Upgrade your notebook to Vista

Upgrade your notebook to Vista

Health warning


Hard disk

Optical drive

Connections & ports

The processor


The screen

If you’ve just read the headlines, you might believe that only the very latest computers could run Windows Vista. The Green Party jumped on the Vista-slamming bandwagon by declaring, “Future archaeologists will be able to identify a ‘Vista Upgrade Layer’ when they go through our landfill sites.” It’s a nice sound bite, but a huge exaggeration.

We don’t dispute that Vista is a hugely demanding operating system. Although your notebook may have a fast enough processor – 800MHz is the minimum speed required – you’re likely to be much happier if you upgrade the memory to 1GB. Vista consumes swathes of hard disk space too. And, if you want to take advantage of all those swish graphics effects, you’ll need a relatively modern graphics card.

As we discuss later in this feature, there isn’t much you can do when it comes to graphics. Fortunately, however, the swish video effects aren’t the most important part of Vista, and many people will live quite happily without semi-transparent window edges and live previews of their windows when they hover the mouse over the toolbar.

What you can do is upgrade your memory, optical drive and hard disk (and even continue using the old hard disk in an external drive), plus add faster wireless, USB, FireWire and even phone capabilities. If you want to be more radical, you could replace your screen and processor too.

Here, we not only show you how to perform these upgrades, but also cover exactly how much of a speed boost you can expect to see.

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There’s always a caveat or two when upgrading a computer, and we’d be remiss not to mention the risks involved before inviting one and all to rip the guts out of their machine.

The internals of notebooks are much less tolerant to abuse than their desktop counterparts, and are a lot easier to damage as you poke around inside. As long as you follow a few simple rules, however, your notebook should survive the experience.

Cut the power – Make sure all power to your notebook is cut before carrying out any upgrade work. Turn it off, then pull the plug and remove the battery to make sure you don’t turn it on by accident while working on it.

Firm but fair – Never force any part of a notebook’s case – the plastics tend to be thin and are easy to break. If a panel doesn’t come free the first time you try it, there’s probably a very good reason for this. Look for screws you may have missed and try levering things apart gently with a thin, flat-bladed screwdriver instead of wrenching them off with your fingers.

Stay grounded – Ground yourself by wearing an anti-static wrist strap (or by touching a metal object) before you start to work on the innards of your notebook.

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