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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Mon, 02 Jan 2017

Adding memory to a laptop when they don't want you to add memory

When we bought my daughter a cheap Asus laptop a couple of years ago, I knew it had only 2 GB of RAM. But I also knew, or thought anyway, that I would add memory at some point in the near future. After all, upgrading memory is easy, right?

The answer is yes, I suppose, if you have the kind of Windows laptop where you can get the battery out by switching a lever. The hard drive and memory are a plastic door and a couple of screws away.

That's how it is on my 2013-purchased HP Pavilion.

But on my daughter's 2014-made Asus Aspire E15 laptop? Nope (battery access), nope (hard drive access) and nope (memory access).

To do anything -- change the hard drive, memory or even the battery, you have to remove 18 screws from the bottom of the case, crack it open with a case-cracking tool (I use a little plastic spatula from a long-dead and -gone mini food processor), and then start taking off parts.

To get to the RAM module on this Acer, you have to remove the hard drive, pull about a dozen cables of various types and then remove the entire motherboard from the case BECAUSE THE RAM IS ON THE BOTTOM.

If I hadn't pretty much torn down and rebuilt more than a couple of laptops, I wouldn't have even attempted it.

It's frustrating. Laptops traditionally allow the user to swap in new RAM and hard drives. You might want to do an upgrade, or a drive can go bad. And batteries? Mine last about a year and a half, and then I need to replace them.

So now that tablets are ubiquitous and are basically glued together, laptops, especially cheap ones, are not serviceable or upgradable?

If the hard drive dies or I need more memory, it's just tough tacos?

No. I do not accept that.

So for this Acer laptop, I knew from online searches that it wouldn't be easy, but it was doable.

I was able to take the laptop apart -- pretty much completely apart -- replace the 2GB memory module with an 8GB part I got on eBay and then put it all back together in under an hour.

Here's what I had to do:

Get new RAM

  • Figure out which memory I needed (I used the Crucial System Scanner app)

  • Order RAM over eBay. (I actually ordered Crucial-brand memory).

Gather tools and materials

  • 0 and 00 Phillips screwdrivers
  • Plastic case-splitting tool (I use a mini spatula from a mini food processor)
  • Tray to hold screws and other parts
  • Post-Its and pencil to label parts as they come off (I usually number the parts as I remove them so I know what goes back in what order, but I didn't need to do that this time)
  • Towel to work on (so laptop isn't right on the table and screws don't go far when they fall out, or are gently "tapped" out from above

The process

  • Remove 18 screws from bottom of laptop
  • Slide out plastic "placeholder" from where optical drive would go if laptops still shipped with them
  • Use case-splitting tool to split case all around
  • Take a picture of what inside ribbon-cables look like
  • Remove all ribbon cables connecting everything from the top of the case (keyboard, touchpad, etc.) to the motherboard
  • Realize that the single RAM slot is on the BOTTOM of the motherboard, requiring full removal of that board
  • Remove hard drive screws and remove hard drive (necessary to get the motherboard out)
  • Remove various cables plugged into motherboard
  • Remove screw on motherboard and wireless unit to free motherboard
  • Turn motherboard upside-down, remove 2GB RAM module and replace with 8GB module
  • Reverse everything, putting it all back together, stopping before screwing back bottom of case to make sure laptop boots and runs and recognizes RAM
  • Put the 18 screws back

That's the procedure.

It SHOULD have been

  • Remove door to access RAM
  • Remove old RAM
  • Insert new RAM
  • Close door

I don't know if ANY laptops made these days allow easy access to the RAM, hard drive and battery. I don't worry about these things until I am shopping for a laptop.

All I can say is that it's not right to sell a laptop that doesn't allow for user replacement of the hard drive, RAM and battery.