Upgrading a laptop’s hardware isn’t as easy as for a desktop, simply because there isn’t much room to work around. But replacing the memory modules, hard disk or optical drive is fairly straightforward. Memory has been quite cheap for a while and is the most cost effective way to boost your PC’s performance. Solid state drives (SSD) offer numerous benefits compared to traditional disk-based drives, but at a significantly higher cost. However, over the past six months SSD prices have steadily drifted lower and are now at a very affordable level. Some of the highly rated 128GB SSD’s, such as Samsung 830 and Crucial M4, are often on sale for under $100. The one I got is a 240GB SanDisk Extreme, which also has great reviews on Amazon and other places. The optical drive, usually a DVD burner, may be upgraded to a Bluray burner or even replaced with a second hard drive. However, I’m not planning to replace the internal optical drive anytime soon and if a need arises later on, I’ll just use an external one.
5. Prepare SSD
SSD has been a hot topic in the tech world so there are plenty of guides on the internet on how to prepare and maintain solid state drives. Here is one, another one, and yet another one. They are very useful but can be over complicated for my case: I simply don’t need data migration, disk cloning or things like that. After reading through many informational articles and forum discussions, I only did a few things to my SSD:
- Update firmware. This is considered a necessary step even though it carries some risks (anytime you flash firmware something could go wrong, although unlikely). This is particularly important if your SSD has some known issues that have been reportedly fixed by new FW – all this information can be found online by searching for the specific model of your drive. To upgrade firmware, I downloaded and installed the SanDisk SSD toolkit. By putting my SSD in an external enclosure and connecting it to my old PC, I was able to examine the SSD using the toolkit. It turned out there was indeed a new version of firmware released just a few days after my specific SSD was built. So I went ahead and saved the new FW into a USB flash drive – the toolkit would then make it a bootable drive. Still on my old PC, I changed the BIOS boot priority to USB. Upon restart, the software found the SanDisk SSD and completed FW update in just a few minutes. For more information on this particular SSD, here is a very detailed benchmark report.