My primary laptop is an HP 8510w. It’s about thirty months old..and I don’t yet hate it…which is a sure sign that it was truly a nice machine when I first got it. This was my second HP laptop after a long history of using Dell models. Given any choice at all I won’t ever go back to Dell.
Under normal circumstances my employer would agree to replace the machine after three years (36 months) use. Some companies, like Exxon-Mobile where my brother-in-law works, would push that out to 48 months. When a laptop gets to be four years old it’s usually very slow & compared to current technology. It becomes a source of frustration. At least for my activities, which are graphics heavy, there’s a very real argument for a 36 month upgrade cycle.
However, these are not normal times. We’ve curtailed our spending in many ways and I now doubt that this machine will be upgraded at 36 months. We need to see signs of a stronger economy, specifically stronger broadcast industry, before we get back to such a routine.
That said, I make pretty heavy use of a laptop. I use it just about every day, even when I’m in my home office. Of course, the very fact that I travel a lot means that they take something of a beating. If I’m going to need to keep this machine in service for another 18 months it occurred to me that I should take some steps to give it a cheap refresh. If you’ve never done this you should give it some thought.
After 30 months of typical use there’s a strong case for replacing the battery. The run-time on battery power decays a little with every charge-discharge cycle. After a couple of hundred charges I find that run-time can be down to half of what it was when new. A replacement battery runs $40-50. It’s an affordable thing to do, especially if you find yourself on long flights where battery power is most useful.
The second aspect of my refresh plan is a little less common….I replaced the keyboard. I was actually compelled to do this as a couple of keys stopped working. Not a problem if I simply avoid the use of “a” and “s.” Yeah, right.
I found a replacement keyboard for $18. Installation of the new keyboard required only a small Philips screwdriver and took less than 5 minutes. I consider this move dirt cheap considering the improved user experience it provides. It’s a lot like having a new machine.
Of course, you could also up the amount of memory in your machine. If you don’t have 2 GB of RAM stop what you’re doing right now and order enough to get to that point!
I consider 2GB of memory the minimum for use with a 32 bit OS such as Windows XP or even Windows 7 32-bit. Memory is now so cheap and anything you can do to avoid using virtual memory (swapping to disk) will enhance your experience using the laptop. That implies that you can extend the working lifespan of the system.
Since I bought this system with 2 GB of memory I don’t really see any value in pushing it higher. At least not as long as it’s running XP. If my employer wants to push me into Windows 7 then a new laptop would seem the more prudent approach to that migration.
If you had a very small disk (say under 80 GB) you might consider upgrading that to something more capacious. These days I’m seeing 160 GB disks as baseline, and 500 GB as desirable. But even then disk size only matters of you really need it. Consider your use case for the machine in question.
There’s a limit to what I will spend to refresh an older system. In my mind that limit is about 25% of the cost of a new system. Even so, with a thorough cleaning, new battery and new keyboard my aging HP laptop is now a lot nicer than it was just a couple of weeks ago. It’ll go another 18 months without causing me frustration.
P.S. – some time ago I did mention that I was going to trend into a little more general technology topics, and not be so exclusively voip-centric. This kind of thing is what I meant.