Extend laptop

dell-inspiron-laptop-image-from-delldotcomExtend laptop: a reader asks…

I have a 3 year old Dell laptop (Inspiron) that I really like, but is starting to show its age. I don’t want to buy a new one, so are there any ways I can extend the life of my laptop?

Yes, you can do a few things to extend the life of your laptop. At some point though, you might find that doing all these life-extension fixes will run you several hundred dollars (more if you don’t do it yourself), and approach the cost of a new laptop. But sometimes you just like your familiar laptop and don’t want to replace it if you don’t have to. So here are the four ways you can extend the life of your laptop:

First, replace the battery. Batteries usually have a service life of X number of charge/discharge cycles. The modern Lithium Ion batteries can last quite a few years, even if you charge them every day. But at some point, the battery will lose it’s capability to hold a full charge, and will drain much quicker than when it was new. Generally, if you started out getting 6 hours of use out of the battery and are now getting 3 hours or less, it’s time to replace the battery. I would recommend that you buy a genuine Dell battery for your model instead of getting a cheaper battery from a 3rd party. You can order a replacement battery online at http://www.dell.com/Batteries.

laptop-underside-with-hard-drive-cover-removedSecond, replace the internal hard drive. Almost certainly, your Inspiron laptop came with a traditional spinning hard drive, and these drives can last up to 7 years or so (but some only last a year or two). I suggest you replace it with a solid-state hard drive, which will give you much better reliability and speed. If you are handy with a screwdriver, you can do this yourself. I have a handy guide in my article Speedup my Laptop. Depending on your model, replacing the hard drive can be as simple as removing a cover plate from the underside, sliding out the old hard drive and sliding in the new one. Of course, you’re going to want to first install and run software to clone your existing hard drive to the new SSD.


Third, add RAM. Laptops use two kinds of memory to run, the hard drive which stores all your files, programs and operating system, and the RAM that actually runs whatever you’re doing with your laptop at the moment. Many bargain laptops come with the minimum amount of RAM needed to run the computer, and adding more will make your computer run faster and more trouble-free. One of the easiest ways to do this is to first visit http://www.crucial.com/ and run their online configurator. This will tell you how much RAM you currently have, how much your system can handle, and how much upgrade chips will cost. You can order them right there and they’ll ship direct to you. Like the hard drive above, usually you just remove a cover on the underside of your laptop and replace the RAM modules (there are usually two).

Fourth, miscellaneous maintenance and cleaning. This is my catch-all for several things you can do. Likely over time your laptop as accumulated some grit and stains, so it’s a good idea to clean the laptop. A damp cloth is usually what you need to lightly rub over the screen and loosen dirt, then use a microfiber cloth to polish the screen. You can also take the damp cloth and microfiber cloth to clean the keyboard, top and underside. The cloth should be damp but not wet, and you can lightly rub to remove sticky dirt. Especially work on the key caps as well as in-between the keys. Lastly, you can take a can of compressed air and blow air through the cooling ports on the side, back and underside of the laptop. Do this outside as you might find a lot of dust inside your laptop!

As long as there are no broken parts on your laptop and the fan isn’t making excessive noise (like bacon frying), then your laptop should be able to run for several more years without a physical problem. Of course, nothing above will fix problems with your Windows operating system or installed software, that’s a whole ‘nother subject!


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