Laptops

How to upgrade your sluggish laptop

Faster performance without spending too much

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People I know would describe me as an ultimate “techie” for knowing bits and pieces of both software and hardware. Ever since the pandemic started, almost all of them ask me the same question: “what’s the best budget laptop I can buy?” — either for their Zoom-powered online classes or basic WFH (Work From Home) setup. I always respond with “how much is your budget?” and that already gives me an idea what’s the closest laptop model I can recommend for them.

But here’s what I’ve observed. Most of them can only afford laptops that are priced below US$ 500 (around PhP 25,000 or INR 38,000). The problem is clear. Despite the need for it, not everyone has the resources to spend on a shiny new laptop.

An Acer laptop I upgraded running an old Intel chipset

In certain Facebook groups, Twitter threads, and comments sections, I’ve been seeing a lot of people posting “minimum laptop specifications” as a handy buyer’s guide for those who need it. But the thing is, buying a lower-end 10th Generation Intel Core i3 or the latest AMD Ryzen chipset would still cost an arm and a leg for most consumers.

Others even refer to high-spec professional and/or gaming laptops — which most people don’t even need since they’re only going to do basic tasks. The thought of helping is there but those who are not particularly into tech still wouldn’t understand the differences between these chipset models, as well as how RAM and storage devices are different from one another.

Fortunately, laptops (and PCs) are not like smartphones that need to be replaced once the performance degrades. If you have a laptop that still works even if it’s already sluggish, this article might help you in saving money instead of buying a completely new one. In my case, I decided to upgrade our 2011 Samsung RF511 that’s become as slow as a snail over the years.

SSD is the key

Difference between 2.5″ SATA HDD vs 2.5″ SATA SSD (HDD already faulty)

Upgrading to SSD (Solid State Drive) is a big factor in making your ultra-slow laptop run faster. Most laptops are still equipped with old Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). Here’s our SSD vs HDD explainer if you really want to dive into the specifics of it.

Basically, SSD is a better option since the Operating System (OS) directly runs in that drive. A high-capacity 512GB SSD might cost more than a 1TB HDD — which sums up the logic that essential OS files and apps should be stored in lower-capacity SSDs while most of your files should still be in a larger HDD capacity since they don’t need to be run as frequent as the OS and apps.

A meme that sums it up: Fast SSD cheemtah or a chonky HDD catto

Also, SSD is a lot slimmer and lighter, runs cooler, and is quieter than the thick and heavy HDDs that always rely on spinning disks instead of a non-volatile set of chips.

With the ongoing demand for SSDs, a 120GB SSD can now be bought for as low as US$ 20 / PhP 1,300 / INR 2290 — particularly a SanDisk SSD. It’s the pure nature of commerce that the bigger capacity you get, the more you need to pay for it.

There are other cheaper brand options out there like Kingston, Silicon Power, PNY, ADATA, while the likes of WD/Western Digital (SanDisk’s mother brand) and Samsung lean more into the pricier side. Buying a more expensive drive might mean you’ll get better disk speeds (especially if you’re a gamer or a power user) but for an everyday consumer, the cheapest options will just be alright for the basic tasks you do.

Not all SSDs are made equal

I’m not talking about unequal storage size options. In our explainer, it wasn’t mentioned that there are several types of SSD connectors — but most of the common ones are either SATA and m.2 SSDs. So what’s the difference?

In layman’s term, 2.5″ SATA SSDs are those that are shaped like regular hard disk drives — that’s why it can still be used on older laptops and PCs. There’s even a smaller version called mSATA that runs on the same SATA interface.

For newer laptops, motherboards, and gaming rigs, they use a smaller, thinner, and more space-efficient m.2 SSD (almost the same size as a chewing gum stick) that runs even faster than a regular SATA SSD. But here’s the catch! There are two subtypes of m.2 SSDs that are different in the shape of connectors:

  • m.2 SATA SSD has both B and M connectors; while
  • m.2 NVMe SSD only has an M connector at the end

Image by GadgetMatch

Since this is an article meant for people who have slow laptops, I wouldn’t dive deeper into the nitty-gritty of these types of SSDs. But for visual comparison, here’s how you can differentiate them in different sizes and connector shapes.

RAM upgrade is an essential but not a requirement

During the quarantine period, I received several laptop repairs by replacing their old disk drives and upgrading their laptops’ memory sticks. In one instance, I ordered both SSD and RAM upgrades. The SSD was delivered ahead of time and just by replacing the hard disk drive alone did a lot in speeding up the laptop — even with just 2GB of RAM.

That being said, RAM is still essential, especially when opening multiple apps at once without totally closing other apps that are minimized/in idle. If you’re the type of power user who always multitasks, you will gain more with a RAM upgrade. The higher the capacity, the more apps you can open at once — of course with the help of your laptop’s processor.

Just like SSDs, not all RAM modules are the same

In the case of SSDs, it’s easy to tell which is which just by looking at the size and connector type. For RAM modules, it’s different. These RAM sticks all have similar connectors, but it doesn’t mean all of them will work on older machines. In my case, the old Samsung laptop I have indicates that it runs “DDR3 ONLY”. There are even different types of RAM bandwidth ranging from the slow 1600MHz all the way to a maximum of 3200MHz. Here’s a quick summary:

  • DDR2 configuration runs on older laptops manufactured 2007 (or earlier)
  • DDR3 configuration runs on older laptops manufactured 2013 (or earlier)
  • DDR3L configuration is a re-configured DDR3 module that’s found on newer low-end laptops but can still run on older laptops with DDR3 slots (but not vice versa);
  • and DDR4 configuration runs on most latest laptops manufactured 2014 onwards.

You can further check the configuration based on the labels on the module.

Know your laptop’s specific requirements before buying

I have to mention this for the nth time: NOT all laptops are created equal. Just because there’s an 8GB or 16GB memory available around, it doesn’t mean you can immediately buy it for your aging laptop.

There aren’t many restrictions when upgrading storage capacities aside from the type of hard drive connector your laptop (or PC build) has. I even cautioned about not all RAM modules being alike — and that also means not all laptops support higher RAM capacities.

No one can really tell the difference between a DDR3 and a DDR3L RAM just by looking at them from afar. Labels really matter 🥺👉🏼👈🏼

I recently upgraded an acquaintance’s laptop. It may look new but the thing is, it only supports a maximum RAM capacity of 8GB. Most newer laptops support higher than that, which means it’s not totally based on the year of release. This is also why it’s crucial to know your laptop’s specifications.

Speaking of, the quickest workaround I can think of is by visiting Crucial’s website where you can search your laptop’s exact model and it will give you the closest and most compatible types of RAM and storage options which can be your source of reference.

From there, you can quickly go ahead and find a cheaper alternative to an online shopping app that’s closest to your heart — whether that may be Lazada, Shopee, Amazon, or AliExpress, as long as they sell legit PC parts. And oh! Don’t forget to see product reviews before adding it to your cart and checking out.

I bought the right parts, so what now?

Option 1: DIY upgrade

With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it’s hard to go out of your home just to go to the nearest repair shop in your area. If you’ve read my DIY iPhone repair before, upgrading laptop parts isn’t as complex as that one which requires a lot of tools just to open one.

When opening laptops, I just use a single, regular-sized Phillips screwdriver (the ones you can see in your dad’s toolbox) — not the smaller ones and not the bigger screw head for furniture. If you can’t find one, you can just buy a toolset in online shops and hardware stores.

What I’ve encountered when fixing laptops is that there are differences in the way they are opened. Most laptop screws are found at the bottom part of the laptop — and it’s the easiest way to replace hard drives and RAM modules.

But in another example, we also have an old Dell Inspiron N4050 laptop. I was able to add more RAM sticks by completely pulling and opening it up through a tedious keyboard removal. To make it harder, I removed the laptop’s outer shell and several flex cables just to get access to the hard drive itself found beneath the metal enclosure.

Anyhow, when you’ve decided to do the upgrade by yourself, just make sure you know how to completely unscrew and disassemble your laptop. Tutorials online (particularly in YouTube) are always helpful.

Option 2: Hire a repairman / family member / friend / acquaintance who knows how to fix laptops

If DIY isn’t workable, you can still look for people who’ll do it for you. Just remember to pay appropriately. Most upgrades shouldn’t be as expensive as buying a new 128GB SSD.

Why is it not turning on? Is it defective?

Just like any other fresh storage device, it needs a fresh OS installation. If you know how to install a fresh copy of Windows 10 (which can be directly downloaded from Microsoft’s website), rest assured it will work — and even install faster. Don’t worry, older laptops with low specifications are still supported.

To start the installation process, you just need an 8GB flash drive (or higher) where you can store the needed OS files. To not over-extend this article, watch this step-by-step YouTube tutorial.

For those who are still not capable of doing so, ask someone who can do it for you for a fee (or maybe free for those who are eager to help).

Real-world usage

There are a lot of speed tests and benchmarks out there but most wouldn’t care about specific read and write speeds as they value real-life experiences more. With my usage, the time it takes me to turn it on from clicking the power button going to the Login screen was massively cut from a minute and a half to just around fifteen (15) seconds.

Other than that, there’s little to no lag and freezing when opening apps. In my case, I was able to open apps in a breeze. As this old Samsung laptop runs with an aging second-generation Intel Core i7 chipset, it’s surprising to see that Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro are all running well.

Another testimony to how SSD improves a slow laptop’s performance is when one acquaintance told me how the SSD replacement totally helped him get over with his laggy online class and work setup due to a slower HDD paired with a low-tier Intel Pentium processor.

But where are the Office apps when I need them the most?

Online classes and work tasks require Microsoft Office services. If you can’t find an original copy (since piracy shouldn’t be tolerated), you can sign up for a one (1)-month trial of Office 365 instead. Other options are the freeware OpenOffice or real-time, online-based Google alternatives like Docs (Word), Slides (Powerpoint), and Sheets (Excel).

Older MacBooks can also be upgraded

Although newer MacBooks (Air, Pro, and Retina) cannot be upgraded anymore, older MacBook Pros (2012 or earlier) with non-Retina Display and CD drives can still be upgraded. You have options to replace your clunky HDD with a SATA SSD or even upgrade RAM sticks up to 16GB.

Just like any Windows laptop, be sure to check your Mac’s specific model/manufacturing year before purchasing essential parts. For more help, you can check out this old MacBook Pro list and their max upgradeable options.

Also, macOS / OS X installation is a little different than that of Windows. Here’s a workaround.

Computers

ASUS ROG launches Cool for School Promo

Exclusive bundles and discounts!

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The start of the new school year in the Philippines is right around the corner. With that in mind, ASUS ROG is offering plenty of devices on their lineup for exclusive bundles and discounts with its Cool for School promo.

Promo duration is from July 15 to August 31, 2021 and features laptops, desktops, smartphones that are available for up PhP 18,000 worth of discounts. Take a look at the bundles below.

ASUS Notebooks and Zenfones

  • All ASUS ZenBook — Nespresso Mini Essenza with free Coffee Capsules (PhP 7,500)
  • All ASUS VivoBook — Aviche M5 Wearable Air Purifier (PhP 2,500)
  • Zenfone 8 and Zenfone 8 Flip — JBL Go 3 (PhP 2,300)
  • All ASUS X Series laptops with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors — PhP 2,000 discount
  • All ASUS X Series laptops with Intel Core i3 processor — PhP 1,000 discount

ROG

  • ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701LXS/LV, ROG Zephyrus S15 GX502LXS/LW, ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502LW/LU — Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit 9W, Google Nest Hub (PhP 18,000+)
  • ROG Flow X13 SuperNova Edition, ROG XG Mobile GPU with RTX 3080 — ROG Slash Cap, ROG Slash Sling Bag, Xbox Controller (PhP 8,500+)
  • ROG Flow X13 — ROG Slash Cap, ROG Slash Sling Bag (PhP 2,500+)
  • ROG Zepyhrus G14 GA401IVC — ROG Slash Cap, ROG Slash Messenger Bag, Chromecast 4K TV, Google Nest Mini (PhP 8,500+)
  • ROG Zephyrus G15, ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401IV/IU/IH/II — Chromecast 4K TV, Google Nest Mini (PhP 4,500+)
  • ROG Strix Scar 17 G732LXS/LWS/LV, ROG Strix Scar G532LWS/LW/LV — ROG Slash Cap, TUF AX3000 router, Xbox Controller (13,000+)
  • ROG Strix G17 G712LV/LU, ROG Strix G15 G512LV/LU/LI — Google Nest Mini, Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Bulb 9W (PhP 4,000+)
  • ROG Phone 5 Classic — ROG Cetra II Core (PhP 3,300)
  • ROG Ranger Backpack (RGB BP3703) — PhP 1,000 Discount
  • ROG Ranger Backpack (BP2500) — PhP 500 Discount

ASUS and ROG Desktops

  • ASUS Desktop S3401SFF — PhP 1,000 Discount
  • ASUS Desktop S500SA — PhP 1,000 Discount
  • ROG Strix G35DX-PH009T, ROG Strix G35DX-PH011T — TUF Gaming VG249Q1A
  • ROG Strix GD30CI(OPT.)-PH003T — TUF Gaming VG249Q1A
  • ROG Strix G15DH-PH014T , ROG Strix G15DH-PH002T — TUF Gaming VG249Q1A
  • ROG Strix GL12CM-PH019T — TUF Gaming VG249Q1A
  • ROG Strix GL10CS-PH042T , ROG Strix GL10CS-PH040T — TUF Gaming VG249Q1A
  • TUF Gaming FX10CP-PH004T — TUF Gaming VG249Q1A

For the complete mechanics and list of participating products and stores, check out https://bit.ly/ASUSROGCoolForSchool2021.

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Computers

ASUS reveals PCs, laptops that can upgrade to Windows 11

Check if your laptop or PC makes the cut

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Windows 11 is official now, and more OEMs are jumping aboard to the new OS. For its part, ASUS is making it easy for consumers to know if their PCs and laptops can upgrade to Windows 11.

SEE ALSO: Windows 11 is official, here are the stand-out features

Consumers who brought recent ASUS laptop models can rest assured that theirs will get Windows 11. Users who revel on the latest ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED laptop, ZenBook Duo 14, ZenBook 13 Flip OLED, or even the  ZenBook 13 OLED can enjoy a much streamlined experience with Windows 11 later this year. As for other laptop lineups, ASUS got their backs too as Windows 11 will come as a free upgrade for ProArt StudioBook, Zenbook, and Vivobook laptops.

Meanwhile, gamers out there will be delighted to find that the new OS is coming to their ROG Strix, Zephyrus, and Flow gaming laptops and desktops as well as TUF Gaming ones. The same goes for business owners of ExpertBook laptops and ExpertCenter desktops.

Of course, there’s a full list of Windows 11-ready ASUS PCs which you may view here.

Ready for Windows 11

Users can download the latest PC Health Check from Microsoft to see if their PC meets all the necessary requirements for running Windows 11. It’s free — and you can download it directly from Microsoft. Compatible PCs will receive the update later once Microsoft rolls it out to the public. Users with these PCs may back up their files to OneDrive for ease and peace of mind.

ASUS PCs with Windows 11 right out of the box are also coming soon. Users may wait for new ASUS PCs later in the year to get the new OS for free and right out the box.

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Deals

Acer has massive discounts plus freebies on select devices

Get a free Acer tablet with every purchase of select models!

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Acer laptops can be your next purchase with its latest “Learn from Home” program. From June 16 to July 18, buyers can get up to PhP 40,000 worth of discounts plus some cool freebies when they shop Acer’s latest devices.

For this program, Acer laptops, desktops, monitors, and projectors now come with PhP 8,000 discount. This is a big deal, especially for higher-end models. But the deal doesn’t stop there. Acer is also giving away a free Android tablet on select models.

Consumer Notebooks & Desktops

SF514-55TA-54J7 — from PhP 59,999 to PhP 56,999 with free Acer tablet

A514-54G-77ZK — from PhP 49,999 to PhP 47,999 with free Acer tablet

A514-54G-51PU —  from PhP 37,999 to PhP 35,999 with free Acer tablet

Aspire TC-875 — from PhP 48,999 to PhP 44,999

Aspire XC-830 — from PhP 21,999 to PhP 18,999

Projector and Monitors

X1126AH — from PhP 18,999 to PhP 15,999

32HC5QR Z — from PhP 18,199 to PhP 17,199

Meanwhile, gamers who purchase the latest Predator gaming laptop, desktop, and AOPEN monitor can get up to PhP 40,000 worth of discount. A gaming chair is up for grabs too, provided that they buy the participating models.

Gaming Notebooks

PT515-52-73VZ — from PhP 199,999 to PhP 159,999 with free gaming chair and loot bag

PH315-54-723N — PhP 94,999 with free gaming chair and loot bag

PH315-53-5634 — from PhP 79,999 to PhP 64,999 with free gaming chair and loot bag

Gaming Desktops

Predator Orion 3000 — from PhP 69,999 to PhP 59,999

Nitro 50 — from PhP 49,999 to PhP 44,999

AOPEN Monitors

Predator XB253Q — from PhP 19,999 to PhP 18,499

Promoting this program are Acer’s ambassadors, Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla. To see the list of eligible models, visit Acer’s website today or shop through one of their stores or authorized retailers. Buyers may also follow Acer on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to day to catch up on the latest program updates.

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