I’ve been writing to you from the keys of an ancient device. Can I possibly upgrade an old laptop like mine? This Sony Vaio is coming up on its eight year birthday.
Not bad. I bet you’re wondering how it hasn’t been flung through a window, run over by the fully paid-off car, or accidentally dropped while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. In that case, read on…
I still get a little excited about new technology, but not nearly as much as I used to. I think I just get tired of it after a while. Like the Transformers movie series; after so much sound and fury, I could use a little Ordinary People, or Mary Poppins. F*cking tinnitus. Thanks, Michael Bay.
With technology, it’s much the same. After so long, a phone is a phone is a phone. A flat screen television can get only so big before you get nauseous.
You know what I mean if you’ve ever been in a living room with a 60″ behemoth staring back at you with jacked up volume and image settings set to “Costco – You buy me now, consumer sucka!” I honestly have no idea how the elderly of the late 20th century survived with 19″ cathode-ray tubes to get their Matlock fix.
oh, so grainy and small…
The Law of Diminishing Computers
Just like anything else that’s been around long enough, computers have become a commodity. You only need so much computing power to write a blog, browse the web, and curate your family photos.
To be fair, there are some nifty things you can do today to integrate your computer and phones or tablets. The “ecosystem” makes life a little easier for some, and a little frustrating for others including parents and in-laws.
My trusty Sony Vaio handles everything I need it to. Photos, blog, email, iTunes. I write-up my leases and run background checks on rental applicants with it. I look up YouTube videos on how to build Lego Transformers for my kids. My Lego Optimus Prime ROCKS! Just ask my son – it’s like Christmas in September around here.
Keep in mind, I’m a tech guy for my day job. I used to take apart computers and servers for a living. I know all about processors, RAM, hard drives, etc. Back in the early 90s when I got my first computer, graphics, sound, and speed were godawful.
Now, you can play Doom 12 on your cell phone. Part of me misses the hobby aspect of computers. Anymore the appliance is a black box you just enjoy and don’t mess with.
How I Got My Vaio up to Snuff
There’s not that much to it, honestly. All you need is a set of those mini screwdrivers and the will to perform open heart surgery on your old plastic and silicon friend. It amounts to popping off two little plastic covers on the underside of your laptop. The parts you need to swap are super accessible.
Step 1 is to replace that raggedy old hard drive. Chances are, if your laptop was purchased before 2012 it has an old mechanical hard drive. You know, the kind that makes the grinding and clicking noises and adds a pound of weight to your machine?
I used the upgrade kit and new SSD drive shown in the pictures below. I chose to bump up the capacity of the replacement hard drive, going from 120GB to 240GB.
It took maybe an hour to wrap up this little job. The kit comes with a cord and software that allows you to create a mirror image of your current hard drive’s data and operating system. After the new drive was ready, I popped it in, and lo and behold…
My faithful old Vaio fired up in less than FIVE SECONDS. A far cry from the nearly five minutes it took to boot up with the old mechanical drive.
This article at Laptopmag.com walks you through the steps in more detail, but the Upgrade Kit has clear and easy instructions included.
Step 2 is to ramp up your laptop’s memory. Mine came with 4GB, which is the minimum recommended to run Windows 10. I found that messing around with graphics and images for blog posts slows down old Bessy sometimes. So I took the plunge and doubled the RAM to 8GB.
This was the easiest upgrade to make. It took all of 5 minutes to remove the old chips and pop in the new ones. To make sure I had the compatible memory for my Vaio, I used this handy site. Do some comparison shopping. I found the best deal on Amazon.com for the memory chips suggested by Crucial.com.
Luckily, my original Windows XP license allowed me to somehow upgrade to fancy Windows 10 free of charge. That was pretty sweet. If you’re not as fortunate, I’d still recommend purchasing a license; if for no better reason than to keep things as secure as possible. After the Equifax shit-show, I wouldn’t be taking ANY chances just to save a nickel.
A few bits of wisdom to help keep your laptop running smoothly:
- Don’t install any applications. Zero. None. Okay okay, you can install Office, iTunes, and an Antivirus program. But everything else you use should be cloud-driven and browser accessible. The more crap you install, the slower your computer gets over time.
- Try to keep your hard drive about 50% free. Even your fancy new SSD drive. For the same reason as number 1 above, the more you cram onto the machine, the more sluggish the machine gets.
- Use those fancy USB ports to add a wireless mouse and keyboard. It’s a great way to get more life out of old pointer pads and broken keys.
- Don’t use your laptop on your lap! Use a flat surface. Keeping your old machine cool is important to avoid slow performance and unexpected crashes. I tried one of those cooling fan pads, but your best bet is to just keep that thing on your desk or table.
- Don’t fixate on battery life. Every coffee shop I’ve been to lately has ten power outlets for every man, woman, and child in a 2 mile radius. Carrying a power pack with a cord is a few ounces of weight that’ll make you that much stronger. I’ve had to keep my Vaio plugged in 100% for the last three years. No big deal.
The cha-ching net of it all
I spent about $125 on the hard drive and memory upgrades. A decent new laptop would run anywhere from $500 to $1,000 taxes included. A few simple upgrades keeps your current machine out of the landfill, avoids hassle setting everything up anew, and gives you extra coin to go towards sexy index funds.
Put in purely mathematical terms, doubling the useful lifespan of your laptop from five to ten years could yield as much as a couple grand in savings over a ten-year span. It’s not the Powerball, but it’s better than a stick in your eye. Apply the same concept to every other piece of tech in your life, like cell phones and teevees, and then you’re talking early retirement-like savings.
Now that you’ve read all about my precious Vaio, let me know what you think I should name her in the comments below! “Bessy” is just a stand-in…
Footnote: Speaking of technology, I just can’t seem to get out of my way these days. I farted around with some .php code the other day and it messed up my comments submission form. Luckily I stumbled across the problem by chance and was able to restore the Theme part of my backup. Whew!
All this after recently messing up my permalinks too. And so it goes, the second time in two weeks I inadvertently sabotaged www.abandonedcubicle.com. IT guys are dangerous. Especially the hardware guys who mess with code!