How to revitalize an aging laptop....

My laptop will be turning 4 this summer, and the memory loss and slow reaction of old age are starting to become reality. The battery hasn’t worked for about two years now, and most applications like Fireworks or any complicated website have quite delayed reactions to my requests.

I’m wondering what I can do, aside from a new battery, to make my computer work a little smoother. Being someone who moves around the world, I need my computer to be in good shape so that I can keep everything safe and guard my contacts.

I run adaware, system cleanup, and defrag on a regular basis.

I want to say that if I got more RAM things would run faster, I still have 58% percent free space. As it stands, I have 256 MB ram, and over 21 GB free space.

What do you guys think?

If you’re running some version of Windows, I’d say back up all your data, wipe the HD and reinstall everything from scratch; it’s a PITA, but usually results in quite a noticeable improvement in performance on a well-used machine of a few years’ vintage.

If you’re talking about a non-Windows OS, it might just be time to upgrade to a faster machine.

That one seems better then my work laptop, which was a 233mhz 8 GB AMD K6-2 96 ram running win 98, and upgraded to 333mhz 20 GB K6-3 (over maxed - found a pin setting that works though this chip was never supported), 196 Ram (over - maxed the 128 mb simms was never supported) which ran XP for a while till the windows updates made it too slow, reformatted back to win 98, then got win 98SE which actually works great for what it is.

My suggestion is to see of you can get win 98SE or NT running on it. It will do wonders and 98SE can do the cool stuff such as wireless and USB support, theough you have to install drivers.

And even if you don’t or can’t ‘downgrade’ the OS, get the crap off by reformatting.

Yeah. It’s Win XP on a Dell (shoulda’ mentioned that).

I never thought of reinstalling everything. It sounds dangerous…

Ok…maybe, I’ll give that a try.

256 MB of memory isn’t enough these days, especially if you’re running XP. You’ll probably see a nice performance increase if you spend like 50-100 bucks on a new 1 GB stick, but you have to make sure that you buy one that’s compatible with your notebook. You can probably find the info on Dell’s support site, or if you give us the name/model # of the notebook, we can take a look as well.

What kind of processor (CPU) does it have and how fast is it? The reason I ask is this: You know, 4 years is a pretty long time in computer years. Have you considered upgrading? A new notebook would get you a usable battery and a huge boost in performance. They’re pretty cheap now, too, definitely under $1000, probably under $700, and often even under $500 on eBay.

What Mangetout said, that the most bang for the buck. Also if you’re running a gigahertz or less processor more RAM would help somewhat, but I wouldn’t invest more money in an incipient doorstop, esp given the need for a replacement battery. If your data is mission critical I’d really suggest dumping it on ebay and getting a new one. New, brand name notebooks are occasionally on sale for as little as $ 400. after rebate these days, and are available for $500-$550 during regular sales after rebate.

It can be dangerous, especially on a laptop, which might require non-standard drivers.

Before you start, make sure you have:
-All your data securely backed up externally
-Your Windows Certificate of Authenticity (this usually exists in the form of a greenish-purple sticker on the back or bottom of the machine, bearing a product key printed in barely-legible characters)
-If possible, hardware driver disks that came with the machine (unless the Windows Install CD is actually a ‘factory restore disk’, in which case you may not need to find any drivers straight away)

-After installation is complete, you’re going to want to visit Windows Update to download and install lots and lots of patches and updates (including SP2 probably, which is huge); it is advisable to disconnect the machine from the internet while performing the Windows install and install a software firewall on the machine immediately afterwards, before restoring the internet connection. If you’re connecting via a router with its own firewall, and you are the only computer connected to the router, then this may not be necessary, as the risk is considerably reduced.

I’d suggest downloading the offline installation for Windows XP Service Pack 2 so you can install that before you connect the computer to the internet. It includes a firewall, so you should be protected. Or, you can install the free version of Zonealarm before you connect to the internet. Basically, before you wipe it, I suggest burning a CD containing the drivers and any other downloadable software you want to install on the system (firewall, antivirus, antispyware, media players, etc.) And instead of RealPlayer and Quicktime, use the open-source alternatives like RealAlternative. And definitely use Firefox.

You don’t want to do a re-install over the old files. You want to use a utility that will wipe the drive clean and then do a fresh install.
Save all the data you think you need (burn to CD’s or get a usb HD).
Use the utility (probably download one from the net) to erase the OS and then re-install. Expect to spend about 6 hours doing this. It takes time to update software and drivers over the internet and to re-install all the software you have on there. The good thing is you’ll not have to re-install all the crap that was on the machine that you forgot about or don’t use anymore.
Maybe the XP backup disk that came with the machine has a wipe utility (or an option to do a fresh install) right on it.
The software cert. code might be on the re-install disk as well (or on the machine like Mangetout suggested).

Even though this process seems daunting, it’s kind of fun to go through the whole setup of the machine by yourself (when I did mine for the first of several times, I had NO previous experience in the matter). Sort of a rewarding experience, and the thing will be A LOT faster when you’re done.

As for the comments that mention buying a new laptop, I would love to, but even $500 dollars is too expensive for me. I’ve spent the last year as a student in Paris (on my own bill) and I’m moving to Taiwan next year, so the $500 + is going to my plane ticket. But the $200 or so for a battery/RAM may be a possibility.

I may be able to get all this cheaper in Taiwan. My girlfriend’s Ipod was about half-price, and I know most of my computer was made in Taiwan. I’ll have to look into that.

Also, a friend of mines computer was stolen from him yesterday, three days before he was going to turn in his thesis. I gave him mine this morning so that he can put the peices that he was able to salvage back together, so I won’t be able to toy around with all of this for a couple of days.

I’ll get back to y’all when (if…shudders) I get my computer back.

Well, I think I’ve decided to get some RAM*. In any case, if my computer dies, I can just transfer the RAM to a new computer, can’t I?

Will just any old 1GB RAM stick into my computer? I went here and looked for RAM for a Dell Inspiron 8200, but I don’t know what to click for the “RAM modules” pull-down menu.

Should I just wait until I get home and call Dell to buy it from them? I want the cheapest I can get.

I feel clueless…
*I’m going to try to reinstall windows, too…

Dell’s RAM is about twice the price of other, compatible ones that I’ve seen. has competitive prices, from what I’ve seen. I’ve linked straight to the memory for a Dell Inspiron 8200; 512MB is about $70.

Almost certainly. If you can hold off buying anything until you get there, I’d expect that a knowledgeable local would be able to sort your laptop out for a reasonable price.

Once you’ve done the nuke and pave with the Dell “recovery” disc, uninstall all of the crapware that Dell pre-loads like free trials of MSN, AOL, Microsoft Works, and the like.

Speaking of the nuke, I’m trying to make the backup disk. When the backup disk Wizard opens, do I just select to backup “my documents and settings.” Will that be enough?

Moreover, why won’t it let me make a backup disk in my D: drive? I only have two floppies, but I’ve a pile of blank cd’s!

It tells me something like the filename “D:backup.bkf” is invalid, yet it works fine when I tried it with one of the two floppies I have (they just fill up in a couple of minutes though!).