Long-lived laptop?

slow-laptop-graphic-image-from-shutterstockLong-lived laptop? A reader asks…

Hey Coach, what’s the easiest way I can extend the longevity of my Windows 7 laptop? It’s a 2 year old Dell and works ok, but a little slow. I have a 500gb hard drive and 6gb RAM.

Check out my guide to replacing your spinning hard drive with a speedy SSD in this article. It’s geared towards making your computer run faster, but replacing your aging hard drive is the one thing you can do to best extend the longevity of your laptop. I highly recommend Paragon Migrate OS to SSD 4.0 software which only costs $20 and makes the switchover extremely easy. The biggest expense in this is going to be for the Solid-State hard drive, but if you shop around you may find a good deal. For instance, you’ll pay nearly $250 for a Samsung 840 EVO 500gb SSD hard drive (from Amazon.com), but $220 gets you a 960gb SanDisk SSD (also from Amazon.com). The lowest price I’ve found for the same amount of space (+/- 500gb) is about $120 – just search Amazon.com for “500gb SSD” and you’ll see drives from SanDisk, Kingston and Crucial in that range. I’d avoid buying brands you never heard of, you never know what you’re getting.

samsung-ssd-840-evoMost SSDs that you buy today are going to be using the SATA III specification, which offers extremely fast data transfer rates. But I’m betting your 2-year old laptop isn’t equipped with anything faster than a SATA II connection, so the extra speed of those fast drives is not going to do you any good. My ‘sweet spot’ drive is the SanDisk Ultra II SSD either 960gb or 480gb. Those offer the most space for the price (of the major brands), and will serve you just fine.

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As the guide mentions, you’ll need a few things to effect this transfer, along with the ability to take your laptop apart. First, you need a replacement drive. Second, you should definitely spend money on the OS to SSD 4.0 software, and third you definitely need some kind of dongle or USB hard drive enclosure. For that last item, Apricorn sells a handy upgrade kit that includes the dongle and software. I can tell you that you’re better off not using their software (use the Paragon software instead), as you may find it too complicated to use and prone to errors. The Paragon software is pretty rock-solid.

laptop-repair-tools-including-spudger-image-from-amazondotcomLastly, you might want to invest in a small toolkit that includes a ‘spudger’ – a nylon pry bar sized just right for prying apart the laptop case. While you can use a small screwdriver, the metal blade will likely mar your laptop’s case and might even cause damage. If you’re not sure about how to take your Dell laptop apart, go to youtube and search for the brand and model name (and perhaps the keywords “hard drive” and “replace”) – there’s a good chance someone else has posted a video on exactly what you’re to do to replace the hard drive.

If you think about it, a spinning hard drive and your laptop’s cooling fan are really the only moving parts you need to worry about wearing out. Replacing that slow, spinning hard drive with a speedy SSD will give you many years of service life longer than you could expect the original hard drive to last. But there is one other thing you might think about doing: upgrading to Windows 10.

It’s likely that your laptop is perfectly capable of running Windows 10, and if you set it up right, you’ll be leaving much less of your privacy compromised – Microsoft captures enormous information about you with Windows 10 unless you turn off those features, such as Cortana. Even if privacy doesn’t matter to you, Windows 10 will chew up a lot of your internet connection’s bandwidth while it transfers information about you back and forth from your computer to Microsoft servers. I have a handy privacy guide in this article that you can use to set up Windows 10 (during and after the upgrade process). I will tell you that folks who’ve upgraded to Windows 10 will see much better performance using an SSD hard drive versus the old spinning hard drive. And Microsoft has pushed out a number of updates to get past the early teething stages of a new operating system rollout.

windows-7-to-windows10-graphicIf you’re happy with Windows 7 and don’t want to upgrade, just know that in 2020, Microsoft will be pulling the plug on supporting Windows 7 just like it did Windows XP last year. And that’s for the critical security updates – which is all Windows 7 is getting these days. Microsoft isn’t doing anything more to add features or fix anything else with Windows 7, just the most critical security type of updates. Microsoft is…motivated…to get everyone onto Windows 10 and off every older version of Windows – as soon as possible. At this point I don’t consider it such a bad thing, it’s a lot easier to get used to the changes between Windows 7 & 10 than windows 7 and 8/8.1!


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