In general, laptops are much more difficult to repair than PCs, and it’s understandable why they would be. Every model of laptop must be designed very specifically in order to cram all the needed computer goodness into such a small package. Unfortunately, all this engineering leads to a product that is very unique and, therefore, chock-full of low-demand components that are hard to find and expensive to purchase. There are, however, a few simple repairs and upgrades that can be made to your laptop if you’ve got the know-how.
Why are laptops harder to repair?
Desktop computers are easy; a ten-year-old could build a desktop from the ground up without breaking a sweat. This is because desktops use mostly inter-compatible parts and are all assembled in more-or-less the same fashion. Laptops, on the other-hand, are built with parts specifically designed for their machines. This means that a motherboard for an HP DV6000 laptop will only be compatible with a single model and would be much harder to find than a mass-produced, super-compatible desktop part. Processors, video cards, and connectors are also locked in by the engineers when they create the computer. Laptops can’t really be modified.
What can be repaired?
That said, there are a few laptop components that can be repaired and upgraded without too much difficulty.
As always, this is the best bang-for-your-buck upgrade you can make to your system; laptops are no exception. Laptop RAM is pretty simple on the compatibility end; you’ll just want to match whatever speed of memory you’ve already got. To do this, download and run CPU-Z (click here to download CPU-Z), a free program that analyzes the hardware in your system. This program makes finding matching RAM very simple. CPU-Z will also tell you the number of slots you’ve got, so you’ll know how many sticks of RAM your computer can hold. The most difficult part of purchasing laptop memory is determining how much total memory your laptop can recognize. If you pop 8GBs of memory into a computer that can only recognize 2GB, you’ll have 6GB of memory that cannot be used. The best and only truly reliable source of this information is the laptop’s manufacturer. Contact their customer service and ask them.
Here’s a quick example of the RAM installation process. (The background music is epic!)
When you’re ready to purchase memory for your laptop, look for SO-DIMM (Small-Outline-DIMM) memory; this is the technical name for laptop memory and refers to the smaller form factor laptops require. Make sure you’re buying the same speed of memory as well; if CPU-Z says you’re running PC2-6400 (400MHz), only buy RAM that runs at that speed. Installing your RAM will actually be the easiest part of the process. Remove your battery, look for the ram ports, and pop the old RAM out (it should work like the clicker on a pen, push in to release, and it will pop out), and then push the new RAM in. If you can’t figure out exactly where your memory ports are hiding, check your manual, manuals are smart.
Laptops use 2.5” hard drives and are very easy to replace or upgrade. The only major compatibility issue is the type of drive connector your machine uses, IDE or SATA. Most computers built in the last 10-years will use a SATA drive, but you can make sure by checking your Device Manager utility (Control Panel -> Device Manager -> Disk Drives), which will say either ATA (SATA) or IDE. Laptop hard drive replacements are especially painless if you use an external hard drive dock (like this one) and “mirror” your old drive onto the new one. This way, all the data on your original drive will be copied onto your new one as is, so you won’t have to reinstall Windows or any other programs.
Installation will vary from laptop to laptop since you’ll have to determine exactly where it is, but it will always boil down to removing the old drive and popping in the new. There aren’t any confusing or complicated steps; replacing a hard drive is just as simple as putting a DVD into a DVD player.
Speaking of DVDs, your laptop’s optical drive can be upgraded or replaced in the exact same manner as hard drive! They use the same types of connectors, IDE or SATA, and can be swapped out in the same manner.
Keyboards, Trackpads, and Displays
Laptop keyboards are common collection points for less-than-ideal additions such as coffee, doughnut glaze, and (in my case) your daughter’s peanut butter sandwich. A sticky, unresponsive, or possibly smelly keyboard or trackpad can be replaced from home without too much difficulty, as can a burnt out or otherwise broken monitor.
As with the other upgrades I’ve mentioned, the most difficult part of the process will likely be finding the right keyboard. To find the right model, it’s best to turn to Google. Search something like “Laptop Keyboard for HP DV6000” and start shopping. Use common sense—if the keyboard looks like the one you’re looking to replace, it’s probably a safe bet, if not, I’d keep shopping. The difficulty or ease of finding your keyboard will depend mostly on how common or rare your laptop is. Note, however, that these parts are not upgradable—you can’t by a higher resolution monitor or a different keyboard and expect it to work.
Once you’ve found the right keyboard, you’ll have to remove the bezel (the plastic frame around your keyboard), unscrew the old board, disconnect it from wherever it’s connected, and then reverse the whole process with your new part. (I know I’m being vague but every laptop will be slightly different so I can’t get too specific.) Here’s a quick video of the whole process:
Trackpad and display replacements will work the same as keyboard replacements. Find your new part through Google, remove the bezel, unscrew, disconnect, and reverse with the new part. The whole process shouldn’t take more than five or ten minutes, and will work out fine; as long as you don’t lose the screws (don’t lose the screws).
When you’re ready to pick up your new laptop parts, make sure you check out OutletPC; we’ve got a wide range of laptop hard drives, optical drives, RAM, keyboards, and monitors compatible with many of the most popular laptops out there!