It might not have the same modularity as a PC, but you’ll be pleased to know that you can still change some of your laptop parts. Granted, this kind of endeavor has its limitations. Most of the time, you can only upgrade two or three specific parts of your laptop.
The most important two would be the RAM or memory and the storage. The third one is the sound card, which doesn’t really matter much; unless you’re in the music or recording industry or other related fields. Good speakers would have been a more sound investment, no pun intended.
So we’re here to talk about how you can upgrade your laptop’s RAM and storage. This is for Windows machines, as MacBooks use different and less common components.
A word of warning
Before we get to the nitty-gritty, do note that most laptops come with a warranty period. This typically lasts a year from the purchase date and there’s a seal on the bottom of the laptop that makes it eligible for the warranty. Since you’ll have to remove this seal in order to do a DIY upgrade of your laptop, you might void the warranty if it’s still in effect.
If you want to keep the warranty (if it’s still under warranty) and still get the upgrade, you might have to visit the store or the main brand branch and they can assist you with the upgrades. However, this is generally more expensive; they might charge more for something that’s quite easy to do.
If you’re sure that the warranty period has lapsed, then you can upgrade without worries. So let’s get to that part.
Opening the laptop
This is usually the hardest and scariest part since laptop chassis vary between brands and models. So once you get past this, it’s smooth sailing from there on out.
Also, it’s not that delicate of an operation; you won’t break the chassis if you don’t pull too hard or too forcefully.
Remember, each laptop is different. But the most common design is that the screw mounts are located at the bottom. So with the laptop screen closed, flip it over so you can see its underside.
For reference, here’s the underside of an Acer Predator Nitro with the bottom screws marked:
Look for the same types of screws on the bottom of your laptop and remove them all one-by-one. Don’t forget the screw that’s covered by the warranty sticker.
Once you have removed the screws, softly pry open the laptop’s bottom cover at the seams. You may use a tool like a flathead screwdriver if it makes the job easier.
You need to remove the bottom cover until you see something like this:
That’s the innards of the laptop or the motherboard per se. From here, it’s easy to see which parts you can upgrade. Starting with the memory.
Upgrading the memory/RAM
This is what the laptop RAM looks like:
It’s similar to a desktop PC’s RAM, but it’s shorter and lacks heat spreaders or some flashy designs which don’t matter since you won’t see it anyway.
Now, to save space, manufacturers typically only put two RAM slots in a laptop motherboard or chassis. So if your RAM is already dual-channel or has two modules or sticks installed, then you can’t just add more if you want faster RAM; there will be no more slots. You’ll have to replace the two RAM modules with another two modules, which are ideally faster (since we’re talking about upgrades).
Using the right generation (DDR)
Double Data Rate or DDR for short, is often considered by laymen as the generation of RAM modules. Currently, the most popular DDR generation is DDR4 RAM. DDR5 is already out, but it’s still in the early stages of its lifespan, making it significantly more expensive.
Besides, you can see the DDR version of your RAM in the specs or on the laptop’s website. Take note of it. Because DDR generations are not backward-compatible; they have different slot notches and sizes. You can’t use DDR5 RAM on a DDR4 RAM slot, and vice versa and so on.
Respect the specs
When purchasing RAM upgrades, there are three important specifications that you have to take note. The first is the RAM size, and the second is the speed.
- Size – typically 8GB/16GB/32GB per stick or module
- Speed – 2666MHz/3000MHz/3200MHz/3600MHz/etc.
- Timing – CL16/CL18/CL22/etc., anything with a “CL”
As a rule of thumb when using two or four sticks of RAM, you want them to be identical in those three specifications. They will still work if they’re not identical in those three things, but the faster and better RAM will downgrade itself to the level of the lowest module. This might also cause some unseen problems.
It’s important to keep this in mind if you’re just adding another stick of RAM to pair with an existing one in a laptop. For that, you will have to check the specifications of the original RAM and make sure to purchase something that is as close to identical.
Replacing the RAM
To empty the RAM slot, remove the retainer clips on either side and just softly yank out the RAM until it comes out.
To install new modules, just squeeze them in between the small slots or notches under the right alignment.
The RAM won’t go in if the alignment is wrong. It’s that easy. Once it’s in, remember to secure the retainer clips again.
Upgrading the storage
Upgrading the storage is as easy as upgrading the RAM. But there are another couple of things to take note of here before diving in. You have to be aware of what kind of connectors or slots are available for your laptop’s storage.
These tend to come in two forms:
- M.2 NVMe
SATA is the type of connector used by Hard Disk Drives or HDDs and SATA Solid State Drives or SSDs. These storage devices are as big as the palm of your hand and have noticeable connectors.
You can find out information on whether your laptop uses HDD or SATA SSD on the website or its spec sheet. Or you can just have a look because this is what a SATA storage device looks like:
M.2 NVMe is the more advanced tier of storage and a more ideal upgrade for laptops. It’s smaller and faster than SATA drives. They’re also easier to install.
This is what an M.2 NVMe SSD looks like:
And this is what its vacant slot looks like inside a laptop:
Installing the storage
For SATA: Carefully plug the SATA connector into the HDD or SATA SSD before you screw it in. After securing the plug, make sure the drive itself and the connectors are snugly positioned before you screw the corners or edges of the drive, but not too tight.
For M.2 NVMe: Softly push in the M.2 SSD into the M.2 NVMe slot with the correct orientation until you hear a click. After that, push down on the other end and screw it down, but not too tight.
Close the laptop
Place the bottom lid again and squeeze at the edges until it snaps back shut. Afterward, you can put the small screws back in to secure the laptop.
If all goes well– invasive pets and accidental water damage notwithstanding, then your laptop should boot back on with no issues. But this time, it will be faster, more accommodating, and more responsive since you now know how to upgrade your laptop.