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Laptops

How can I upgrade my laptop?

How can I upgrade my laptop? It's running like a dog and I've tried everything to speed it up. I'm at the end of my tether

How can I upgrade my laptop? It's running like a dog and I've tried everything to speed it up. I'm at the end of my tether.

Adrian Lloyd

Laptops are notoriously difficult to upgrade from their default specification. Whereas you can chop and change literally any component inside a desktop PC, there are only a few parts of a laptop that can be modified by the average user.

Upgrading the memory is the easiest place to start, and luckily this will also likely yield the most noticeable increase in performance. To add more RAM to your laptop, you'll first need to identify what type of memory your laptop can accept.

One of the easiest ways of finding this out is to use the Memory Advisor Tool from memory specialists Crucial. It allows you to enter the make and model of your laptop and automatically figures out the best type of memory for your use. Microsoft says Windows XP can run with only 128MB of memory, but we think you need at least 512MB of RAM and ideally 1GB (we'll get to how to install it in a second).

Another relatively straightforward upgrade option is to change the hard drive. You can buy 100GB 2.5-inch laptop drives from Web stores such as ebuyer.com for as little as £70, which will allow you to store hundreds of hours of video footage or hundreds of thousands of image files. In addition, 8x laptop DVD rewriter drives can be bought for around £50, and are a great means of copying 4.7GB of data to a single disc, or up to 8.5GB for dual-layer models.

If your laptop lacks wireless capabilities, you should seriously consider investing in a wireless PC Card. These allow you to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots for on-the-go Internet access, or for your laptop to link with other wireless-enabled devices without cables. If your laptop is quite old, you might also want to add USB2 support. This allows your USB devices to move data to and from your laptop 40 times faster than the original USB specification.

Once you've got the parts you need, you'll need to get your hands very dirty to install them. Installing RAM yourself isn't particularly tricky once you know how, but you should check your own laptop documentation as the installation methods vary between models.

Unfortunately, that's about all we can tell you. It's nigh-on impossible to upgrade the graphics card or central processing unit of a laptop because these components are so tightly integrated with the system board. Despite this, we believe that adding memory, and by following our advice on spring cleaning your operating system, you'll have a faster, more responsive laptop.