Laptop computers come in a variety of configurations from the stripped down bare-bones models to the ultra-sophisticated portable work stations and deluxe gaming models. For the most part, you do not assemble a laptop in the physical sense. You can purchase a laptop in one of two ways: pre-configured off-the-shelf and customized or assembled online on the manufacturer’s website. Most laptop makers offer both selections. The either method allows you to add RAM and swap out the hard disk. Most important, decide what you will be using your new laptop for before purchasing.
Although purchasing a pre-configured laptop is sometimes considered somewhat limiting to seasoned computer users, it does have certain advantages. Pre-configured laptops are assembled and sold en mass after testing and evaluation. Many are generously discounted well below what they would cost if you purchase customized machines assembled online with similar components. Some come loaded with software that would otherwise have to be downloaded, installed and purchased in a customized setup.
Laptop Builds vs. Desktop Builds
When assembling a desktop you have a selection of several components not generally available in pre-configured off-the-shelf and customized laptops, and with the proper tools you can physically assemble the entire machine from the ground up. Components include the case, the power supply, the motherboard, the cooling system, the video and audio cards and various peripherals from the monitor, keyboard and mouse to RAID and multiple storage systems. When assembling and customizing a laptop online you generally have a limited selection of CPUs, a smaller amount and fewer types of RAM to choose from and smaller capacity, speed and type of storage available. Various add-ons like fingerprint readers, upgraded wireless LAN adapters and type of optical disk mechanisms are also available when assembling a laptop. But again, desktops commonly have a wider variety and selection available to them.
Customizing a Bare-Bones Laptop
The question most often asked when customizing your laptop is, “What are you using it for?” If you are using it to read and write emails, surf the web, create a term paper and update your Facebook page, then a basic bare-bones, off-the-shelf laptop with dual core processor, 2GB to 4GB of RAM and a 300 to 500GB 5400rpm hard disk drive should do the trick. If you are crunching numbers, you want an assembly with a quad core processor, 8 or more GBs of RAM and a 7200RPM HDD or an even faster solid state drive. If you work with photographic data or graphic design look for a customized laptop that offers an independent graphics card with a minimum 2GB of GRAM. If you are an engineer using computer-aided design systems or a gamer you are looking for the maximum amount of RAM, generally 32GB, with a six core CPU and a minimum 2 to 4GB of GRAM graphics processor.
If you are considering upgrading your own laptop, make sure you have a CPU worthy of the effort. Most laptop CPUs are hard-soldered to the motherboard and therefore not upgradable. If you do have a 64-bit quad core CPU, you can install Windows 7, 8 or 8.1, add up to 32GB of RAM and replace your HDD with an SSD. When adding RAM or replacing the hard drive, use a anti-static wrist band grounded to the nearest piece of base metal to avoid damaging the laptop's electronic components. If your Wi-Fi LAN adapter runs the slower 802.11a, 802.11b or 802.11g connection protocols, plug in a 802.11n USB3 dongle; no wrist band required for this upgrade. You can even configure a RAM disk to enjoy lightning-fast performance. Download a RAM Disk freeware program and put some of that extra RAM you installed to better use. Using an 8GB RAM Disk to load your Desktop or a word processor or graphics program occurs so quickly you will be amazed at your laptop’s performance.
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