Step-by-step: 5 laptop upgrades you can do yourself

Your notebook may be old, but that doesn't mean its days are numbered. We'll show you how to breathe new life into your portable by opening the hood and upgrading some basic components.

Want better performance from your laptop? The conventional wisdom has long held that you should simply buy a new one. You can put such conventional wisdom aside: Upgrading a laptop may not be for the timid or the impatient, but if you're handy with a screwdriver, and the sight of a circuit board doesn't scare you, an upgrade can be a far more affordable solution.

We took tools to hand and worked our way through eight common (and not so common) laptop upgrades, in some instances stripping our test machines — a Dell Inspiron E1505 and a Dell Inspiron 6000 — down to the bare chassis. We can't fit complete step-by-step, unscrew-this-and-unplug-that instructions for everything into this article, but we can provide tips to help with each process.

And note that every laptop varies: Even machines from the same vendor can have very different designs and therefore wildly different disassembly methods.

Before you start, keep these essential points in mind:

  • Many of these upgrades will void your laptop's warranty.

  • Some upgrades can damage your laptop. If you are at all uncomfortable with such tinkering, leave it to a pro.

  • Most vendors provide disassembly instructions in their products' service manuals, which can usually be found on their Web sites' support sections.

  • Unplug your laptop and remove the battery before attempting any upgrade. Also, to avoid damage from static electricity, use a grounded wrist strap.

  • You'll need a collection of small screwdrivers, including flathead, Phillips, and possibly even Torx.

  • Speaking of screws, keep them organized as you remove them. We like to use Dixie cups for each step. Just write "LCD assembly" or "keyboard" or whatever on each cup as you go, to help you remember which screws go where.

  • Pay special attention to wiring. Laptops have intricate channels where the wiring must run; stray wiring may get pinched or may prevent other parts from fitting together correctly.

  • No matter what machine you're working on, first upgrade your BIOS. You'll need up-to-date BIOS code to support many newer components.

  • Not every laptop component can be upgraded. Some may be soldered or otherwise permanently attached.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Christopher Null

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?