Upgrade laptop parts or sell while it's worth something?

what to do?

  • get out while the getting's good

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • freshen up and hold on

    Votes: 1 100.0%

  • Total voters
    1

deacon

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I have a Dell XPS 9550 with a 6th gen i5. For a long time it was my daily driver work computer for professional CAD and 3D Modeling, as well as my (hobby) photo and video machine. As my projects scaled up, the performance became a hindrance, so I assembled a decent desktop workstation with choice components. The laptop pretty much got shelved.

Now with Covid and remote schooling, I find myself needing the laptop more and more. It feels even more sluggish, the battery is shot, and the ssd is maxed out.

Is it worth the price to upgrade the RAM, battery, and HD (about $300-$350)? I'm thinking fresh parts and a clean windows install will breath some new life into it, and it's a pretty decent laptop otherwise.

On the other hand, I can still probably fetch a few hundred for it on ebay, and put that money + the parts money towards a new laptop. There are some sub $800 Ryzen 4000 laptops that will run circles around this processor, along with all the other advantages of a new device.

What do you think? Be responsible, curb some e-waste for a little while, and save a little money? Or unload it while I can and get something that does more of what I need and will likely last a lot longer?

Thanks!
 
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I am not a Windows laptop expert, but IMHO, if a system is three or more years old, a newer system is going to have a substantially upgraded motherboard and components, and it makes more sense for you to buy new than try to upgrade an old chassis. I think you'd be better served selling your old system for what you can get and look at newer ones. Especially for a power user.

That being said, I have 7 and 8 year old MacBook Airs that still work fine after I replaced their old batteries and upgraded the SSD storage in one of them. Not using them for demanding applications, of course, but for general purpose work, these old systems still do the job.
 
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John King

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I'm still using a 17 y.o. IBM laptop when I travel. It runs PS CS5 under WinXP Pro OK.

Old equipment can still function perfectly well. Just don't get caught up in the dreaded cycle of our throwaway society. It's not very good for our planet!

My main PC workstation is 10 y.o., but significantly upgraded.
 

Darmok N Jalad

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My desktop is a 2012 Mac mini—I managed to score a used i7 (4C/8T) model for cheap earlier this year. I upgraded the spinning rust drive to an SSD, and bumped the RAM to 8GB, and it’s more than good enough for its purpose. It won’t get the update to Big Sur, at least not officially (there are already hacks in the works).

My point is, if the machine is still serving you well, you can try pumping a little more life into it. It would help to know the specs. When you say the SSD is maxed out, do you just mean full? How old of an SSD is it? The really old SSDs were faster than HDDs, but they are much slower than today’s SSDs, even the SATA ones. Today, you can get 400MB/s r/w or more out of a SATA SSD, where the earlier models were lucky to pull 200MB/s r/w, so an upgrade will really feel a lot faster. Plus if the drive is full, it’s probably wearing down hard. SSDs need some free space to do garbage collection, which helps maintain the drive and performance. A clean install of Windows can also be of help, or you could do Linux.

@John King — Still running XP pro? How do you manage security on it?
 

threeOh

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The biggest bang for your buck in upgrading laptops is an ssd. You’re already there. So if any life is breathed into it it will be because of a new Windows install. At least for a while. I’d sell it. Thats from a Mac user.
 

WT21

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Above replies are good food for thought. I don’t know what your budget appetite is overall, but I find that if I start upgrading parts, then I’ll be chasing that for 3 years, and will be wondering if I should have made a move. If I bit the bullet and max upgrade, I get 3-5 years of no worries. But it’s usually cheaper to upgrade components - so do you have more money or more time, and decide what you have more or less of? (More time than money - upgrade what you got. More money than time. Buy something new, but stretch the budget to give you longer trouble free
Period)
 

John King

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When I buy/build a computer, I look at a minimum of 5 years useful life with no upgrades. At that point, the decisions I originally made WRT upgradeable components comes into play. I've usually over-specified memory slots, hdd/ssd slots and connections and expansion slots.

This is why I could upgrade these (now) 10 y.o. boxes so that they will serve perfectly well for at least another 3 years. Their first upgrade occurred at 8 y.o. i.e 2 years ago.
 

Saledolce

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There is many details you are not providing, so it's hard to give advice. As a general strategy, I would max it out first and think about an upgrade only later. But this also depends on the % of improvement you could get over what you currently have.

One example: if a machine has mechanical hd, upgrading to SSD brings a lot of improvement and is almost always a good way to extend a laptop life. That's not your case, maybe you could pick an higher read/write speed model but you will mostly get more storage space. It may make a difference or not, do you need more storage space on that machine? do you have a NAS at home?

Ram: if you have 4Gb and the machine can be upgraded to 16gb (you didn't mention this in your post), that's another substantial improvement. Especially when multitasking, the difference would be visible.

OS: of course a clean Win install will make a lot of difference (even with no updates) someone above also suggested switching to Linux. I have no idea if that could be an option depending on the type of applications you need to run. 16Gb and Linux could completely change the game.

Battery: if this machine has an easy to replace battery (you can do it yourself), I'd replace it. Otherwise since you mention Covid and home schooling, you could just plug it and use it plugged. I have 3 laptops at home, since the pandemic started two of them are permanently plugged and playing a "deskop role" making their batteries totally irrelevant.....
 

Mike Wingate

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Sell. Upgrade to a new model, smaller, lighter, better battery. New OS. More RAM for the future, 32 gb, separate graphics card. Some new features. A warranty.
 

ac12

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Another issue, if you upgrade the components, the laptop is useless until it is completely rebuilt.
If you can use the desktop in that interim, it is OK.

IMHO, you need to look HARD at the laptop, and determine if it will even be acceptable once you upgrade it.
Example, I have a Thinkpad T61, which I upgraded from a HD to a SSD, and maxed the RAM.
But there are no Win10 drivers for it. So upgrading it from Win7 to Win10 may be an issue.
The issue here is software sometimes follows the OS. When MS drops support for the Win version, so do some of the SW vendors for their products.​
Photo editing on it is painfully SLOW.
But it is just fine for Word and Excel work.
And it chokes on the amount of graphics on today's internet web pages. So web surfing is often slow.

A zero cost test, is to simply blow out the SSD and do a fresh install of Win10, and see if it behaves any faster.
If you are processor bound, more RAM won't buy you much improvement.
If you check your resource usage and are using 90+% of the memory, then you could be memory bound, and more RAM might get the system moving faster.

gud luk
 

deacon

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Thanks for the responses everyone. FWIW, it’s not an ancient laptop. It’s got an i5 6600, a discrete gpu (960 gtx), 8gb of ram, 150gb SATA ssd + a 1tb hd. I’d bump up to a 1tb nvme drive, lose the 2.5” for a bigger new battery, and get 16gb of ram.

I hit the ceiling on memory when I’ve got a few of my big programs open. The extra storage is nice, but I have to choose which programs are installled on the fast drive now. The battery is at about 60% capacity.

Just the battery and a new ssd with fresh windows would probably make huge difference alone.

It’s ultimately a value call. What’s needed vs what’s wanted. I’m still wondering what the tipping point is in resale value for an older but reasonably current laptop is.

thanks everyone!
 

John M Flores

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Thanks for the responses everyone. FWIW, it’s not an ancient laptop. It’s got an i5 6600, a discrete gpu (960 gtx), 8gb of ram, 150gb SATA ssd + a 1tb hd. I’d bump up to a 1tb nvme drive, lose the 2.5” for a bigger new battery, and get 16gb of ram.

I hit the ceiling on memory when I’ve got a few of my big programs open. The extra storage is nice, but I have to choose which programs are installled on the fast drive now. The battery is at about 60% capacity.

Just the battery and a new ssd with fresh windows would probably make huge difference alone.

It’s ultimately a value call. What’s needed vs what’s wanted. I’m still wondering what the tipping point is in resale value for an older but reasonably current laptop is.

thanks everyone!

What's the Task Manager saying about your resources as you edit photos now? Much like camera sensors, the improvements in CPUs over the last several years has been incremental, not revolutionary. If your current CPU isn't too taxed when editing, then perhaps the upgrades to RAM and HD are worthwhile, but if your CPU is pinned at 99% then the upgrades might not be worth it and you might want to look at a new laptop with more CPU cores.
 

Tentseller

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SSD and maxing out the ram are the first step. Replacement battery are easy.
Base on the graphic intense apps that you run - YES a later model with later GPU will zoom:)laugh:). You will be running DDR4, speedier bus, M2 SSD, GPU and separate dedicated memory.

New computer vs new lens, life sucks!
 

Darmok N Jalad

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When I buy/build a computer, I look at a minimum of 5 years useful life with no upgrades. At that point, the decisions I originally made WRT upgradeable components comes into play. I've usually over-specified memory slots, hdd/ssd slots and connections and expansion slots.

This is why I could upgrade these (now) 10 y.o. boxes so that they will serve perfectly well for at least another 3 years. Their first upgrade occurred at 8 y.o. i.e 2 years ago.
In another forum I frequent, there is an entire (and very long) thread about people buying old Dell and HP workstations for cheap and then doing more cheap upgrades. For example, you can get an HP Z420 with an 8C/16T Xeon cpu, often for under $300. You can drop in a newer GPU, some SSD storage, and even ECC server/workstation DDR3 RAM of that era is dirt cheap. Is it as fast as what they sell today? No, but you can get an incredibly powerful desktop for $400-600, depending on the GPU you go with. Being workstations, they were built to last, and come with 90% efficient PSUs. You do have to watch out on compatibility though, as the pre-EFI BIOS doesn’t care much for the very modern GPUs. :)
Thanks for the responses everyone. FWIW, it’s not an ancient laptop. It’s got an i5 6600, a discrete gpu (960 gtx), 8gb of ram, 150gb SATA ssd + a 1tb hd. I’d bump up to a 1tb nvme drive, lose the 2.5” for a bigger new battery, and get 16gb of ram.

I hit the ceiling on memory when I’ve got a few of my big programs open. The extra storage is nice, but I have to choose which programs are installled on the fast drive now. The battery is at about 60% capacity.

Just the battery and a new ssd with fresh windows would probably make huge difference alone.

It’s ultimately a value call. What’s needed vs what’s wanted. I’m still wondering what the tipping point is in resale value for an older but reasonably current laptop is.

thanks everyone!
The CPU architecture isn’t really old at all, or rather it hasn’t really been advanced much by Intel since. Being quad core, it’s not too bad even by today’s standards. Having the dGPU is also a big bonus. It’s by no means a slow machine! If it were me, I’d just invest a little more into it. For sure some more RAM and a bigger SSD would bring new life to that machine. Might also date an air duster to the heatsinks and fans while you’re in there upgrading.

It wasn’t until AMD brought Zen2 to the mobile space that we saw a real gain in performance for laptops without throwing efficiency to the wind. Those 4000-series laptops are still a bit hard to find, and they are just too new in the market for my tastes. These days, I prefer for the tech to be a little more proven before I buy it. I don’t have the time to deal with those headaches like I once did!
 

deacon

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I assembled a desktop with a Ryzen 3600, 32gb of Ram, and a Rtx 2070. That’s probably why the laptop feels sluggish to me now.

I wouldn’t mind a newer, faster, more portable laptop. But In reality, the desktop does the heavy lifting, and this one will be just fine for its purpose with a new battery and SSD.

Thanks
 

John M Flores

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What editing apps are you using? In my experience, Adobe Creative Cloud doesn't really utilize the GPU as much as you might expect it to, and CPU cores are more important.
 

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