Don’t buy a new laptop!

By | August 22, 2008

So if you ever worked for a large corporation you might remember such year end budget moments as…. your manager suddenly asking what training courses you want to go on this month or a new laptop or two suddenly appearing. Obviously nothing to do with your department wanting to be given a similar budget next year.

Well in the small business world it is slightly different… okay a lot different.  However you still have people starting up businesses who buy themselves a new laptop from PC World or a consultant who must have the latest laptop to help them work more productively (really). Obviously if you are using system hungry, intensive applications then it might well be worth buying a new laptop, but have a run through the list below to help you decide. Here are some tips on how to breath new live into your old laptop and save some money at the same time!

– Battery

If your battery isn’t holding much of a charge it is time to go buy a new one. Often you can find unused batteries for laptops on ebay or online. It isn’t worth buying a used battery though.

Tips for battery management:

  • To help extend the life of your battery don’t forget to set the power management settings to maximize you use of it. E.g. lower cpu usage for when you are just doing word processing and higher cpu usage for graphics and video editing etc.
  • Every so often let your battery completely run out of charge and then recharge it completely.

– Clean up and Defragmentation

Yep removing files such as old documents or uninstalling software that you no longer use will help. Plus defragmenting your hard drive is useful also. While you are at it, before you do all that best do a backup and run a hard drive diagnostics also.


On many laptops it is easy to upgrade the ram and now is an ideal time with ram being so cheap. Before you buy any though check how many slots you have, whether you need to replace a piece of ram and the highest amount of ram your laptop can take.

– CD rom

A great replacement is to buy a DVD / cd writer if you don’t already have one for your laptop. All of a sudden you can watch dvd’s when on the road write to CD’s if required.

– Clean Install and tweak your system

Do a complete backup and then make sure you have all the drivers, software and operating system installation cd’s with product keys etc and do a clean install.

Tweak tips:

  • For older specs remove the desktop background (wallpaper)
  • Disable fancy graphics effects.
  • Disable sound effects.
  • Research what you can disable from startup in msconfig and not expose your system or lose required functionality.

– Be more selective with applications and do upgrades

Some applications are monsters! No not the scary kind, the large memory hungry kind. Consider using smaller lighter applications if they provide the functionality you require…

Suggested apps:

  • Abiword instead of Microsoft Word
  • Sumatra PDF instead of Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • CDBurnerXP instead of Nero (because of the additional files Nero installs)
  • Windows Media Player Classic instead of Windows Media Player

Plus consider upgrading existing packages. Often they fix memory leaks, improve performance and of course you might get new features.

– Linux

On many machines that were running WIndows 98, ME or 2000 an install of a Linux operating system might still give good performance, but enable you to use an operating system that is still being updated to protect you against security concerns but also with a wide range of software. E.g. Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse etc. Be weary of issues with device compatiblity though, best to try a liveCD first to try out.

– Other upgrades

  • Hard drive technology has improved and often replacing a hard drive to give increased space will also give you increased performance as the newer hard drive might be quicker.
  • For some laptops you can also buy drive bay batteries, meaning you can have two batteries in your laptop at the same time.
  • New drivers. Sometimes a new driver might give functionality you were missing such as improved graphics driver performance or newer wireless security.
  • Bluetooth dongles are very cheap to buy, but will affect the performance of your laptop.
  • A laptop stand, external keyboard and mouse if you now use the laptop in just one place primarily. Plus some docking stations for older laptops are extremely cheap.

We want to hear your tips and advice, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.