Upgrading a laptop is subject to far more restrictions and complications than upgrading a desktop computer. For enthusiasts, upgrading a laptop may seem a little simpler but there are still some inherent limits on many machines. Upgrading a laptop, where possible, is still much cheaper than buying a new machine, as is the case with any other computer. Depending on the make and model of your computer, you may just be surprised by what you can upgrade. Almost all laptops allow you to upgrade the memory, hard disk and optical drive and on many machines it is even possible to upgrade the processor. Less common is the possibility to upgrade the graphics card, but this is more due to the lack of laptop graphics cards for sale than anything else.
Upgrading Laptop Memory
Almost all laptops allow you to easily upgrade the memory (RAM). A memory upgrade provides a noticeable boost in performance and it is also one of the cheapest and easiest upgrades to install. No special knowledge is required. You simply need to make sure that you purchase the correct type of memory that is compatible with your computer. Make sure that you don’t mix different brands or types of memory as this can cause system instability. The memory stick bay is usually accessible by removing a small panel in the back of the laptop. As far as upgrading a laptop goes, this is one of the quickest, easiest and cheapest upgrades you can make.
Upgrading Laptop Drives
Upgrading laptop hard drives or optical drives is almost as simple as upgrading the memory. The hard disk and optical drive can typically be removed by accessing their drive bays underneath their respective panels on the bottom of the computer. It is simply a matter of unplugging and removing the old component and putting a new one in. Upgrading a laptop optical drive is a little more complicated, since you will need to find one which has a suitable front bezel for your laptop’s case. As for hard disks, pretty much anything should work provided it’s a 2.5" hard drive with the appropriate interface (typically SATA on modern laptops.)
Upgrading a Laptop CPU
Processors, or CPUs, are rather more complicated with laptops. In some cases, they are soldered into the motherboard, making them impossible to replace. This is rare, however. When replacing a laptop CPU, you will also most likely void your warranty. Before replacing the CPU, ensure that you have a compatible one. With a desktop computer, you can easily change the motherboard to work with a new CPU, but this is not possible when upgrading a laptop. You should also stick to mobile CPUs in most cases, as these require less power and generate less heat. You can find compatibility charts on the web to help give you an idea of what is available for your computer. As for purchasing a laptop CPU, the choices can be a little hard to come by, but there are retailers which specialize in such components. Just don’t expect to buy a laptop processor at your local computer hardware store.
Upgrading a Laptop Graphics Card
Very few retailers actually sell laptop graphics cards and few laptop manufacturers even admit that their machines can have their graphics cards replaced. However, there are useful sites such as mxm-upgrade.com which not only sells laptop graphics cards; it also provides extensive compatibility charts.
Only laptop computers with dedicated nVidia or ATI graphics cards may have upgradable graphics and even then, only a relatively small number of machines will work with a different graphics card. Laptop computers with dedicated graphics cards often use the MXM PCI-Express interface, a compact version of the PCI-Express interface found on conventional computers.