with a new one.
Step 4: Add a Second Hard Drive
If you want speed for applications and storage for files, this may be for you. If your computer already supports dual drives, then it is as simple as buying another drive and installing it. If your computer does not but has a CD/DVD drive, then you may be able to go online to a store such as NewModeUS.com or Ebay to buy a hard drive tray specific to your model. Installation will be more difficult, but if you can find a service manual (either from the tray you bought or the computer you have) and figure out how to remove the CD drive, it is a no-brainer.
Step 5: Use Expansion Slots ($20)
If your computer has a PCMCIA or Expresscard Slot, you can use peripherals that provide more USB 2 or 3 ports, Firewire, wireless, Bluetooth, or other connections.
Step 6: Upgrade Wireless Connectivity ($20)
Most laptops today have Wireless N and Bluetooth, but if you do not have this it may not be a problem. You can easily find an Intel-branded card on Amazon that is mini-PCIe based and install it in your laptop to gain these types of connectivity. They can get you faster connectivity or easier use with something like connecting your phone to your computer. You should see the wireless card immediately after removing your lower panel, or else refer to the manual.
If done right, your computer should be ready for another year or 2 (or even 3) of productive use. Now, you can save for your next computer or any other investment you want to make.