8 min

How to Upgrade Your Laptop

Upgrading a laptop is fairly easy, and anyone can do it with the right information and practice. Here’s everything you need to know about how to upgrade your laptop.

CDW Expert CDW Expert

Laptops are an excellent solution for working from home or for times when you just can't make it into the office. Unfortunately, sometimes laptops are severely limited due to their small form factors and portability. Upgrades, however, make it possible to turn your laptop into a powerhouse PC or to increase its lifespan significantly. By swapping out a few components, you can have a noticeable positive effect on how your laptop performs. Upgrading a laptop is easy, and anyone can do it with the right information and practice. Here’s everything you need to know about how to upgrade your laptop.

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What is an Upgrade?

Over time, computers can slow down, or specific pieces of hardware can begin to fail. Luckily, all computers, even laptops, are modifiable. By swapping out certain components, you can increase your PC's lifespan or capabilities. Any time you are replacing a part so that your laptop operates more efficiently, you can consider that action an upgrade.

Primarily, upgrades will consist of swapping out hardware for more powerful components, but software such as operating systems can also be upgraded. The most important aspect of a laptop upgrade is that it positively affects how the computer operates after being installed.

What Can You Upgrade in a Laptop?

While laptops are less upgradeable than desktops, there are still some changes you can make that will have a significant effect on your laptop's performance. Although you cannot upgrade the CPU on a laptop, there are other components you can still replace. By adding a stick of RAM or swapping from an HDD to an SSD, for instance, you can make your machine much more enjoyable to work on and drastically increase its lifespan.

Here are just a few of the possible upgrades you could add to your laptop:

Laptop RAM

Random Access Memory, or RAM, is like the workspace of your computer. Anything you are actively working on will be stored in your system's RAM. If you need to multitask or run multiple resource-intensive programs, you will also need a significant amount of memory. 

There are two primary specifications used when discussing RAM: size and form factor. Making sure you get the correct type for both of these specs is important when upgrading your laptop.

  • Form Factor. Laptops use SODIMM RAM, which is a smaller form factor than desktop memory, but can be just as powerful.
  • Size. The next most important specification to pay attention to is the RAM size you are adding to your laptop. Most workplace machines can operate with 8GB and can be upgraded to 16GB, if necessary. More RAM may be needed in some extreme cases, but that is typically reserved for high-end video editing or other specific industries.

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Laptop Storage

The most significant change you can make to your laptop in terms of performance is upgrading your storage. Storage for laptops can either be on 2.5" spinning magnetic disc hard drives (HDD) or solid-state drives (SSD) of various sizes. HDDs are much more affordable and often come in larger sizes, but are much slower and at a higher risk of failure. Solid-state drives are incredibly consistent and exponentially faster than their spinning disc counterparts. When purchasing storage upgrades for your laptop, make sure you get the proper size hard drive for your machine. Desktop hard drives do not fit into laptops, so make sure your upgrade is a 2.5" SSD or another type supported by your laptop's form factor.

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Laptop OS

Besides hardware, the most significant upgrade you can make to your laptop is updating the operating system. Usually, easy-to-use tools are released with new operating systems that help make the switch easy and risk-free. When checking to see if you should update your OS, you should look at the most common software you use and see what operating system works best with it. Future software and services also may have issues running on older operating systems, so it is best to stay current on updates no matter which OS you prefer.

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How to Upgrade Your Laptop

The most challenging part of upgrading your laptop will be installing the new component or operating system. Learning all you can about the upgrade and installing it will help relieve the stress of working on your system. Remember to always fully power down your laptop before disassembling it and to thoroughly read and understand any instructions that may come with your upgrade. Below, you can find basic explanations of how to perform each upgrade on your laptop and some common issues you may experience when doing so.


Upgrading your RAM is relatively easy once you have the correct replacement part. You only need to remove the old memory and slot the new RAM into its place. Once you remove the back cover of your laptop, you should be able to easily see where the RAM is installed. Unclasp the metal arms to release the RAM and pull gently to remove it. Once the new RAM is inserted, the two metal arms will snap back into place. If you do not seat the RAM properly, your laptop may fail to turn back on. That's ok. Just double-check to make sure both sticks are fully inserted into the RAM slots and try again.


Like with RAM, to upgrade your storage drive, you will need to remove the back panel of your laptop. Once disassembled, you should be able to see where your old drive was connected. Carefully remove the SATA connections from the old drive and attach them to your new drive before screwing it into place. The only obstacle you may run into is transferring data from the old device to the new drive, but that can easily be handled with the help of cloud-based storage solutions or other third-party software. A good practice is to back up your data before upgrading storage in case of any potential data loss.


To upgrade your operating system, you will need what is called an installation tool. This can be a disc or USB flash drive that has the new operating system and installation tools on it. Typically, when you purchase a new OS, you will get an installation tool with it, or you can find one for free on the internet. Before starting an OS upgrade, it is always recommended to create a data backup so that if you lose any data, you can easily restore it to your laptop. By following all prompts and using installation tools, you should be able to easily upgrade your laptop's operating system.

Benefits of Laptop Upgrades

No matter how large or small the upgrade you make to your laptop is, you will see some kind of benefit. Even affordable upgrades, such as adding a stick of RAM can provide noticeable improvements to how your computer operates. Taking the time to see where you need your laptop to improve can help to determine which upgrade is the right choice for you.  To better help you understand what upgrades you may want, you can read below to find a list of the many benefits associated with different laptop component upgrades. 


While increasing RAM may be one of the more affordable upgrades, it is not the most noticeable. Adding memory to your machine can help it to function more efficiently when multitasking. However, it will not increase the actual speed at which your computer operates. You can expect files within programs to load more quickly, but ultimately the speed at which your laptop moves data will be limited by your storage solution. When used in combination with a storage upgrade, adding RAM can be much more efficient.


Swapping to an SSD will feel like night and day when using your laptop. Without a doubt, it is the most significant upgrade you can make. Transferring files will be incredibly fast, and all programs will open much quicker. One of the easiest ways to see a noticeable upgrade in your laptop's performance is to have your operating system installed on a solid-state drive. This will greatly reduce start-up times and aid in your machine's overall performance. 


While less common than the other types of upgrades, updating your operating system can have just as substantial of an effect as any of the others. New programs may require specific versions of an OS, and updating your laptop may be the only way to access that software. As operating systems receive updates, they will also get more efficient in terms of how they utilize resources, which can assist with optimizing your workflow. Whether it is a fresh OS install or regular patches, ensuring your OS is up to date is key to getting the most out of your laptop. 


Their small form factor makes laptops ideal for remote work, but can also make them weaker in computing power when compared to their desktop counterparts. Upgrading your laptop can help make it a more viable long-term solution and increase its overall performance. Installing these upgrades yourself is surprisingly easy and affordable. Small changes like added RAM or OS updates can have noticeable improvements, and larger-scale upgrades can make using your laptop much more comfortable. No matter what you choose to upgrade, remember to take your time understanding the installation and make sure you feel comfortable doing the work.