19 Jan 2015
January 19, 2015

Best Upgrade Options for Old Laptops

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Out with the old and in with the new! Well, not so fast, especially if you are on a tight budget or you just love the old junk. If your laptop is in good physical shape but seems like it is no longer able to keep up with you, then you should consider your upgrade options.

Upgrade Options

SDD Upgrade Figure 1

Figure 1: Ready to upgrade

Upgrading laptops can be tricky due to its design limitations. According Hoffman (2014), upgrade options are limited because of the design of laptops – they are not designed to be upgraded.  Laptops are not designed to be opened and doing so can void your warranty, or worst case, render it useless. Nevertheless, you can consider adding more memory (RAM) or a more popular choice is to replace the old hard drive with a faster solid state drive. Doing both might be the best upgrade path if your budget permits. This article focuses on upgrading your laptop by replacing the old hard drive with a new SSD.

My laptop is about 7 years old – but it looks like new (see my article Laptop Care 101). I use my laptop for my business and for conducting my lectures at the University. I considered buying a new laptop but after a mental debate and research, I decided to explore my upgrade options. I figure 3GB RAM is good for a Windows 7 32-bit so my focus was not on a RAM upgrade but an SSD upgrade.

Solid State Drive Upgrade Option

I was able to source the Crucial MX100 256GB Solid State Drive from Amazon.com – got this at a discount with free shipping to my Miami mailbox.  I have the same model SSD on my desktop computer.

The Upgrade Process

The upgrade process is fairly simple. All I needed to do was to replace the old hard drive with this new SSD. How hard can that be, right? Well here are the steps I followed:

Figure 2: Replacing the HDD

Figure 2: Replacing the HDD

  1. Backup your files on an external drive or a thumb drive. If you have lots of files like me, you may need an external hard drive.
  2. Setup a clean spacious work area. You can use a soft counter or as in my case, I used an anti-static spread over my work desk.
  3. Make sure that the power cord is plugged into the laptop – this will help to discharge any static interference while replacing the drive.
  4. Turn over the laptop and locate the hard drive compartment. This might be positioned differently for your model of laptop but generally you will notice a “HDD” symbol on the compartment cover.
  5. Use a small Phillips screw driver to loosen the compartment screws and remove the cover.
  6. You may be able to slip the old hard drive out or you may need to remove two additional screws (depending on your laptop model).

    SSD Upgrade

    Figure 3: In stall the SSD into the drive bay

  7. Some laptops may have a drive bay for the hard drive; in this case you will need to install the SSD into the drive bay. Additionally, some SSDs are much thinner than the laptop’s hard drive, in this case the SSD might be shipped with a spacer which also must be installed. Be sure to review your SSD manual for information on this.
  8. Insert the SSD into the laptop and replace the compartment cover.

Load your Favorite O/S and reload your files

Figure 4: No O/S

Figure 4: No O/S

Go ahead and power on your laptop to experience lightening speeds! Well not so fast, when you power on you may notice a similar screen like the one in Figure 4. This means that you now have to load your operating system on the new drive. The Crucial MX100 came with software that allows me to replicate the content of my old hard drive on the new SSD but I preferred to have a fresh O/S install so I have skipped this step above.

Install your favorite operating system along with the system device drivers. Load up your favorite antivirus, other needed software and restore your old files.

My old boot time was a little over a minute but after the upgrade my laptop boots in less than 30 seconds. I have also noticed that my programs are more responsive and everything runs much faster than before. I recommend an SSD upgrade – it is worth it.


Hoffman, C 2014, ‘What You Need to Know About Upgrading Your Laptop’s Hardware’, How-To-Geek, viewed 16 January 2015, http://www.howtogeek.com/192016/what-you-need-to-know-about-upgrading-your-laptops-hardware/

Girendra Persaud, January 2015

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