See how to extend the life of your notebook

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I know what you’re feeling. The notebook is sluggish and “chokes” all the time, the keyboard is failing and the battery no longer serves as a UPS. Time to buy a new one, right? But with the dollar the way it is, prices are “around the time of death”. What to do?

An alternative is to “stretch” the life of your current machine, with some strategic upgrades. In this article we are going to show you some things that you can do yourself, in a matter of minutes, that will make a significant difference in your day-to-day use. Perhaps, after them, you will realize that changing the machine is no longer as urgent as that.

Before, a reminder

Before making any changes to your computer hardware, turn it off and remove the battery. Never touch energized equipment. In addition to the risk of an electric shock, which can hurt you, there is a risk of a tool “escaping” and causing a short circuit that will damage the machine.

This article does not intend to give a “step-by-step” of how to change each component, because it varies according to the computer model, manufacturer, hardware generation, etc. But as a friend of mine says, “YouTube is the best teacher in the world”: just search for something like “change your laptop keyboard” and you will find a multitude of videos with a step-by-step. Most likely, one of them showing a machine similar to yours.

Finally, if you are not comfortable doing these upgrades, there is no problem. Nothing prevents you from buying parts and asking a technician from the neighborhood, or a more confident friend, to make the exchange for you.

Swap an HD for an SSD

This is one of the most significant upgrades you can do on a computer. Replacing the old hard drive, based on magnetic plates that rotate at high speed, with a solid state drive (SSD, Solid State Drive) based on Flash memory will dramatically reduce the time it takes the computer to start or open a program.

This is because the time it takes for an SSD to access data is much less, and the transfer rate from it to computer memory is much higher. On an HD, the read and write head needs to wait for the disc to spin to the point where the data to be read or written is, or to move forward and backward until reaching the desired track

This time-consuming mechanical movement does not exist in an SSD. While a good 1 TB hard drive can have a transfer rate of 140 MB / s in reading and writing, an SSD easily passes 500 MB / s in writing and 400 MB / s in reading. And “free” uses less energy than an HD, which can increase the battery life of your notebook.

Two models of SSDs. A Sata made to replace 2.5-inch hard drives (bottom) and an NVMe (top). Photo: Maxx-Studio / Shutterstock

The downside is that SSDs are more expensive. In our example of a 1TB drive, they are on average three times more expensive than a conventional HDD of the same capacity. That is, you will not always be able to buy an SSD of the same capacity as the HD that is in your computer.

But it may not be necessary. Nothing prevents you from buying a smaller capacity SSD, for example 256 GB, using it to store only the operating system and applications and using the old HD as an external drive.

First of all, you need to know what type of SSD to buy. If your notebook has a conventional hard drive, you need a Sata SSD, which has the same size and interface as traditional hard drives.

But if your notebook already has an SSD and you want more capacity, you need to find out what type it uses. It can be a Sata SSD, or a format like M.2 or NVMe, which are even faster. The best way is to consult the technical data sheet of the computer on the manufacturer’s website.

With the correct SSD model, switching is easy. In most cases it is a matter of opening a cover on the bottom of the computer, removing the old hard drive or SSD and inserting the new one in place.

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Most notebooks have a cover on the bottom that allows you to easily replace the HD or SSD. Photo: monte_a / Shutterstock

But first, you may want to copy the data from the old disk to the new one, so you don’t have to waste time reinstalling the operating system and apps. You can use disk cloning software like Partition Wizard for Windows and Linux-based Clonezila, both free. Some SSD manufacturers include a data migration software license with the drive, which is a bonus.

To do the cloning you will need a way to connect the two disks, the original and the SSD, your machine at the same time. If it is a SATA SSD, just use an external HD case, which is cheap and connects to the PC via USB. There are also adapters for NVMe SSDs.

You will also need the SSD to have enough capacity to store the data on the hard drive. Capacity does not need to be identical, just enough space. For example, if you have a 1 TB hard drive where only 200 GB are in use, you should be able to clone it to a 256 GB SSD without any problems.

Simply place the SSD in the external case, connect it to the computer, run the cloning software and then make the switch. Your PC should turn on as usual, but much faster. Place the old hard drive in the USB case and use it to store those heavier files, such as your game library on Steam or movies and music.

Add RAM

Along with using an SSD, this is one of the most important upgrades you can do on a machine. In fact, if your current machine has less than 8 GB of RAM and you are budgeting for just one upgrade, invest in RAM.

There is not much secret here: you only need to choose memory sticks compatible with your machine, and know what the maximum capacity it can support. Most machines use combs in the SODIMM format, and you can find the correct model by doing a search on the websites of memory manufacturers, such as Crucial. Just indicate the manufacturer, line and model of your machine to know what you have to buy.

For example, my notebook is a Samsung R480, so I select Samsung manufacturer, line R Series Notebooks and model NP-R480. In the results, I find that my machine has two RAM slots, supports a maximum of 8 GB and uses DDR3L-1600 combs.

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As with hard drives, most notebooks have a port that provides easy access to the memory sticks. Photo: Vasin Lee / Shutterstock

To ensure the best performance, it is recommended that the upgrade is always done in pairs of identical combs. In fact, some older cards require this.

If your machine has 4 GB of RAM, for example, it is likely to have 2 combs of 2 GB each. In this case, an upgrade would be 2 combs of 4 GB, for a total of 8 GB. If it only has a 4 GB comb, just add another one. You can mix brands, as long as the specifications of the combs (in my case, DDR3L-1600) are the same.

Again, the exchange is generally easy. In most cases, just remove a cover at the bottom of the computer, detach the old combs from the slots and put the new ones in place. Close everything again and you’re done. You will not need to configure anything.

Unfortunately, some newer ultra-thin machines, including several MacBook models, have memory soldered to the motherboard, with no upgrade slots. In this case, unfortunately, there is nothing to do.

Change the battery

The main advantage of a notebook, in addition to its small size, is portability. There is no use in a thin and light machine if it needs to be stuck taken all day. If your battery no longer holds the charge for a long time, or if the computer simply turns off even indicating that it has a remaining charge and returns when you plug it into the outlet, it is time to change the battery.

Again, most notebooks have a removable battery. Just pull two locks on the bottom, remove it and fit a new one. That simple. You won’t touch a screw.

However, it is necessary to pay attention at the time of purchase. Obviously, you need to choose a battery compatible with your notebook, as they vary according to model, brand, etc. A search for “battery for” and the name of the manufacturer and model will put you on the right track.

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The battery is the easiest component to change. In most cases you will not need to remove a screw. Photo: Tomasz Majchrowicz / Shutterstock

But the most important thing is to keep an eye on the source. Unfortunately very common, especially on Chinese e-commerce sites, vendors advertise batteries with a much larger capacity than the real one. Of course, there are “extended” batteries with more capacity than the factory ones, but as the saying goes, “when the big handout the saint is suspicious”.

The tip: before buying, check the capacity of the original battery of your notebook and look for one with similar capacity. And also check the store’s exchange policy in case of defects or products that do not meet expectations.

There are a number of restrictions on sending batteries by post, and you may not be able to send back a defective or unsatisfactory product and run out of money. For these reasons, I prefer to buy batteries here in Brazil.

Change the keyboard

Keys that are missing, stuck, or just don’t work are symptoms of what your notebook keyboard is already. Obviously, nothing prevents you from breaking the stick with an external USB keyboard, but if you don’t want to sacrifice portability it is best to replace the machine’s keyboard.

surprisingly easy. Usually what you need to do is remove one or two screws at the bottom of the machine (usually marked with the acronym KBD, “Keyboard”, undo two or three clips above the function keys and remove the keyboard, taking care of the flexible cable (which looks like a plastic strip) that connects it to the motherboard.

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Usually the keyboard can be removed without having to open the computer. Photo: Artem Oliinyk / Shutterstock

Plug the new cable into the connector, snap the keyboard into place, replace the screws and that’s it, problem solved. You will not take more than 10 minutes on this task.

The only precaution at the time of purchase is to choose a keyboard in the correct pattern. If he has the key, you need an ABNT2 keyboard, which is the Brazilian standard. J imported notebooks usually have keyboards in the US-International layout.

Try a new operating system

I know I know. This is a tip that will generate a lot of controversy. It is something that will not work in all cases, but it usually “does not hurt to try”.

If your machine uses an old operating system, such as Windows 7, try an upgrade to Windows 10, which in some cases can still be done for free. It may seem counterintuitive, but I’ve seen Windows 10 run better than 7 on the same machine. Especially if it has a lot of RAM or an SSD, as it makes better use of these technologies.

Another option is to move to a lightweight Linux distribution, such as Linux Mint. It has three official versions, the main difference being the desktop environment used: Cinammon, Mate and XFCE. The most complete and familiar for Windows users is Cinammon. But XFCE is not very different, and it is the lightest of the three, although you have to give up some “embellishments” like minimized window previews.

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Linux Mint has a familiar look and feel to anyone who has used Windows.

All versions come complete with browser (Firefox), an excellent Office package (LibreOffice), image editor (Gimp), media and music player and everything else that a typical user needs in their day-to-day lives. And there is an app store where you can find other free apps, including Google Chrome, Steam, Spotify, etc.

The good thing about Mint is that, like many other Linux distributions (like Ubuntu), it can run from a USB stick, without having to install anything on the computer. If you don’t like what you see, just remove the flash drive, boot from HD and return to Windows.



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