Upgrade your laptop

EnVy26 asked the Laptops forum about upgrading a portable computer.

You have very few options here. Laptops just aren't that upgradable. While a desktop PC is basically a collection of off-the-shelf parts in a big, easy-to-access box, each laptop model is a unique jigsaw puzzle, with many of the pieces designed for that model, and all tightly-packed to reduce size.

But you may be able to improve your laptop:

First, consider upgrading your RAM. To find out, download and run the Crucial System Scanner. After a few seconds, this little program will bring you to a web page where you can see what kind of memory you have, what upgrades are available, and what will work in your machine.

But be warned: Crucial, the company that runs the scanner, is in the retail business. They're not just giving you neutral information on what you can buy, they're hoping you buy it from them. Use the information wisely.

You can also, almost certainly, upgrade your storage. A newer, larger hard drive could significantly increase your laptop's capacity. Or, to take a different approach, replacing your hard drive with an SSD will speed up your computer and likely increase battery life, although it will almost certainly decrease capacity.

If you use your laptop a lot while sitting at your desk, consider an ergonomic upgrade--especially if you fingers, arms, or eyes ache. A full-sized keyboard, mouse, and monitor will do your body good.

Of course, this effectively turns your laptop into a desktop. But you can always unplug it from these devices when you need to take it on the road.

But there are several laptop upgrades you should think twice--or even thrice--before attempting:

You likely can't, and probably shouldn't, upgrade the CPU. There's a very good chance that the big chip is soldered in place, making the job essentially impossible. And even if it's in a regular socket, getting to that socket will require considerably more skill than it would with a desktop PC. For more on the subject, see Replace Your Laptop's CPU.

The same warnings go for upgrading your display. For more on that challenging and dangerous job, see Five Insane Upgrades That You Should Never Do (and How to Do Them!).

The title of the article itself should give you pause.

Read the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.

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