So you want to keep the old laptop
Instead of upgrading the whole device, we are shifting our computing needs to other devices. Most modern smartphones can handle a lot of the computing tasks we used to rely on a computer for. Tablets also have filled the niche for a lot of other tasks that require a larger screen.
Nothing can really replace the feel and functionality of a laptop with a good keyboard. For long-form typing, running a spreadsheet or just typing a bunch of emails you need a real keyboard. The on-screen keyboard just doesn’t cut it.
So what can you do?
There are a couple of simple things you can do that can breathe new life back into that old laptop. Of course, your mileage may vary. If your laptop is more than 6 years old, some of these tips won’t do anything for a laptop that old. So on we go.
1. More memory
Nothing short of updating the processor, which is really hard to do with a laptop, will improve performance like adding memory. Memory is what allows your computer to do more, the more memory you have the more stuff you can do. Memory is where your computer stores currently running programs. So the more room you give it, the better it does.
Modern operating systems are becoming more and more memory intensive. It used to be that 2GB of RAM was more than enough, nowadays 8GB is more in line with what you need to keep you up and running. Adding more RAM is usually pretty easy. Remove a panel from the bottom of the laptop, pull out the old memory sticks and add the new ones. Also like AA batteries, don’t mix and match the old memory sticks with the new ones. Newer Memory is much more efficient than older RAM, you will not be doing yourself any favors.
2. Better Hard Drive
The old platter in your laptop you can hear clunking and whirring is having a hard time keeping up with you. Over time, it starts to wear out.
The “old” style hard drives almost look like record players. They work in about the same way, as your computer is reading and writing files to the hard drive, there is a needle that moves across the platter changing the magnetic polarity on the disk. Trust me, it works.
So with all those files you have downloaded, programs you loaded and music you play, your hard drive is wearing itself out. Most hard drives have a 10,000 hour expected life. It’s called Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF), that’s as technical as I will get. If you want to know more about it, just leave something in the comments.
The latest in Hard Drives are called Solid State Drives, SSDs. The price is coming down for the larger capacity ones. The advantage of an SSD is there are no moving parts. The benefits are actually twofold. With no moving parts, there is no sound, no more whirring, no more vibration nothing but perfect silence. Secondly, there is the speed, an SSD is way faster in reading and writing data that your laptop will seem much faster.
3. New Battery
Batteries are getting cheaper, and in older laptops are really easy to replace. Just pop the old battery out and put the new one in. You can usually pick on up on eBay or Amazon for around $20-$30. If your laptop battery just doesn’t hold a charge anymore, or you have to leave it plugged in all the time. You need a new battery. Newer batteries are also better constructed and should perform better than your original one ever did.
4. Update your OS
Still running Windows XP? Updating your OS to the latest version will usually help your performance. Developers are always trying to squeeze more performance out of the hardware as they make improvements.
Chances are also that the computer they were originally developing the new OS on was close in spec to the aging laptop you have. So it should be optimized for what you are running. The added benefit of updating is a new OS will be close to up-to-date on the latest threats and bugs.
5. Change your OS
The mainstream Operating Systems continue to get bigger and bigger and more resource hungry. As storage and memory have gotten cheaper and processors faster, the OS developers are trying to take advantage of the processing power available to them. This might eventually start to leave your aging laptop in the dust.
You do have options. There are several versions of Linux out there that can provide a great operating system that will make your old machine feel new again. You can get a lot of the more modern OS features without all the extra overhead. You can even find versions of Linux based distros that are tailored to your particular hardware setup.
Switching to Linux does have a small learning curve, but once you get it up and running you should have no issues figuring out what is slightly different from the Windows or MacOS experience you had.
You can find out more about what Linux flavors are out there in this post.
I also hope to do a post about Linux in the near future. Sign up for my email list to stay up-to-date with the latest at Average Guy Tech.
6. Clean things up
All those files you have on your machine cause extra work for the hard drive, in turn, slowing it down. Years of old documents, music files, pictures, and downloaded stuff clutters up your machine. It is always a good time to look into a cloud-based storage solution to off load some of your needs to the web. Yeah, you are putting your stuff in the hands of someone else’s computer. Cloud services from the big companies like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox make it easy to store your documents, music, and videos off of your machine.
You can also go through the list of installed programs and uninstall ones you haven’t used in a long time. Do you really need three versions of solitaire? How about that one program you downloaded to do the one thing, 4 years ago? Time to clean house.
7. Wipe it
The scorched earth approach works also. If all else fails, you can always completely wipe the drive and reinstall the OS from scratch. This should return your laptop to a near-new state. Just like when you first took it out of the box all those years ago. Now this tip does require some planning and should not be approached lightly. You will be completely removing everything from the computer. Your files, your programs, your settings etc. You will need to make sure you back up everything you cannot or do not want to lose.
Make sure you have the installation media for the programs you want to keep using. So you can reinstall them after you finish returning your laptop to a clean state.
I hope you found these tips helpful to you. It’s always nice to get a couple more years out of something that you probably spent a lot of money on. Our laptops and other devices are becoming an important part of our lives. For better or worse. Once you find a device that fits into your life well, it’s hard to give it up. Will a little bit of time and a couple of bucks you should be able to keep the old laptop going a little longer. Also, these tips will work well for the desktop computer you might have around the house also.
If you tried some of these things and they made a difference, let me know in the comments. Also, while you are here, sign up for the mailing list to get notified when new articles are posted to this site.