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images/bullet2.gifBuilding a Laptop - Centrino Notebook PC
How I Upgraded my Dell Laptop

By Gus Hrncir

The purpose of this article is to explain and document how I upgraded my Dell Laptop, Insperion 3200, Pentium 266, with 80mb ram, and a 3.2gig hard drive.  My laptop is 3 years old and is quite adequate for what I use it for, occasional word processing tasks, and to download jpg files from my Sony digital camera memory stick. The average digital video picture is 800MB to 2000MB with this new Sony digital Stick Camera (DSC S85).  The 3.2 gig hard drive is getting filled up with the digital images and need more hard drive space.  It would also be nice to have more memory.  The standard 80mb of ram memory works but wonder what the laptop would do with more memory?

When I was browsing the Axion website,  (www.AxionTech.com) I found a 20 gig, IBM hard drive for $130.00 and a stick of 128 MB SODIMM memory for $21.00, and determined this was an inexpensive investment to try and see if this would work in my laptop.  The price was right so I purchased these two items.

The next step was to visit the Dell website and download drivers and the bios for my laptop.  Each of the dell computers has a service tag attached to the computer, this is a unique identifying number that allows you to “lookup” the computer on the Dell website, and find specifications, information, manuals, drivers and bios upgrades for your particular computer.  Recommendation: Download all of the files you can find for this laptop.

On this (Dell) website I found the maximum memory this laptop would support is 144mb, this is the 16mb permanent memory on the motherboard plus 128mb SODIMM memory stick. 

Now the search for the hard drive, but first I needed to remove the old hard drive to determine what I had.  Apparently all of the laptop hard drives are the same physical dimension except for the thickness of the hard drive, available current drives are 9.5mm (thick), and my old drive was 13.5mm, so I removed my old hard drive and the mounting carrier from the laptop and took it with me to Axion, and Aaron (one of the sales guys) helped me determine if the new hard drive I was going to purchase would fit in the mounting carrier.  Yes it fit, so my shopping for parts was done.

Now I had my hardware, memory and hard drive, time to go home and install it.

Included in the files I previously downloaded from the Dell website was one to update the bios, this is an executable file.  This bios upgrade file was on my internet computer, so I simply clicked on this file, and it asked me for a floppy, then it created a bootable floppy for the purpose of upgrading the bios.  I inserted this floppy in the laptop and booted from it, and upgraded the bios. 

Now to physically install the new hard drive in the hard drive mounting carrier, and fasten the 4 screws.  Simply plug in the hard drive-mounting carrier back into the laptop.

Install the new memory, simply remove the old memory and replace with a 128mb SODIMM chip.  Replace the memory access panel, and fasten with two screws.  This will secure the hard drive and memory access panel.

Install the operating system installation, but first Fdisk and format.  I partitioned this hard drive with 4 gig primary partition and 16-gig remainder.

Now install the operating system, I used Windows 98SE, and copied all of the cab files to the hard drive then did the Windows installation from the hard drive, because it is much faster this way.

Windows found all of the hardware and installed the correct drivers (on installation) except for the video drivers.  I anticipated this and installed these video drivers from those downloaded from the Dell website previously and installed the video drivers.  Be sure to set the “display” to be a laptop display panel 1024X768.

I spent some time to tweak the operating system to agree with how I work, defragged the hard drive and installed Office 2000 and Paint Shop Pro version 7.0.

The results –  (this is what I have noticed about the laptop after the upgrade).

1)     More hard drive storage space, digital video pictures files take up large amounts of hard drive space.  Now I have enough room to download files from my Sony digital memory stick.

2)     The additional RAM memory helps when I am working with Paint Shop Pro, because I can open more files at one time.

3)     The system seems to run faster now and more enjoyable to use now.

Checklist (this is a summary of the above in checklist format).

1)     Identify laptop (service tag) and download drivers and bios upgrade.

2)     Upgrade BIOS.

3)     Remove old hard drive (carrier) from laptop.

4)     Install new hard drive, in hard drive carrier, and replace in laptop.

5)     Install SODIMM memory stick, 128MB.

6)     Install operating system.

7)     Install video drivers, and set display to 1024X768.

8)     Enjoy.

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