Different parts of the laptop hardware are responsible for the performance and your user experience on your computer. Some parts are easily upgrade-able. These are also called user serviceable.
Upgrade-able computer components
There are in general four main components you can upgrade in a computer. However in some laptops these upgrades are limited or much harder to execute.
- RAM memory ✔️
- CPU processor
- GPU graphics card
- Storage drive ✔️
It is rare to upgrade the CPU processor of your laptop. In some laptops it is doable and even part of the user serviceable components like the BTO notebooks. CPU processor in laptops are often the mobile version and these are also much harder to purchase on regular consumer market. When the housing of the laptop is fully glued or attached with clips it is also harder to disassembly.
For the graphics card is the same story. If a laptop has a dedicated GPU it is often soldered to the motherboard. The GPU’s compatible for laptop are also to hard to get in the consumer market. But again in BTO laptops Build-To-Order these parts actually easily replaceable but the mobile GPU card are quite hard to find.
What’s left for most laptops? It is the RAM memory and storage drive.
Upgrade RAM memory in laptop
Upgrading RAM memory in most laptops is terrible simple. Often there is a special cover you can remove at the bottom of your laptop. You have an option to add a RAM memory or replace the RAM memory.
Unfortunately there was a trend, might be initiated by Apple’s Macbook Air, where RAM memory was soldered on the motherboard. You’ll find these in some Ultrabooks from mid 20’s.
What does more RAM memory do for your user experience? If you don’t have enough RAM memory (that is mostly less than 4GB). You’ll experience performance issues. When the RAM is full, it uses your slower read/access storage drive. Games with lag and stutter, browsing with load slow and sometimes applications will hang or lock. You can check your task manager if your memory is the culprit.
If your computer feels slow in general but your RAM memory is fine you might check your storage drive perfomance.
Upgrade to a faster storage drive, SSD.
When do you upgrade your storage? Maybe when it is almost full and you need to free up space every time. Or your computer is running slow. But how does a storage drive impacts performance?
Every time you start Windows, an application or open up a file. Your computer needs to find, access and read the source. In a mechanical hard drive there magnetic discs turning really fast, and there is a header reading all the stored information. A 7200RPM hard drive performance faster than a 5400RPM hard drive. There are two things that affects the performance: access time (time to actually retrieve and gain access to the source) and transfer time (read/write from the source).
Because of the mechanical limitation most hard drives have a hard time surpass the 200MB/s read transfer time. While they have a SATA3 controller which allows the computer to read at 600MB/s. How does this translate in real life? In general a large file (like a movie) will transfer a lot faster from one location to the other. Does this affect user experience a lot?
In most cases transfer time has a limited benefit to the user experience. It is very useful if you are a professional video editor and working with large files but most casual users do not encounter these situations a lot.
The part that really affects performance is access time. It affects the speed op booting up Windows, starting application and opening up files. A shorter access times makes everything feels more instant and therefore it benefits the user experience a lot while theoretically your computer might not be the fastest.
Solid Stated Drives or SSD are superior when it comes to access time in comparison to HDD. If you are still running a HDD it is a no-brainer to upgrade to a SSD. It removes the weakest link in the performance story of your computer.
What are the downsides? They used to be expensive. Between 100 – 130 euro you can purchase a 1000TB SSD drive. Nowadays most new laptops come standard with a SSD.