How to upgrade your slow laptop

The Big Issue has teamed up with The Restart Project to teach the nation how to fix up their stuff. This week we're focusing on speeding up those Zoom calls and ending work from home woes with a laptop masterclass

Many of us are digging out old laptops from cupboards for work, play or home education. Older laptops can be frustratingly sluggish, but they can be reborn with a simple upgrade of the drive. Hard disk drives used to be standard, and are much slower because they involve a spinning disk. Solid-state drives (SSD) are essentially like big USB sticks. They provide storage with no moving parts and will speed up your machine. They are now really affordable – a £30 investment can bring new life to an old laptop.

YOU WILL NEED

  • A new SSD drive (see step 1)
  • Screwdrivers for different sizes of screws
  • Pillcase or egg carton to hold screws

OPTIONAL:

  • Key to your original Windows licence (not needed if you “clone” or use Linux)
  • SATA-USB cable (if you’d like to “clone” your old drive)
  • Docking station or caddy to use your old hard disk drive for back-ups
DID YOU KNOW…

If you pay for the magazine you should always take it. Vendors are working for a hand up, not a handout.

Step one: Order the right drive. You need to get an SSD of the right size and with the right connector. You can usually find this information in the specifications for your computer. (Most modern laptops, from 2008- 9 onwards, need a 2.5in SATA SSD.)

Optional step: If you’d like a copy of your old drive, download software to “clone” (most SSD manufacturers provide this), connect your new SSD with the SATA-USB cable and go through the process.

Step two: Find instructions about removing the hard drive from your make/model of laptop. Always start by unplugging and removing the battery to your laptop.

Step three: Open up your computer using the correct screwdriver bit.

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Step four: Discharge any static electricity on yourself by simply touching a metal, unpainted surface inside the machine.

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Step five: Once you’ve located the drive area, find and remove the case (or caddy) holding the drive. Keep these screws separate.

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Step six: Next remove the screws connecting the drive from the caddy, then switch out the hard drive with your new SSD, and the connector in the same orientation as the old one.

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Step seven: Use the same screws to connect the drive to the caddy. And then the remaining screws to connect the caddy and drive to the laptop.

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Step eight: If you didn’t clone the old drive, you will need to install a copy of your OS. If you don’t have a copy of Windows 10, you can create a USB stick to install it on the new drive. (Our tip: search for a free, legal upgrade, one still exists.)

If you need repair tips for anything with a battery or a plug, The Restart Project can help on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook

Got a knackered old games controller? Check our handy Fix It guide here