Can This Computer Be Saved?

By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO

Question:  What happens when a notebook computer gets put in a drawer for two years? 

Answer: Nothing good.

I can understand why my customer shelved the HP 15 notebook.  When I pushed the power button it took 2 minutes until the logon screen appeared, then it took another 2 minutes before all the background apps loaded and desktop was usable.

But it was barely usable.  Any apps took a long time to load with significant delays.  Forget having two or more apps running at once.

Low Specifications

In order to sell the notebook at a lower cost, HP put less expensive parts into the computer.  It only had 4 GB RAM and a slower 500 GB hard drive with 5400 spindle speed instead of 7200.  There was not much I could do about the moderate A6 AMD processor, but definitely I could upgrade the RAM and swap out the Hard Drive with a Solid State Drive.

I proposed these changes to the customer and she agreed to the extra cost.  The good news is that computer parts such as RAM and SSD are relatively inexpensive.  For $50 in parts her computer would be much faster.  I ordered the parts right away.

Computer Preparation

I set the UEFI BIOS to disable secure boot which allows me to boot from USB.  In Windows, I set the power settings to NEVER sleep which makes the computer ready for updates.

Startup Apps

Windows application builders like to add some components to the startup apps so they will be quickly available.  If too many startup apps are preloaded, it will slow down the login process.  I disabled many apps from startup.

Defragment Hard Drives

When Windows transfers data to hard drives it will drop the data in any free space.  Recovery of that data takes longer as the read-write heads have to move all over the magnetic platters.  Defragmenting a hard drive organizes the data so it can be recovered more quickly.  I like to defrag the hard drives prior to cloning to the SSD.  Solid State Drives have no mechanical parts and are more efficient in data storage.

Windows Update

Windows is constantly changing as it updates to the latest versions.  This notebook was seriously behind in updates.  It was difficult, due to the slowness of the computer, but I was able to update to a certain point.

Parts Arrive

It was now time to open the case of the HP 15.  If possible, always remove the battery.  Fortunately, I found a great web page with illustrations which told me where all the screws were, including the two under the rubber foot pads.  Then it was a matter of prying up releasing the plastic tabs.  I use a plastic pry tool to avoid damaging the case.  With the case off, it was easy to remove the hard drive and add another 4 GB of RAM to the computer.

Clone the Hard Drive

I have a Windows 10 mini-computer with a USB 3.0 slot.  I use Macrium Reflect Free to clone the hard drive to the SSD using a Wavlink SATA Dual Bay External Hard Drive adapter:

Both drives are recognized and the cloning of the drives was pretty simple.  There was one non-essential partition that had to be removed due to errors.  I use parted magic to work with partitions, but Clonezilla is not for beginners.

Reassemble Notebook 

I reassembled the notebook with the upgraded ram and new SSD in the caddy.  A good sign is when you don’t have any extra screws when the assembly is complete.


There’s always that moment of hope when the computer is restarted after receiving new parts.  Will the computer recognize the new RAM?  Will the cloned SSD pick up the Windows boot partition without error?  SUCCESS!  I’m happy to write that the computer booted up and everything was working much better.

Windows 10 Update Assistant

Even after the hardware upgrades, Windows would not update to the latest version.  This must not be unusual because Microsoft built a tool to force updates.  The Windows 10 updates take a very long time to complete, but are very necessary for security reasons.  Windows has long been a target of malware coders.  Major updates are like getting a whole new operating system.

After the Upgrade and Updates

Now the computer is booting up in seconds instead of minutes.  I set Windows to reasonable power settings and the UEFI BIOS back to secure boot.  I make sure the anti-virus is up to date.

All these changes take time, but fortunately for the customer I don’t charge for the wait.  I only charged for three hours of labor, because when I set a computer to do a task, I don’t wait around for the task to complete.

Invoice and Delivery

The computer is now ready to be delivered back to the customer.  I prepared an invoice detailing what was done for the computer.  The customer also had a printer that was misbehaving and she wanted my advice on whether it could be fixed.  I don’t charge for advice, so I looked up the code the Canon printer was sending to the display.  It looked like it was a bad carriage return – something that would cost more to repair than the printer was worth.  Since she was not much interested in color printing, I told her about laser printers and showed her a model that would work with her now refurbished HP Notebook computer.

Happy Customer

My customer is happy with her HP Notebook and that, my friends, also makes me happy.  There is a certain satisfaction in a job well done.