personal technology

The Tale of the Laptop Update

So, I am attempting to fix and update my 2011 Dell Inspiron laptop, codename FIRGADOR, The Ceaseless Reverberance. It’s a nice little laptop, works alright as-is, but with two glaring issues: 1) the battery does not charge/is dead, and 2) it has an HDD instead of an SSD, so it’s slow as hell. (Also, 3) only 6gb of 1333 Mhz DDR3 RAM, which I’d like to upgrade to 8gb 1600 Mhz, but that’s for another time.) This whole debacle started because of my dad. Or, moreover, because he’s sick and I’d like to see him. I have two laptops, this Dell and an Acer Chromebook that is even slower than my Dell laptop and has the ChromeOS thing, which is fine except I want to have a laptop that I can use for work purposes, on the off chance that I have to remain in Idaho for an extended period of time.

I thought briefly about buying a new laptop, but decided I didn’t want to dig further debt into my Best Buy credit card. Thus, this project.

The biggest problem is the charging issue. One day, several years ago, the laptop just stopped charging. For the life of me, I could not figure out why. I think it’s ultimately just a battery issue, due to a recent battery test. That is, I just think the battery stopped holding a charge for some reason. I didn’t think it was this at the time, because the laptop was still new enough that I couldn’t imagine that the battery would die like that. But I have scoured the internet for answers, mostly to discover that many, many other people have had this same problem and nobody has a definitive answer. Bad adapter? Bad battery? Loose AC connection? Central pin broken/bent? Etc etc etc. I’m working with the simplest answer (the battery is broke) is the best.

Eventually the battery drained to 0% and since then it has not charged. In fact, until recently I couldn’t even get the damn thing to power on with AC power, but then, in my attempt to find a laptop for travel, I plugged it in a couple days and it actually started. A good start!

Then came around EIGHT HOURS of installing updates, including a grueling Windows 7-to-Windows 10 upgrade which took almost all night. This is completely the HDD’s fault. It is slow as hell. It was slow as hell ten years ago. My idea was to get it fully updated and then create a system image, which I would transfer over to an SSD I pulled from my home theater PC (which, by the way, I barely use anymore because Big TV does pretty much whatever I need) to boost the computer speed by a significant amount. I knew the process would be slow but I didn’t think it would be eight hours. And that was last night; I’m still installing updates this morning!

The next issue is that while it’s easy to upgrade the RAM on this thing, installing a new hard drive requires me to take the entire thing apart. I can do that! I already did it last night, after watching a YouTube video of someone else doing it (side note: there are tech YouTube videos of EVERYTHING) to check and see if the AC adapter connection was in fact working properly. (I think it is.) It’s a pain in the ass but it’s also, ultimately, just about unscrewing stuff and removing cables. I am about to do this now so I will let you know how it went in the next paragraph.

I did it! I took everything apart and then swapped the SSD in and put it all together and it still works. I am now in the process of reinstalling Windows 10 so I can install my system image because it won’t let me do it from my external hard drive.

UPDATE: I didn’t even have to do that! I didn’t have to do ANY of the updates, I could’ve just installed Windows onto the SSD, because it recognized my laptop and activated my copy anyway because of the internet and stuff. I wasted all these hours! Aaaaaagggghhhhh

Anyway, SSDs are amazing. Completely upgraded the speed on this laptop. It’s certainly not as fast as my desktop PC, but it’s not a sluggish beast either. Windows 10 works fine on it, though Dell does not have any drivers for Windows 10, which has made software upgrades a little weird. I’m pretty sure Windows is doing it all for me, save for a couple of things (like Dell Touchpad, which makes it so I can actually use all the little fiddly gestures and stuff for the touchpad).

I forgot this but the Inspiron back cover can be removed and replaced with a more artsy one, so I’ll add “buy a new cool back cover” to my list of things to do as well.

Technology. Ain’t it grand?