Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What's the Best Upgrade for Notebook computers

People frequently wonder what would be the best way to upgrade their notebook computer. The answer would largely depend on what sort of machine they already have.  If the computer is a fairly recent model chances are it will probably have a fairly powerful processor. Often OEM's cut corners on a new machine to lower cost by skimping on other parts of the hardware. I recently bought my daughter a very nice Gateway laptop for a great price, problem was it only had 1 gigs of ram installed. Now, when Windows XP was the current operating system 1 gigs was fine, unfortunately Windows Vista really likes at least 2GBs. This wasn't much of problem however as ram is very cheap right now, so buying extra ram was relatively pain free. I opted to put 4 gigs of ram from the online vendor Crucial. It was very reasonable and was at front door in a few days. Even though Vista 32 bit will only recognize 3.25GBs I wanted the additional ram as she had a integrated Video card that would use up to 128 megabytes of her available ram. The machine runs far better with the ram upgrade and it was well worth it. Installing additional ram almost always improves your performance and in most machines, even laptops is not very difficult. It must be, as my kids remind me if I was able to do it,  it couldn't be very hard!

A little more difficult, but frequently even more beneficial is to upgrade your hard drive. In notebooks upgrading to a larger and faster hard drive is a great way to extend the life of your machine and increase performance. Most notebooks come from the factory with 5400 or even worse 4400 rpm hard drives. A slow hard drive in a modern laptop running a dual core processor of some type will often bottleneck the performance of the machine.

Recently Fujitsu announced that they have a 320GB @ 7200 rpm laptop hard drive, ready to ship. A 200GB 7200 rpm hard drive, can be had for around $170.00 right now from http://www.newegg.com. Now you certainly pay a premium for the 2.5 inch laptop drives over their desktop counterparts, but the performance increase and additional space can be worth it.  Upgrading your hard drive can be a bit daunting as it will require you to backup all your data and reinstall your operating system. Several commercial applications that allow you to clone your hard drive to another make this much easier. Acronis True image, Norton Ghosts and Drive Snapshot all work very well for full disk imaging. People who have shelled out the extra money for Windows Vista Ultimate or Vista Business  can use the built in back up and restore feature to image their hard drive, it work for day to day incremental backup as well as the other programs mentioned. There are a number of USB to Sata adapters on the market to connect your new hard drive to your computer. You will need to format the new drive first

Accessing a hard drive on many Windows based notebooks is often easier than removing a hard drive from a desktop. Several manufacturers on including HP, Dell, Gateway and Lenovo  all required no more than 4 screws to remove the hard drive from their notebooks. Some Dells and Lenovo's only have one screw to get the hard drive out, then 4 screws to remove from a bracket surrounding the hard drive. Unfortunately some notebooks, such as the old PowerBooks and the new MacBook Pro's require almost complete disassembly of the laptop to get at the hard drive. Several manufacturers including Dell, Lenovo and Apple allow you to spec the machine with a faster hard drive when you buy it. The MacBook Pro uses top of the line processors and some of the best video cards on the market, the 7200 rpm hard drive should be standard although right now it's only a  $50 upgrade for the 200GB 7200 rpm hard drive.

If you do ever decide to upgrade a hard drive or ram yourself make sure you unplug and remove the battery first. Also make sure you are very careful with static electricity as that can destroy computer components of any kind. Wear a wrist strap and discharge any static electricity before working on the internals of any computer.

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