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Best Performance Upgrades for a Laptop

Best Performance Upgrades for a Laptop

It has been a couple of years since you emptied your wallet on the latest high performing laptop available in the market; however, your most prized possession already seems to be in need of some serious overhauling. If you're looking to get a performance upgrade on your laptop, the tips in this article may be useful for you.
Preeti Sunil
The good thing about the 21st century is that there are a number of gadgets available to suit almost our every need. But the bad thing (at least for some of us) is that within a few months of buying the latest gadget, you realize there's a new improved version of it in the market making you feel like you should have waited some more. Mobile phones and laptops are perhaps on top of the list of gadgets that are improvized within a few months or weeks of their latest releases!
Do you love your laptop too much to trade in for a newer version but wish you could spruce it up a bit? Let us check out some of the best performance upgrades for a laptop you could do to boost its performance and make it almost as state-of-the-art as the latest version to hit the market!
It is important to note that your manufacturer's warranty will be deemed void with many of the following upgrades. It is best to ensure that you have used up your warranty period before carrying out these upgrades, unless you're confident that your laptop can handle a few nips and tucks.
Laptop Parts that May be Upgraded
Battery If you're frustrated with the battery life on your laptop and find the replacement from the manufacturer pricey, search online for a compatible one instead. And while you're at it, purchase one with a higher capacity that is sure to last longer. This is sure to be one easy upgrade; however, your manufacturer is less likely to be too pleased with your choice. You'll have a choice of number of cells while buying a battery such that a 9-cell battery will have more capacity than a 6-cell battery. Go for the maximum cells your laptop model can support to match your gaming and video requirements.
Hard Drive You will need to purchase a hard drive and run some programs to replicate the existing hard drive. It is almost as simple as it sounds. Typically, you would be able to purchase hard drives online with the installation kit. Depending on whether you need to double or triple the existing storage, purchase one from a reliable vendor. The kit typically comes with instructions or you could refer to the vendor site for the installation steps. All you'll need is a USB cable to plug the drive, run the installation that will clone your existing drive contents on the new drive and finally boot up your laptop with the new drive. You can either add on an external hard drive or swap your existing drive with the new one and use your old hard drive as a backup external drive! That should take care of your storage needs for a couple of more years. Anything from 160 GB up to 1 TB should be good enough, while a spin of 5400 RPM works for most laptops. You may upgrade to a drive with 7200 RPM, but remember that more the RPM, more the heat (though more the RPM, faster is the data transfer speed), so weigh your options.
RAM Memory capacity is another relatively hassle-free upgrade that you can do. Purchase RAM modules that suit your requirement the most, whether you want to add on to the existing capacity or replace the memory entirely. You should be able to easily find new modules that match your old ones, in case you're looking to tag on to the existing memory capacity of your laptop. Depending on your laptop model, the memory slots would be located either on the underside or below the keypad. Unscrew the chip (usually labeled as M for memory) to replace with the new chip. Assemble again and boot up your laptop. The new RAM or additional RAM should be detected automatically. Using DDR3 you will be able to scale to higher clock speeds and go for a 1600MHz speed for better performance, if you have a compatible laptop model.
Processor A laptop requiring a processor upgrade puts into question your real intentions for doing so as opposed to buying a new laptop; however, if you're ready to rise up to the challenge, this also may be possible. Remember that you're treading into complex and super-geeky turf! If the processor chip on your laptop is one of those soldered parts, you may well be disappointed unless you're comfortable with desoldering and then soldering the new chip back on. On the other hand, if the chip is accessible and removable, another compatible processor that's more powerful may be easily possible. You must be warned that this is not going to be easy though. Typically, your manufacturer will be delighted to upgrade your processor with a compatible replacement; however, they will certainly charge for the parts and labor. You must weigh the pros of upgrading the processor chip vis-a-vis purchasing a new laptop. However, if you're the brave geek who doesn't care about the manufacturer's warranty, by all means get the micro screwdrivers and replace the processor chip. No doubt there's a risk, but if it pays off, you'll be glad that you can do without the latest mean laptop in town. Motherboard compatibility is a major "if" even if you find the ideal chip that sits in the socket somehow!
Graphics/Video Card Moving on to a bit more complexity with regard to upgrading, and this one's sure to render the manufacturer warranty invalid. Now that you have upgraded storage capacity and memory, the next important thing that will surely please the gaming freak in you is a graphics card that matches up to them. The reason for this upgrade is that the card itself is likely to have its own memory and enough processing for the mind-blowing graphics such that your laptop performance (or lack of it) does not matter. For added satisfaction, check out the prices of laptops designed purely for better gaming experience and you are sure to find the graphics card upgrade even more tempting! However, here's the bummer, check if you can replace the graphics card at all! An integrated graphics chip may be tough to replace, unless you are one of the lucky few to own a laptop (mostly alienware or custom-made) that allows you to replace the graphics card. Fret not, for there's a ray of hope with graphics cards that can be docked externally (usually detected by the operating system as an external video device). Depending on how old or new your laptop is and if it has the required slots, plugging an external graphics card may be relatively easy.
Things to Remember Before you Upgrade
✔ Refer to your laptop manual for instructions on disassembling and assembling.
✔ Switch off your laptop and let it be unplugged and powered off for at least an hour before disassembling.
✔ Wear an antistatic wrist strap and ground yourself at all times to guard against electrostatic discharge.
✔ Ensure to take a backup of your data on an external drive before you open up your laptop.
✔ Be gentle while handling the fragile electronics within as they're prone to breakage.
✔ Keep a digital camera/mobile camera at hand and take snapshots of the assembly frequently for referring while assembling the parts back.
✔ Hold the screws in labeled paper cups and hold the electronic parts such as processor chips in antistatic bags, so that you don't misplace them.
✔ Even a small electrostatic discharge can damage the electronics in the laptop chassis.
✔ Ensure that upgrades do not add to the heating issues of your laptop, even if it does add an accessory that will prevent or reduce heat like cooling pad.
Some Cheap Performance Boosters
If you have figured that you really don't need to do all the complex upgrades but still wish your laptop performance can be shot up a few notches, the following tips may be helpful.
  • Use a performance monitor utility to keep tabs on your CPU, disk and memory loads. This is where you will get the earliest signs of a need for an upgrade.
  • Does your laptop boot in time enough for you to soak into a warm bath and come back? Check your startup list and remove unnecessary application from automatically loading at startup.
  • If you have wondered about the use of the Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter utilities, take the hint from their names! The Disk Cleanup deletes temporary files and suggests deletion of unused program files and the Defragmenter consolidates file (much like organizing your wardrobe) for faster access.
  • Similarly, a registry cleaning utility will also help improve laptop performance.
  • Regularly scan your laptop for spyware, viruses and malicious applications. Keep the antivirus software updated.
If your laptop performance does not improve even after you have tried most of the options listed here, then well, it may be time for grabbing the wallet and ordering a new laptop. If you're a gaming enthusiast, you may be better off buying a desktop or laptop that has been manufactured for the extreme gaming experience rather than upgrading a less powerful laptop. Ensure that you check with the manufacturer about upgrade possibilities with your new purchase.