DIY laptop upgrade
May 9, 2005
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I have a really old laptop that I would like to tear apart and upgrade. Is it possible to upgrade a 1.33GHz Pentium 1 laptop with a 6GB hard drive and 40MB of RAM?
Ray, that list of specs triggered a series of unpleasant 1990s flashbacks that involved layoffs, Star Wars: Episode I, and that Smash Mouth song "All Star." Still recovering, I forwarded your question to a more venerable expert: my sage adviser and a frequent CNET contributor, Brian Nadel. Here's what he had to offer:
There are actually a few things you can do for a dinosaur laptop like that (other than waiting for the asteroid to appear in the sky). Here are my top three suggestions:
- Squeeze in as much RAM as possible. If you have a spare SIMM slot, put in the largest-capacity module you can find. You may have to throw away what's already in there--likely a 16MB module--and replace it with a 32MB or 64MB one. Memory was so expensive five years ago that vendors often skimped on it, but now that prices have plummeted, you should pack in as much as possible. (You may also look around for a chip doubler--a SIMM two-for that lets you put a pair of chips where there's only room for a single.)
- Get a huge, honking hard drive. You should be able to dig up a compatible 10GB or 20GB drive. What's great is that it'll run at 4,200rpm (compared to the 3,600rpm drive you currently have), which will result in better performance. Save all your precious data, swap the old drive out for the new, and fire it up (crossing your fingers that the OS sees the new drive). Take note: You'll have to preload an operating system onto the new drive or load it on the fly.
- Accelerate. You'll want to configure Windows to run your hard disk and graphics card at their maximum speeds.
- Hard drive: Go to the device manager, select the drive letter, and pick the Settings tab. Check DMA for best performance. For Windows 2000, go into the hard drive's properties, open Disk Properties, and check Write Cache Enabled.
- Graphics card: On your desktop, right-click and select Properties. Select the Advanced tab, then click the Performance tab. Push the slider all the way to the right.
For more information (and video) about opening up and doing surgery on your laptop, check out CNET's Weekend Project
is CNET's resident laptop expert. His writings, reviews, and recommendations have also appeared in Business Week
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