Get the most out of your laptop with repairs, upgrades

When an electronic gadget such as a digital camera cellphone suddenly dies, it's usually a no-brainer on whether to get it repaired -- don't bother. In this disposable world, repairs can cost almost as much as buying a new gadget, if not more, so recycling it and buying a new one makes sense.

But with laptop computers, a repair can make sense, and small upgrades can extend the life of laptops., a Web site familiar to WalletPop readers, buys used computers, cameras and other gadgets for 10% to 30% of their original value even after a few years of use.

For students already back in school, a laptop is a necessity, as long as they can get one for as little money as possible. But before selling your laptop to Gazelle or someone else, Gazelle recommends these ways to get the most bang for your buck for you laptop:

  • Add more RAM. The price of RAM has dropped over the years, so shop around to maximize your system's RAM capability.
  • Bigger, faster hard drive. For about $60 you can buy a 500 gb and 72000 rpm drive to dramatically improve your system.
  • High capacity battery. Batteries wear out over time, so buying a new battery that has a higher capacity can bring new life to your laptop. Buy generic batteries.
  • Clean out your system. Most older laptops often have a ton of unused files, so go through your installed programs in the control panel and remove what you don't use. Also get rid of useless software that ships with a lot of computers. De-fragment your hard drive to reorganize all of your files.
  • Maintain. Perform software updates, keep antivirus updated and allow minor system upgrades.
  • Don't be an early adopter. Students shouldn't be the first on the block to have new operating systems and shouldn't rush out to buy Windows 7 for high school or college.
  • Give it four years. Laptops should last up to three to four years, so buy one at the start of high school and again when starting college.
If you're worried about your personal data floating around when selling a laptop to Gazelle, company spokeswoman Kristina Kennedy told me that Gazelle erases all data.

Gazelle has seen 100% quarter-to-quarter growth, Kennedy said, so the recession is causing more people to sell their old electronic equipment instead of putting it in the closet to forget about.

While many of its letters from customers used to be about how they wanted to trade something in so they could buy a new and upgraded product, Gazelle is now getting a lot of letters from customers who want to sell their stuff so they can pay the bills, she said.

For an extra 10% cash bonus on all laptop and desktop computer trade-ins, Gazelle is giving the bonus to Costco members through a program that runs Sept. 18 through Oct. 14.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at
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