Extending the life of an old laptop

By Peter Hartfield - Oaktree Services

There may be some old equipment lying around the home or office that can be made useful again with a small investment. If the intended use doesn’t require much processing, such as browsing the web, reading email or simple word processing an old laptop may be the ideal choice to upgrade.

I had an old Toshiba Satellite L630 spare that I decided to repurpose as a logging computer to use on amateur radio field days. This saves me using my primary laptop in a harsh environment where it could be easily damaged. The L630 comes equipped with an Intel i5 processor, Windows 7 home premium, 4 GB RAM and 640 GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD).

The performance of a laptop can depend on several key factors such as processor (type, speed), memory (type, quantity, speed), and disk (type, size, speed). In this instance, changing the disk drive from an HDD to an SSD (Solid State Drive) will provide a noticeable improvement in performance. Since I only wanted to use the laptop for a specific purpose, I chose a small replacement drive of 120 GB (a Samsung 840 EVO 2.5” SSD 120 GB SATA 6 Gb/s). The original drive was a Toshiba 2.5” HDD 640 GB SATA 3 Gb/s.

The very first thing you must do to prevent data loss is to make an image or backup of the original disk. In my case, I already had a backup and I intended to preserve the disk (i.e. not re-use it) in case it was needed later. So given the laptop was running Windows 7, I downloaded a Windows 10 image from Microsoft and proceeded to build a clean installation on the disk. At the time this was done, the Windows 7 OEM licence key on the underside of the laptop could be used to activate the Windows 10 install (I’m not sure if this is still the case).

If the laptop is one that has been in use for a while, it’s likely that it would have been upgraded to Windows 10 at some point. In this case I recommend that the latest updates are installed before attempting to clone the disk. If the new SSD is of bigger capacity than the old HDD, the easiest way to image the new disk is to clone it (using either software or a dual disk docking station with a cloning function).

Once the operating system has been installed or the disk fully cloned, it can be easily installed in the laptop and powered up. Assuming everything went well, you should now have a fully functional laptop running Windows 10 with all your data on the disk where it was before.

The other issue I had with this laptop was that the battery discharge time was getting too small and the power adaptor had seen better days. I managed to find a replacement battery on-line from a local retailer at a reasonable price. You will find replacement or generic power adaptors in most good electronics stores. Make sure you find one with the correct voltage (in my case the Toshiba, and most other laptops these days require 19 V). The one I purchased was a universal one with switchable voltage, interchangeable plugs, and two USB outlets that can be used for charging phones or tablets.