I’ve mentioned many times that, for a long time, my main computer was my notebook computer. Sure, I had a desktop computer, too, I just didn’t use it very much. I also had my home theater PC and a Linux-based file server for backup. But, my Dell Inspiron 8600 was the real workhorse.
In my article Why Buy a Notebook Computer? I wrote about making the decision on whether or not to buy a notebook computer — and when to go for the cheaper models.
But, first, let’s consider some of the limitations of a notebook computer, as compared to a typical desktop computer.
- Price — for an equally capable computer, a notebook is more expensive
- Fragility — the notebook is meant to be easily moved from place to place. But, it’s more likely to be dropped and broken than is a desktop computer. The built-in LCD display is one of the most expensive cost items, at least in terms of repair, as well as being the most fragile.
- Limited user repair — notebooks are much more complicated than are desktops. The first challenge is dis-assembly. The second challenge is reassembly.
- much smaller hard drives — the huge notebook drive of today is about 500 GB.
- slower hard drives — notebook drives are available in 4200 RPM, 5200 RPM and 7200 RPM. However, most notebook computers, especially the cheaper models, use the slowest (4200 RPM) to minimize cost and heat.
- solid-state drives (SSD’s) are a popular choice for higher-end notebooks, but price is a real issue as well as a relatively small size — 128GB models are common and relatively cheap, while 256GB models scale rapidly in price
- can’t upgrade the motherboard
- can’t upgrade the processor
- can’t upgrade the video
- can’t upgrade the CD/DVD burner
- can’t buy replacement parts
- warranty becomes much more important
- on-site / next-day service becomes much more important
- or, you can choose to go cheap and disposable (but back up your data frequently!).
So, if you have a notebook, what can you do to expand or repair it? Not much.
On almost all notebooks, you can add memory or replace the memory with larger memory. In some cases, this is easy and in readily accessible locations. The Dell notebooks I have owned fall into this category. In other cases, the memory slots — or one of the memory slots — are hidden in unusual places, such as inside the machine under the keyboard.
You can replace hard drive with a larger one. You can usually add a hard drive with more space, since hard drive technology is packing more and more information into the same size packages. However, if your notebook comes with a 4200 RPM or 5200 RPM hard drive, you better replace it with one of the same speed. Faster hard drives tend to be hotter drives — and heat is the enemy of your notebook. In today’s world, I’d add an SSD (which I have in my current notebook).
Heat from the drive can permanently damage other components. This happened to me with my old Inspiron 5000, when I substituted a 7200 RPM drive for the 5200 RPM drive (which itself was an upgrade option from the default 4200 RPM drive). The heat from the drive overheated (and through repetitive overheating, destroyed) the chips controlling the PCMCIA slot.