Getting the most out of my Notebook (CPU Upgrade?)

  Ben Avery 10:49 18 Dec 2003


I have a pretty old notebook, a Dell Latitude CPx 650MHz with 256MB (2x128MB) SDRAM.

I added the second 128MB RAM to improve performance and while it has in some effects, it still is rather sluggish.

I do appreciate that these days, notebooks are available for good prices with very powerful CPU's and more RAM but I really would like to know if my Dell can be upgraded in any way to accommodate a new CPU to improve performance?

If not, (the current CPU is running at full whack 650MHz) is there any other tips & tricks which I can use to improve performance? Mainly it is noticable when playing movies throughthe TV or Music but also tends to drag a little with anything more than very basic MS Office tasks.



  Taran 11:18 18 Dec 2003

Most notebooks have little upgrade capacity beyond adding more memory or changing the hard drive.

Which OS are you running ?

A 650 cpu with that kind of RAM should be more than capable.

The best programmer I've ever know still does most of her work on one of a matched pair of 450 mhz notebooks. She upgraded the memory from 64 to 128mb recently and the 6gb hard disks are beginning to nag as possible upgrades, but her output is incredible.

Playing DVD to TV is always a bit of a chore, at least in my experience. Most systems default back to 800x600 low res output to TV and often stutter and stammer along.

Depending on the OS there could be lots of things you could do to tune and tweak. If you're running 2000 or have upgraded to XP could you also confirm whether or not your disk is FAT or NTFS.

  Ben Avery 11:37 18 Dec 2003

Cheers mate, forgot all the essentials didn't I?!

Ok I'm running Windows 2000 Professional (SP4) and here's amore detailed spec sheet:



Intel® Mobile Pentium® III microprocessor with Intel SpeedStep™ technology


Intel Mobile 440BX AGPset


64 bits Microprocessor data bus width

64 bits DRAM bus width

32 bits Address bus width

4Mb Flash EPROM

66 MHz AGP bus

33 MHz PCI bus


Max RAM = 512MB (currently 256MB)

Memory clock speed = 100MHz


SoundBlaster Audio with ESS Maestro 3I controller

16 bit analogue to digital/digital to analogue

PCI Bus/AC97 Internal Interface


64-bit hardware-accelerated video type

2x AGP Data Bus

ATI Mobility M1 video controller

8.0 MB video memory


I'm not too fussed about the movie playback as much as I am the Audio playback. I recently had to arrange music for a friends wedding reception which I mixed into a single mp3 around about 3 hrs long.

Fortunately, I burned it onto CD and so ended up playing it through my DVD player fon the night, but this was because tha notebook didn't handle playing it too well.

The obvious benefits of playing it on the notebook was that you had the option to skip forward or backward easily whereas on the DVD player, it would only play the entire track verbatim.

This meant that if a lovely child decided to knock into the DVD player (which fortunatley they didn't!) it would've buggered the music up big time!

I'd like the notebook to be capable of playing it, as a backup to the DVD as last time I had to cart my whole PC down there for the same reason!

If you can advise on any tweaks for perfomance enhancement my notebook I'd be most appreciative.


  Ben Avery 11:38 18 Dec 2003

Taran, my post there is almost as long as one of yours!



  Ben Avery 11:39 18 Dec 2003

The drive is still FAT I think? Not 100% sure on that one.


  Taran 12:29 18 Dec 2003

Right click on your hard drive icon in My Computer and check out its properties. It will tell you in there whether or not it's a FAT disk - no insult intended to your hard drive !

Actually, while you're in there, have a look at how much space is used and how much is free.

Get back to me with that and I promise a far longer post than this one in return...


  Ben Avery 12:34 18 Dec 2003

I don't have it with me at present, but the drive is compressed and is around about 2.5GB used 3.5GB free (it's only a wee drive - not very "fat" at all really!)

I use an external 60GB USB drive for storage so the laptop only houses my email, programs, OS, a few oddments etc.

I'll try to find out for definate if FAT or NTFS this afternoon and post back then (it's at home, I'm at work - will have to get sis to turn on and report back to me!)

P.S. I don't mind how long your posts are really, long, short, FAT, thin, black, white - it's all the same to me!

So long as your helping, it's more than anyone could ask for.


  Ben Avery 16:47 18 Dec 2003

File system is in fact NTFS - I remember changing it now!

What would you advise Taran (or others)?


  Taran 21:13 18 Dec 2003

Right, NTFS will slow overall performance down slightly, but you gain a bit of ground in other areas in terms of security options and stability so I'd leave well alone.

You didn't say how much free space or how much used, however...

1. You could look at swap file optimising for a start; fix the size of the swap file to prevent Windows resizing it on the fly and pin it down. If you want to go this road post again for further details. A good rule of thumb is to set both the minimum and maximum swap file size to around 2 or 3 times the amount of your fitted RAM.

2. You can give programs different memory/cpu allocation properties under Win2k and XP (not a lot of people know this one). Right clik on your toolbar and select Task Manager. Click on the Processes tab. Right click on any particular process currently running and go to Set Priority. You can adjust things to suit, giving more demanding or preferred programs a bigger slice of the available system resources than they might have been given by default. In fact, you can set up shortcuts with switches to launch your programs with a pre-selected priority level for resource access which can help pep things up a bit.

3. Basic housekeeping - disk cleanup, defrag (after you've set your swap file size) dump unused data files to backup media instead of leaving them lying doing nothing on your hard drive, taking up space in the process. You can always pull them out again from your backup to open, edit or whatever.

4. Remove anything running in the background that shouldn't be or doesn't need to run. This can be a bit tricky under 2000/XP since you are dealing with services as well as programs running at startup. Try Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel click here for a drop dead easy way to control any programs running at system start.

You can disable services under the Control Panel, Administrative Tools, double click the Services icon. Be careful what you do in here. Some of them are vital, others can be started manually or even disabled entirely. There's a couple of pretty good guides click here click here and click here

If you have a firewall, as an example, set it to start manually when launched from a shortcut, as and when you need it, instead of running all the time. Obviously if you are connected to a broadband modem and want the firewall running all the time you can ignore this, but it's one example of disabling a program that can be using system resources whether you want to use it or not. Programs like Realplayer run in the background and do update checks and so on when you don't even know about it.

There are lots of other possible tweaks and the links I've given are a good starting point. Don't expect to turn your machine into a rocketship. It is and always will be a 650mhz/256mb laptop, but it is possible to shave a bit off here and there to gain performance.

If you want more, post agin but the above, if you do it properly, should keep you out of mischief for a day or two.

Hope this helps



  Ben Avery 12:02 19 Dec 2003

Cheers buddy, I'm gonna slowly work my way through the points you've made (I've already looked at the first "tweaking" link at and I had quite a few services running that didn't need to be).

Hopefully my little laptop will be running at a more user friendly speed soon!

Speedening bootup itself will be a major plus point as it takes an age at the moment. Heven't tried it yet since though so will run the other tips and go from there.

What's the "swap file optimising" idea?

If it's gonna help I'm happy to give it a go if you could provide ther extra info when you get a chance.

P.S. That post was much more like your usual length - of which I'm obviously appreciative! You really know how to make us feel cared about! And you obviously do care, otherwise you wouldn't post such deep, detailed threads.

Thanks again bud,

BA (A man who will NEVER run out of "thank you"'s!)

  Ben Avery 12:06 19 Dec 2003

I forgot to add that the Hard drive is a 6GB NTFS drive with about 2GB-2.5GB used leaving 3GB-3.5GB(ish) free.


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