Rejuvenating a laptop

Computery post again today.

My main laptop had been getting annoyingly sluggish for a while… things that used to be almost instantaneous, like plugging in the second monitor or resuming from sleep, were making it churn at the hard drive for ages. Eclipse, which I use for making Android apps, was particularly badly affected and would stop responding for several seconds even for something as simple as switching tabs (or sometimes minutes rather than seconds if I had the audacity to want to switch to a layout editor tab). In fact I suspect it might be because I usually have Eclipse running now that it’s got so slow.

So, what to do… it’s only just over a year old so not time for a new one yet. It’s also only about 3 months since I re-installed Windows, so shouldn’t be time for that yet either. I wondered if some more memory would help it… in my experience memory upgrades are one of the most effective ways of breathing new life into a slow computer.

But first I had to find out the exact model number so I could google it and see how much memory it can take and what kind. This turned out to be harder than it should have been. It’s an HP G62, that’s written on the front, but apparently there are lots of different kinds of G62 and no very obvious way to find out which one I have… why they couldn’t print the full model number on the base along with the serial number, or at least make it easily accessible from within Windows is a mystery to me, but after googling for a while and fiddling around in arcane sections of the control panel that I never knew existed before, I finally discovered that I’m the proud owner of a G62-A44SA. It has 3GB of RAM and can take a maximum of 4. So upping it to the maximum won’t be a huge change, but that extra gigabyte might be enough to make a difference. Memory’s so cheap now that it seemed worth trying.

Upgrading laptops used to be somewhere between nightmarish and impossible. Actually getting at the internal components would be a hair-raising operation usually involving taking absolutely everything to bits and hoping to god you could get it back together again afterwards. Even then you’d quite likely find that the memory was soldered straight onto the motherboard and couldn’t be replaced anyway. (I’m still dreading having to do the hair-raising complete disassembly if this machine succumbs to the overheating problem that afflicts a lot of HPs and the fan needs cleaned out. Fingers crossed it seems fine so far).

Removing the battery first is a good idea, just to make sure nothing could be powered up while you're working. It won't hurt you, the voltage isn't high enough to be dangerous, but it might hurt the computer if you start unplugging components that are turned on.

Things have got a lot better now. There are a few standard types of laptop memory that you can buy off the shelf in PC World, and most laptops give you quite easy access to the RAM chips, hard drive and anything else upgradable through a panel in the base.

Unscrewing the panel

The memory chips are on the right hand side. In the middle is the CMOS battery, whose main task is to keep the internal clock at the right time even when the machine’s powered off. Nice that they’ve made it easy to replace, though in my experience this battery often outlives the rest of the computer.

Removing the 1GB module from slot 1 and popping in the new 2GB one is easy. A hell of a lot easier than getting the new module out of its packet, in fact… WHY do companies use those horrible blister pack things? Presumably they sell these components with the expectation that people are going to want to, you know, actually open the packet and use what’s inside, so why make it almost impossible to do that without shredding up your fingers on sharp plastic in the process?

Success!

So far it seems much faster, even with Eclipse running. Anyone want a leftover 1GB DDR3 SODIMM? 🙂

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