No matter how fast and shiny your laptop was when you first bought it, time takes its toll. Your laptop is now dirtier, hotter, slower and less effective than is was on day one. Here’s how to give your laptop an extreme makeover and bring it back to (or at least closer to) its former glory.
How to Use This Guide: Everyone’s laptop is different, especially when it comes to opening the machine up for cleaning, repairs or upgrades. This guide is a starting point, demonstrating solutions to common problems and explaining the ease or difficulty of those fixes. For demonstration purposes, I’m refurbishing a 2007 white MacBook, but most of these processes should work with any laptop — Mac, Windows or otherwise.
When you’re attempting a laptop fix, having the specific model for your machine is extremely helpful. If you have a Windows PC and have misplaced the original, check your manufacturer’s web site — many have full service manuals available (check the support section). Alternatively, do some quick Googling: usually something along the lines of
Acer Aspire One ao32h repair guide will dig out copies of the manual. If you have a Mac, iFixit has just about everything you’ll need, with fantastic step-by-step instructions for getting to any component inside your machine.
The Easy Stuff: Cleaning the Outside
Remove Grime with a magic eraseris the magic erasersurprised how much dirt you can remove
Clean The Keyboard With Compressed Airour guide to cleaning your keyboard
Wipe Your Monitor Down With White Vinegar: For your monitor, you can use a soft cloth and some white vinegar. That should get the dirt, fingerprints and other gross smudges off the screen.
None of these tricks will make your computer run any faster or cooler, but it will definitely feel less ancient when you’re done.
Boost Your Laptop’s Speed With Hardware Upgrades
If you really want to give your laptop a performance boost, upgrade its hardware. It may cost you a bit of money, but it’s often cheaper than buying a new laptop. You can’t easily upgrade the processor or video card, but the RAM and hard drive are ripe for improvement.
Boost Your Multitasking Powers With More RAMa great online toolour guide to performing a RAM upgrade
Launch Apps And Boot Up Faster With A New Hard Drive
reallyour complete guide to solid-state drives to learn morestep-by-step installation tips
Cleaning The Inside
If you’ve owned your laptop for a while, chances are it runs a little bit hotter than it used to, causing the fan seems to blow loudly all the time. Over the years, your laptop can build up a lot of dust and dirt on the inside, which means more heat, worse performance and a shorter lifespan for the machine. The best way to fix this problem is to clean that dust out yourself.
With older machines, this usually isn’t enough; you’ll need to get inside your computer for the best results. To do this, you’ll have to open up your laptop. That sounds scary, but for most laptops, all it requires is loosening a bunch of screws and lifting your keyboard off the top.
This is where you’ll want to consult that service manual we talked about earlier. It will let you know exactly what screws you need to take out, and in what order. I recommend using a magnetic screwdriver and grabbing a piece of paper to keep track of where each screw goes, as shown in the picture. This will help keep you from losing screws inside your laptop, and make it easier to remember where they go when it comes time to close the machine back up. You may have to also unplug one or two cords or ribbons in the process; just be very careful and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Once you’ve removed the top case from your laptop, take your can of compressed air, step outside, and blow as much dust out of your laptop as you can, paying particularly close attention to the fan and the vents on the back and bottom of your laptop. Cotton swabs can also be helpful for getting into hard-to-reach places. You cleaning doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect; concentrate on removing the biggest dust accumulations and you should be OK. Check the image above to see the kind of progress I made. This cleaning will not only keep your lap from overheating, but can also fix quirks caused by overheating such as random shutdowns and overly loud fans.
For Adventurous Users Only: Fixing Specific Parts
The preceding fixes are fairly simple, and can help solve a lot of your problems. But if your trackpad, your screen, your laptop’s hinge or something else is on the fritz, your repair may require a bit more work. Here are some common ailments and a brief outline of what fixing them will entail.
Buggy or Broken Trackpadsan external mouse
Broken Screens And Loose Hinges
If your hinge is loose, you might be able to get by just by tightening its screws. Iif all else fails, you can grab an external monitor and turn it into a space-efficient desktop computer.[clear]
Dying Wi-Fi Cards And Other Parts
Maintenance and Software Fixes to Speed Everything Up
Lastly, we’ve recommended a lot of software tweaks, maintenance tasks, and other tricks for speeding up an old computer over the years. Here are some of our best guides, which should help you make the most of your shiny, newly-made-over computer: