With the right upgrades, notebook computers can match their desk-bound counterparts for performance and reliability. PC Advisor talks you through the process.

The laptop components that underperform most often are the hard drive, screen and keyboard. While you probably won't want to replace an expensive screen, anyone with the right tools, a bit of time and the slightest mechanical inclination can replace the other components.

If your system is still under warranty, bear in mind that opening the case may void the terms of the arrangement. Laptops are delicate, so never force anything. One of the most common mistakes is using the wrong size of screwdriver. One slip and your motherboard is ruined.

Before doing anything else, remove the laptop's battery and disconnect its power cord. Remember to ground yourself before you open the case, either with a grounding strap (the safest way), or by touching a piece of grounded metal – a lamp or water pipe will do – while touching a metal part on the case's exterior.

Replace your laptop's hard drive

Adding a hard drive to a laptop is easier than doing the same thing on a desktop PC. You remove a few screws from the bottom of the case, slide or lift the hard drive assembly out and slide in a new drive. Always handle drives by the edges.

Most laptop PCs use a standard 2.5in hard drive, but ultraportables may use a smaller 1.8in drive. Drives also differ in height. The most common are 12.5mm and 9.5mm.

Check your laptop-maker's website to determine the correct size. A 2.5in 100GB drive costs around £100. Third-party vendors such as www.laptopshop.co.uk and www.laptopbits.co.uk often charge less than laptop manufacturers.

Check with your laptop vendor to find out whether you need a Sata (serial ATA) or parallel ATA model.

Finally, buy only from companies that offer a money-back guarantee. Any reliable seller will offer one lasting at least 30 days.

Laptop hard drive
Laptop hard drive

Replace your laptop hard drive

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  • Boost your laptop's RAM

    Most laptops come with only one or two memory sockets, which may leave no slots for upgrades – in that case, you'll have to discard at least one module. The RAM on most laptops resides behind a removable panel. The modules slip into a slot and are secured at the ends by clips. Crucial offers an excellent tutorial on installing laptop RAM at www.crucial.com/install/sodimm.asp.

    High-quality vendors such as Crucial and Kingston will tell you the type of RAM your laptop needs, too.

    Boost your laptop RAM
    Boost your laptop RAM
    Boost your laptop RAM

    Boost your laptop RAM

    Change your laptop's keyboard

    To install a new keyboard you usually have to disassemble the laptop's case, but in other respects it's straightforward. Snap out the old keyboard, then snap the replacement in. Job done.

    You can expect to pay £50 to £80 for a keyboard. At www.laptopbits.co.uk we found one for an Acer TravelMate keyboard priced at £64 including VAT. The site has a list of replacements by brand, but you may have to go back to the manufacturer to get a suitable one.

    Change your laptop keyboard

    Change your laptop keyboard

  • Print better photos from your Windows Vista or XP laptop
  • How to record TV on your laptop
  • How to set up and use a U3 drive
  • How to organise your laptop's files and folders