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Laptops present a special challenge for upgrades and repairs. This is partly due to complexity, but also because the repair or upgrade may not make financial sense.

When starting out I usually recommend you start with desktops. Laptops make everything a little more difficult. There are exceptions and I’ll talk about them below.

With desktops you can usually see everything. Take off the case sides or top and you have access to all the components. With laptops just getting the case open can be a challenge, and you might even break something in the process!

Even if you are not afraid to venture into the guts of a laptop you need to keep your valuable time in mind. This is especially true in a business where time is money both for you and your customer Even with experience a change that takes 20 minutes on a tower might take two or three times as long on a laptop, even if everything goes well.

What Repairs and Upgrades are not Advisable on a Laptop?
I would consider motherboard and processor changes to not make sense. Laptops often use proprietary motherboards that are expensive, and by the time you add labor costs a replacement doesn’t make financial sense. There may be others that disagree with me, but that has been my experience. I did a quick search on Newegg (my favorite parts supplier,) and I saw no “universal” motherboards and a limited selection of brand specific motherboards.

What Repairs and Upgrades are Questionable?
I would think screen replacement is questionable. This is obviously a repair, rather than an upgrade. If someone breaks the screen on an expensive and very new laptop it may pay. There are some experienced technicians that do screen replacements, but for many the delicate work required is a little too much! Many are connected by delicate ribbon cables that are easily breakable for anyone not quite experienced.

So, What Can You Do With Laptops?

Software Issues

Many computer problems are software related and can be addressed. I would include reloading a problem plagued Windows installation, or virus and malware issues in this group. In either case make sure a backup of everything important is available.

Adding Memory
Most laptops have two or more memory slots. You need to check the manual or search online for the specific model to check the type of memory and location of the memory compartment on the bottom of the laptop. Sometimes you can just add a memory module and sometimes you need to swap out what is there for a larger module.

Upgrading the Hard Drive
Most modern laptops have a SATA interface that will allow you to replace a hard drive with a larger unit or even add a Solid State Drive. Again, you need to check the manual or online for the specific laptop model to find the location for the drive compartment on the laptop.

Wireless or Ethernet Issues
This again falls more under the category of repair, but a non-working WiFi or Ethernet port can be bypassed with an inexpensive USB alternative.

Other Fixes
Research reveals other fixes that seem doable. Power supply cords and the power supplies themselves go bad and can be replaced. Cooling issues can sometimes be solved by just blowing out the dust with a compressed air can. Bad fans can sometimes be replaced if you can find a replacement online (and can get at the fan.) Cracked cases can also sometimes be repaired with epoxy putty.

So the bottom line is I recommend you start with desktops and then slowly venture into laptops – preferably starting with old ones!