Friday, December 19, 2008

Laptop Upgrade 101

Tough times require sacrifice and compromises.

And so I began upgrading my old Toshiba Satellite. If your into DYI pute upgrades, follow me on my adventure.

Start with the drivers:

Update all those drivers. This can be done at the manufacturers website. For laptops, I tend not to use component manufacturers driver updates (i.e. Nvidia/ATI etc) as they sometimes cause the laptop to crash or loose functionality. With mine, I stuck with what Toshiba had to offer, and I flashed the BIOS with its latest iteration.

Then check the RAM:

I had 1.5 GB RAM. Scrapped the one 512mb SODIMM stick and bought another 1GB stick for a total of 2GB. I'd go 3GB but my BIOS coulndt handle eet. Check your Max RAM at the maker's site. Watch out when buying memory.

My old Toshiba requires DDR PC2700 333Mhz mem. Look your specs up from the manufacturers website and try to stick to the same type and timed RAM.

Make special note of the LATENCY of the memory. Try to match what you have. Check at Crucial's website for your particular laptop to see what latency you need. They give free info for a lot of manufacturers If you can't get the number from anywhere, the rule of thumb is "the faster the better" but DO NOT CROSS BETWEEN MEMORY TYPES. DDR is different from DDR2 and SDRAM.

Hard Drive upgrade:

This gets tricky too. There are two types of hard drives out there. PATA and SATA. Older putes like mine use PATA. You can't switch between both. With the older PATA drives, bigger isn't better. The Western Digital Scorpio 250 GB drive gets an inordinate amount of failures.

I settled for the Scorpio 160GB. Make sure you check reviews of the particular HD you are looking to buy. Wattage affects battery life. The 160 GB is twice as large as my old hard drive and will probably get me by another 2 years for when I do a complete computer upgrade. Windows 7, BRING IT ON!

Data Transfer:

Well once you get your new hard drive, you need to transfer your data. You'll need an external enclosure to access your new OEM HD. Remember, the enclosure is for a 2.5 inch drive that suits your HD type (PATA or SATA). You dont need to do a reinstall. You can use Norton Ghost and the external enclosure to do a mirror image of your drive. If you don't own Ghost, Norton Systemsworks is a 60 dollar program that has it and will also give you antivirus, utilities and anti spyware. Its a good bundle. There are a few other drive mirror image makers out there, I'll let the other PC pros chime in. After you mirror the hard drive, its as simple as taking 2 screws out of the back of your laptop, sliding the old one out, putting the bigger one in and reassembling the unit. After that, just light it up!

If individually buying the components for mirroring your drive is too much for you, you can buy the APRICORN hard drive upgrade hardware and software bundle that comes with everything for about $ 120 for a 160GB PATA drive. Other formats will vary.

One benefit of getting the enclosure is that you have an extra external drive after the upgrade which get you even more room. The good thing about 2.5 inch external drives is that they usually dont require power other than the USB connection. To me, this is a big plus.


Thats it. Your PC is now ready for a few more years of service, a chit load of new music and pics and your about $ 150 buck less richer for eeet. But for me, thats better than 1300 for a new laptop that runs on VISTA 64. I also couldnt get myself to get a desktop as I really am not in a position to free up the footprint for a new computer table As it is, my laptops sit in a book case just like any other book or sometimes in a magazine rack.

I decided on going the upgrade route because 1) Ive got software and licenses I still want to use and don't want to upgrade (PS, Mapsource, QB, etc) 2) Windows 7 is only 1 year away 3) the 1080p laptop displays are surely going to be standard in the next year or two 4) a new laptop will be wireless N, and knowing myself, I'll want to upgrade that too.


The most attractive alternative for mobile putes for storage right now is the HP Media Server EX470. $ 450 at It makes a netbook into an almost fully functional PC via wireless networks and lets you access media from any PC in the network as well as on the web. Check out the reviews.



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