Upgrading a desktop PC is a piece of cake. Usually all you need is a screwdriver, and sometimes not even that. There is a huge range of new and different components you can choose between, in all price segments. For a laptop it's not quite as simple. Due to a lack of standardisation it's not as straight-forward to add or replace components. Most notebooks are very limited when it comes to upgrading, but it can definitely be worth it. You can improve the performance significantly with a little more RAM or an SSD, for example. This guide will show you what your options are and what you need to think about.
In most standard notebooks, so not Ultrabooks or Macs, it's usually fairly easy to add or replace RAM and storage. That's because it allows manufacturers to make different models using the same foundation.
The WiFi module is typically also easy to reach and replace. Lastly, the optical drive is often accessible and can be replaced by a Blu-ray station or even an extra hard disk or SSD.
Components that are typically very challenging or impossible to replace are the processor, optional graphics card and the screen. Replacing the motherboard is only possible if it's exactly the same one, but then we're more talking about repair than upgrade. The same can be said for replacing the screen and the keyboard, it's rare you can replace them by something better or different.
For this article we took a few different laptops to illustrate what you can replace, how you do it and what kind of performance gain you can expect. The main one we used is a four-year-old entry-level MSI laptop, the 15.4-inch EX600 equipped with a slow Intel Pentium T2390. Since it isn't suitable for all the upgrades we wanted to discuss, a couple other notebooks make guest appearances.
Before you start buying new components for your ageing notebook, it's important to do the math first. A decent new laptop isn't that expensive anymore, so make sure upgrading your old one makes sense economically.
We used the MSI EX600 with Pentium T2390 as main labrat for this article.