Small, light and extremely portable, netbooks are ideal for computing on the move. But deciding which mini laptop is best for you isn't an easy task - particularly when every choice demands a trade-off.
You may have to sacrifice battery life, storage space and keyboard size in order to satisfy other priorities and keep your netbook within budget.
What you skimp on now needn't haunt you for the life of the device, however. A netbook's RAM, storage, battery and wireless connectivity are all easy to upgrade later, as we demonstrate in the following walkthrough. You can even rearrange the cramped keyboard to make typing easier. Screen size, on the other hand, is something you're stuck with - don't skimp here if an extra inch will make all the difference.
If you're new to upgrading PCs, it's a good idea to read up on the advice offered by online communities who are knowledgeable about netbook hacks.
Overclocking is another way to improve performance on mini laptops running Windows, since many models are factory-underclocked to preserve battery life. You do so at your own risk, however. If you accidentally fry your motherboard, don't expect the manufacturer to honour the warranty.
Get a bigger hard drive
Whether your netbook's storage capacity is too small, or you couldn't afford to add a solid-state disk (SSD) to the original configuration, you needn't go without. Start by consulting the appropriate user forums to get a sense of which ‘aftermarket' SSDs or traditional hard drives are compatible with your machine.
Next, flip the netbook over and remove the two screws that secure the larger back panel into place. Prise off the panel with your finger or the tip of a screwdriver.
You'll see a set of four electronic boards inside the machine. On the Dell, these are the hard drive, the memory, the network card and an unoccupied space for a 3G card. With the battery facing north, remove the two screws that secure the board in the upper-left quadrant. This is the SSD, which should lift up a little as you loosen the screws. Replacing the drive is then a simple process of pulling the old one out, inserting the new one and tightening the screws.