Laptop Vs Desktop: Maintenance and Upgrades

By: , CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company.

When it comes to computers, everything is becoming smaller and lighter in order to increase portability.  The downsizing of computers continues to spark the laptop vs. desktop debate.  Before you decide to get rid of your old desktop altogether in favor of a tablet or laptop, consider some of the advantages of using a desktop, many of which are overlooked during the laptop vs. desktop feud.

One advantage of owning a desktop is that the space offered by the tower allows for easier hardware exchanges.  In the laptop vs. desktop arguments, many leave out that changing out parts in a laptop may be impossible if they are fused to the motherboard.  It is not uncommon for hard drives or video cards to malfunction; with a laptop, these parts are not easily accessible.  Upgrading RAM is a fairly common upgrade in the computer world, and one that increases your computers performance noticeably.  Changing out RAM sticks in order to upgrade to more memory is fairly simple on a desktop, but the process of doing so on a laptop requires more technical experience.  If you are curious as to what type of RAM your computer uses, you can use Crucial’s System Scanner tool to tell you what your system uses and can support.

desktop tower

If your laptop is slightly older and you want to play the latest video game, you may need to upgrade your graphics card.  This swap is fairly simple in  desktop, but with a laptop, the graphics capacity cannot be easily upgraded.  Your older laptop may also have an outdated WiFi protocol, and require an external dongle to override the internal WiFi.  With a desktop, you can simply change out the WiFi adapter for an updated one.  For those of us who are not the most tech savvy, there are tutorial videos strewn about the web, on sites like YouTube, PC Tech Bytes, and Bleeping Computer.  If portability is not the main criteria, the laptop vs. desktop debate becomes somewhat one-sided in terms of maintenance and upgrades.

Not only do desktops offer more customization performance, but they have more options as far as displays.  If your laptop screen resolution is not up to snuff, you would have to purchase an entirely new computer.  With a desktop, you can simply upgrade your monitor to the latest technology for crystal clear images.  Laptops do not have any options for ergonomic keyboards either, and if you want a laptop with a full number pad, chances are the screen will be at least 15 inches, meaning that portability is still possible, but not the focal point.  So, the next time you find yourself in a classic laptop vs. desktop debate, remember what the Nerds have taught you about upgrading and maintaining your computer so that you can make the right decision for yourself.

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.

Video Transcript

Dina: Thank you very much, Rob. Well when it comes to computers, everything seems to be getting smaller and smaller except for the new iPad which is going to be massive, apparently. But before you go out and purchase the iPad or the tablet, our resident nerd-on-call Ryan Eldridge has some information for you because it’s not always better to go smaller.

Ryan: It isn’t. And, you know, well the big Apple event is happening today which, let me just say that is Christmastime for nerds around the world.

Dina: Yeah, it was exciting.

Ryan: I don’t know, we’re still counting.

Dina: One hour.

Ryan: First of all, laptops sell more than desktops these days. When we first started in 2004, desktops were the king. But laptops have become better, better and better, faster, faster and faster. But they’re also smaller and lighter.

Dina: Thinner, right?

Ryan: The issue with a laptop is you can’t really do much with it in terms of upgrades or if something breaks, you’re pretty much out. You’re going to have to go and get a new one or take it to a repair shop and sometimes that can set you back hundreds of dollars. And, ugh! With a desktop, you don’t have to worry about all that stuff. In fact, you can do a lot of upgrades and repairs on your own and using YouTube.

Dina: Can you? Okay, there you go.

Ryan: YouTube instruction videos. And also, you go to different tech forums but there are some easy upgrades you can do yourself that are really amazing.

Dina: Okay. So first of all, I just have to say; it depends on your lifestyle and what you need the computer for first, right? Because not everyone can carry this on a plane.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s true. If you need something that you’re going to be travelling with, the laptops still going to rule the roost. But when it comes to like a family computer, something that everybody is going to use…

Dina: At home or in one place.

Ryan: You’re going to get a lot more life out of a desktop PC than a laptop. Laptops don’t age very well. They’re like TV stars. They’re just like, “Aargh.”

Dina: [inaudible 01:36:00] He just keeps going, yeah, okay.

Ryan: But in desktop, you can continuously upgrade it and make it better, better and better and keep it up all the way from high school age all the way through college.

Dina: Wow!

Ryan: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Okay, so here’s some easy upgrades that you can do. The first thing that you want to do is RAM. RAM is the cheapest upgrade you can do. RAM used to be super-expensive, cost you a $100 or more just to upgrade it. Now RAM kits are very inexpensive. You can get them for under 20 bucks in most cases. There’s a good old place called crucial.com and it’ll scan your PC and determine what kind of RAM you can take and then there’s just some little slots in here that these just slide right into.

Dina: You make that sound very easy, but that looks extremely confusing to me.

Ryan: It’s really easy. The RAM chip is pretty much; you can’t put it in wrong. It’s got a little notch on there. And once you stick it in there, it’ll snap in and that’s it. You don’t have to do anything else. No configuring or weird voodoo stuff. So let’s say you want to start playing video games. You buy kind of a bargain basement PC and you go, “Oh, I just want to play some video games on here. I want to play World of Warcraft or something.” An easy upgrade is a graphics card. You can add a graphics card in there. These are also just kind of plug right in, right in the motherboard.

Dina: Oh look at that! Okay, now are you allowed to put your finger anywhere on here?

Ryan: Yeah, for the most part.

Dina: You’re not going to mess anything up?

Ryan: You don’t wanna be drinking coffee and spilling stuff all over it but otherwise it’s pretty easy to do. You just slide it right into the slot and you can upgrade your graphics and play video games and stuff and you’ve got a much more powerful PC. Not to mention, if you’ve got WiFi, we were talking about WiFi a few weeks ago with Walt. One of the problems with WiFi is they’re always upgrading, going to new versions. Well on a laptop, if you’ve got just a WiFi N-card or something, that’s it. That’s all you’re going to get. But you can get the new AC standard with a desktop by putting in a new WiFi card. So easy upgrades cost you very little money to do it yourself. Go to YouTube or places like that for instructions.

Dina: All right! Good info, Ryan. And we want to end this little segment with our App of the Week because this is a fun one for people who like to be active.

Ryan: Well, we’re both runners and I use an app called Rock My Run. My wife found this, because I like to use Spotify’s pace settings so you can start running and it’ll kind of keep up with you. Well, this Rock My Run is pretty great because it’s free. It runs on iOS and Android and what it does is it matches your pace to how fast you’re running based on the accelerometer in your phone. But it can also, if you pair it with, like a heart monitor, it’ll make your pace the same as your heartbeat. And so just keeps you motivated and run a little bit faster. You can set it to just slightly faster than you normally run and it’ll kind of motivate you to go even faster than you normally do which for me, that would just cause me to have a heart attack.

Dina: Yeah, the heart rate would start to continuously go and I’d be nervous. Okay, well that sounds like a really wonderful app if you are someone who likes to go on a lot of runs, track things. Ryan Eldridge, thank you so very much.

Ryan: You’re welcome.

Dina: Always full of good advice.