Sep 24

Get more life out of your laptop – hardware edition. Pt 1

Cheap ways to improve your PC

Upgrade your machine cheaply rather than buying a new one

So, if you’ve followed the first steps and your PC is running a bit better. But you still need a bit more ‘oomph’.  To continue with the race car analogy, we are now tinkering with the engine.

So what is the cheapest way to get better hardware performance? We’re going to look at RAM here, and your hard drive in the next part.


  1. Do a full back up! Including the OS. Essential for a hard drive replacement, but also important for a RAM replacement, as there is a small chance, very small, that something will go wrong. It’s never happened to me, but better safe than sorry.
  2. Switch off, unplug from the mains, and remove the battery.
  3. Find the online manual for your machine for a guide to opening your machine.
  4. Technically it’s quite simple. PC cases are easy to open, laptops a little bit trickier, but it’s still worth getting someone you trust to do it if you’re unsure. Remember, tap your screwdriver or any other metal tool against something metal to get rid of any static charge first.
  5. To keep screws in place, get two pieces of cardboard, at least half the size of the laptop. Each screw you remove push into the corresponding position onto the piece of cardboard. Use the second piece for any internal parts you need to remove.


So what is RAM? Random Access Memory – this is the ‘short-term memory’ of your machine, and dictates how many processes it can cope with at once. Increasing the RAM will give your PC an immediate boost, and you should notice an immediate improvement in how smoothly it runs.

The first thing you need to do is check how much RAM you have at the moment.

Right click on the ‘My Computer’ icon, and select properties. Under the ‘System’ information you should see ‘Installed memory’. Make a note of how much RAM you currently have.

Next, you need to see what type of RAM you have. The differences are not that important at this stage, but its most likely DDR3. What is important is that you get the right type. You will likely be able to find this information online in the product specification (make sure you use the exact model number/designation!) or in the information supplied with the machine. You can open the machine and actually look at the RAM – it should be labelled.

The last option is to use a bit of (free, of course this is CharityLabs!) software such as this.

Whichever way you find it, you should also be able to find the number of slots for RAM your machine has.

You’ll hopefully have two slots. If it’s only one, then you need to find out what the maximum RAM your machine can take. Aim for at least 4GB.

If you have two slots, and only one is full, you can get higher RAM for both slots. Make sure they are both the same make and the same capacity. Otherwise they won’t work properly.

  • Cost: approx. £30 – £60
  • Difficulty: 2.5/5

So that’s RAM, the cheapest way to upgrade your PC’s hardware!

And you can buy it quickly and easily here, from Amazon.

Come back in a few days and we’ll talk about your hard drive.