Back To School Upgrade Guide: How To Revive Your Old Laptop

by Reads (90,482)

Taking Apart Your Notebook
To start off the upgrade guide we will show how to open up one of the least user-friendly notebooks on the market. The HP ProBook 4720s is designed for the small and medium business segment, where all upgrades are done at the time of initial purchase or by the IT department. For the end-users this isn’t a problem since most repairs or upgrades are handled by the company. For a basic consumer though this means you almost need to completely disassemble the notebook to get access to any parts of the notebook. The ProBook 4720s isn’t the only laptop like this, but it serves as a good example of what you might have to do with your old PC.

From the bottom the ProBook 4720s has no access panels (or screws) visible. You actually need to take out the battery, remove three screws underneath it, and then remove two more screws on the back side. With all those removed the top-most bezel comes free, exposing more screws that hold the keyboard in place. With those removed you can finally gain access to the system memory. The hard drive, wireless adapter, and processor are hidden beneath more panels. You can quickly realize how this system might be intimidating to upgrade for your average Joe.

As you can see from the picture above, to swap out the hard drive for something faster like an SSD, we had to remove numerous screws, the upper keyboard bezel, the keyboard, and the touchpad. Once those were out of the way we were left with three remaining hard drive retention screws. Thankfully, not all notebooks are this difficult to upgrade.

The next notebook we will take a look at is the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13. From the bottom you can see one gigantic panel that gives you access to all user-serviceable components. By removing five screws you can get at the system memory, hard drive, and both wireless cards all in one shot. If you want to swap out the hard drive or one of the wireless cards you need to remove additional retention screws; but those you will find in just about any system.


From the outside the Dell Inspiron 11z looks like it might be another difficult notebook to tackle but it’s actually very simple once you know which screws to go for. The Inspiron 11z has no access panels on the bottom of the notebook, instead the keyboard acts as a huge panel itself. By taking out the three screws circled the keyboard can be carefully lifted up from the top edge.

It is held in with a ribbon cable, but if you are careful you can swap out the system memory, hard drive, and WWAN card without disconnecting it. One thing to be aware of when upgrading any netbook is most only offer one RAM slot, so plan accordingly. An upgrade to 2GB or 4GB would require a single 2GB or 4GB stick of ram respectively, which can be pricey.

The Dell Latitude D630 is a slightly older business notebook but still has its own unique way of accessing internal components. The hard drive is simple to get at from the bottom; one screw and it slides out. One of the memory slots is also located on the bottom through a single access panel. To get at the wireless cards or other system memory slot though you need to take off the keyboard trim and lift off the keyboard.

The first step is carefully popping up the keyboard trim with a flathead screwdriver, getting the right tab up first, and slowly working it back and forth to release the plastic tabs. Once you get that part off you will find three screws holding the keyboard in place. Remove them, slide the keyboard forward and it pops out entirely. Be mindful of the thin ribbon cable connecting the keyboard to the notebook, and you should be able to perform any upgrade without having to disconnect it.

Next to business machines, consumer gaming rigs can be some of the most user-friendly notebooks to upgrade. The intended market is most likely to upgrade RAM, swap in faster hard drives or SSDs, and in some cases swap out the processor or graphics card. Retail gaming notebooks like the Toshiba Qosmio X505 offer individual access panels for the dual hard drives and another for the system memory. This makes most upgrades take a couple of minutes at the max, taking more time to deal with software changes than anything hardware based.

Most custom gaming notebooks from manufacturers such as Clevo design the body to be completely user-serviceable down to the processor and graphics card. For the highly-experienced user this is great since you can swap in new components quickly, even if it means installing a newer, faster CPU at a friend’s LAN party. As you can see from the shot of the AVADirect Clevo W860CU, a single panel removed opens up the system for CPU and GPU upgrades, swapping out the system memory, installing a newer wireless card, or even adding a Bluetooth module. The hard drive is located under the battery and is also very easy to access.

How To Upgrade Your OS or Swap Hard Drives: Handling the Software Migration

Simple upgrades like installing more system memory are usually painless: You can turn the system on immediately after the upgrade as if nothing changed. If you plan on upgrading your hard drive to a faster model or to an SSD, plan on either reinstalling the operating system or using software like Acronis True Image to migrate data from your old drive to the new drive. Some SSD Upgrade kits will include this type of software with an external enclosure to make the process as easy as possible. Kingston offers these types of kits–as well as other manufacturers-for a slight bump in price over the drive by itself.

Upgrading your notebook doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Even the most “difficult” notebooks can be handled by a patient user with a screwdriver or two. Handling the upgrade yourself can keep costs down significantly, since most Geek Squad type services might double or triple the cost of a hard drive swap or memory install when you add in labor or data migration fees. If you run into any problems the internet as a whole is a great place to go for advice. Our discussion forums have thousands of helpful and willing users who have probably run into similar problems and would be more than willing to lend a hand.

Related Articles:

Top 20 Laptops for Back to School

Top 10 Back to School Software Applications for 2010

How To Upgrade Your Notebook Graphics Card Using DIY ViDock

Pages: 1 2



All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.