Turn Your Ordinary Notebook into a Powerhouse

A few weeks ago, I was helping my dad clean out his garage of old unwanted stuff - you know computers, components, printers, scanners, fax machines, magazines - and I got sidetracked leafing through some of the 20-plus year old issues of some great magazines and comics.

The ad above grabbed my attention because first it had Mac in the headline and that's one of my favorite computer makers.

It offered to turn an out-of-shape person into someone people could respect and admire without totally replacing him.

It kind of reminded me of the issues we and other third-party, system upgrade/enhancement producers have in helping consumers extend and expand the use life of their Mac/PC notebooks and ultrabooks.

Lots of people have systems that are only one to three years old, are perfectly good for their work, are paid for but are like Mac in the ad - they don't have the muscle of the new sleek faster, more powerful portables that are introduced.

Like the bully in the ad, the new systems make your system look scrawny.

It wouldn't take much for your laptop computer to "get into shape."

Add some RAM, upgrade your hard drive; or better yet, swap it out with a solid state drive (SSD).

With a minimum investment, you can have a system that will pretty much stand up with the best of them.

SSD Benefits

The SSD will instantly deliver your projects to the screen the second you power up the computer. Because SSDs have no moving parts, they can be up to 92 times faster than hard drives.

An SSD also provides up to 100X greater data protection than even the highest rated enterprise- class HD.

With an SSD, you'll significantly reduce the weight of your go-anywhere computer.

The SSD runs cooler compared to a rotating hard drive which generates a considerable amount of heat.

Best of all, you can work a lot longer off the power grid because an SSD doesn't need power HDs' do to spin up, search, read/write or spin down disks.

In no time at all, you can have your notebook or ultrabook performing like the best new systems and will still have money left in your bank account.

Most people don't "make over" their computer because they visit the web site or check the system's paperwork and the manufacturer tells you in no uncertain terms - "You replace the hard drive or do anything 'under the hood' and you have committed a warranty violation."

Warranty Warnings - All system manufacturers have extensive warranties on their web sites that spell out what they will and won't cover, including the upgrading of your system's RAM and storage device. Most clearly state that consumers will void their warranty if they upgrade their system.

That's enough to make most timid consumer think twice about doing it!

Of course, if you look at the warranty language closely, it is often overly broad, making voiding a warranty almost unenforceable. What almost every manufacturer doesn't tell you is that there are consumer-protection laws that can supersede the warranty language.

Upgrade Protection

Consumer products are covered by the Magnuson-Moss warranty act, a federal law covering consumer warranties.

The law explicitly forbids requiring consumers to use parts and service tied to the product manufacturer.

If you read the FTC document, you will notice the explicit provisions prohibiting "tie-in" sales - which seem to cover aftermarket storage installed into a computer.

The FTC has precedence and consumer law protects customers on this. As long as the customer doesn't cause damage or there is evidence that a modification or addition is responsible for damage - there are no legal grounds to deny warranty.

Now your portable computer manufacturer may have a waiver from the FTC for its products - but it is doubtful.

Of course, if you search the manufacturer's site a little further you'll find their step-by-step guidelines for opening the system and adding RAM or replacing the HD.

For example, there are instructions from Apple on how to replace your hard drive without voiding the warranty.

Manufacturer Guidance - As you search further on the notebook/ultrabook web site, you'll find step-by-step guidelines how you can add memory and replace the storage device yourself.

Every computer manufacturer's website has similar dire warnings ... and assistance.

Naturally, Apple and other notebook/ultrabook manufacturers do everything reasonably possible to dissuade you from upgrading, enhancing your computer using solutions from reliable third-party manufacturers.

The company would first prefer that you buy a new sleek, next-generation notebook/ultrabook, rather than extend your present (paid for) system's life, performance and use with a third-party product (many of which they offer on their websites and in their stores).

Even with the guidelines the manufacturers provide as well as online upgrade videos, the upgrade should be undertaken with care.

Video How-To - Even for neophytes, adding memory and replacing/upgrading the storage device is a fast, easy process. Reputable third-party add-in/add-on manufacturers simplify the process by producing step-by-step videos to guide you through the complete upgrade/enhancement process in 15 to 30 minutes.

If the upgrade damaged the system, i.e., caused a broken connector or a damaged chip (which is extremely unlikely), then the company would be fully justified in charging for the repair.

For example, a number of manufacturers warn you in their how-to that you may break your HD cable when you do the HD or SSD installation. As a result, they provide instructions for replacing the cable; and even if their experts did the replacement you would be charged for the new cable.

You're Still Good

In either case, the warranty is not voided by updating your computer with added RAM and the SSD.

If you are like thousands of steady notebook/ultrabook users and feel technically challenged or uneasy about opening your portable system, ask a technical whiz friend to do the upgrade for you.

There are people who just love doing that sort of thing; and upgrading your system's HD with a rugged, high-speed SSD only takes about 15 to 30 minutes from the time you open the Figure 5

New Life - Instead of buying a completely new portable computer to take advantage of the speed, performance, energy/weight conservation of solid state drives, users can do the upgrade themselves and give their system a new lease on life. Source -- OWC

New Life - Instead of buying a completely new portable computer to take advantage of the speed, performance, energy/weight conservation of solid state drives, users can do the upgrade themselves and give their system a new lease on life.

Not a bad use of your time when you consider your system suddenly runs light years faster, runs cooler, runs longer and is even lighter to take with you.

Complete DIY Kits

There are complete SSD upgrade kits available with everything you need to complete the task in record time.

External HD cases are also available so you can recycle/repurpose your original drive as an external storage device. In that way, you can continue using the slower speed, possibly higher-capacity hard drive to store large files you want to have as reference or to work on from time to time.

As the ad said, it took a little time and work, but Charles Atlas made a man out of Mac. But in this case, almost all of the heavy lifting has been done for you. And with just a little bit of time (less than 15 minutes) for a memory and drive upgrade, what's old can run circles around even some of the very newest systems.

Just think what an SSD upgrade can do for your Mac or PC notebook/ultrabook. And with the money you saved by not buying the new computer, you can enjoy a holiday at the beach.


G. A. "Andy" Marken President Marken Communications, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. He has been a marketing an...

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