How to upgrade your netbook

Turn your mini laptop into a portable powerhouse

Install more RAM

Piling on the memory is a good way to pile on the pounds. You can keep costs down by purchasing the bare minimum of RAM necessary to complete the original configuration, then upgrade it yourself for less than the vendor would charge you.

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Remove the back panel as described on the previous page and look for the memory. On the Dell, it's in the upper-right quadrant. Inspect the existing RAM to discover its specification, then purchase the same type in a larger size - we plumped for a 2GB DDR2 533MHz Sodimm. If you're tempted to splash out on faster RAM, check that your netbook can support it. In all honesty, you'll barely notice the difference between DDR2-4200 and -5300 memory.

To replace the memory, push outwards on the two clips holding the existing module in place near the notched groove on each side. The RAM will pop up for easy removal. Remove this and insert the new memory module, pushing it into place.

Restart the netbook and quickly press the appropriate key to bring up the system Bios (for the Dell Mini 9, it's the 2 key). Head to the main tab and confirm that the system recognises the new memory.

Add wireless-n connectivity

Upgrading the internal Wi-Fi capabilities of a netbook from 802.11g to 802.11n sounds like an easy task. And in theory, it should be. You ought to be able to purchase any miniature wireless card, pop off the back of the netbook, do a quick shuffle of components and enjoy the increased functionality and speed of the new card.

Add_wireless-n_connectivity_360

Alas, it isn't that easy. Just because a Wi-Fi card looks like it will fit in your netbook, that doesn't mean the card is compatible with the operating system/motherboard combination. But before we even get to that, there's the issue of sizing. When purchasing a replacement Wi-Fi card, you need to know whether your netbook can support a full-height or half-height card.

Remove the back panel and look for the existing Wi-Fi card. A full-height card is long and rectangular, almost like the shape of an SD Card. In contrast, a half-height card is stubbier - it resembles the shape of a CompactFlash card (or, for that matter, a full-height Wi-Fi card cut in half vertically).

Once you've figured out the available space, you'll know which type of card to get. As for the specific brand of Wi-Fi card, there's no hard-and-fast rule to determine which will be compatible with your netbook.

Using a system of trial and error to find a compatible card could become rather expensive, so instead read up online on other users' successful Wi-Fi upgrades using your netbook model.

Installing the card itself is an easy task. Remove the rear panel and find the Wi-Fi card. On the Dell, this lies at the centre-right of the system; it's the card with white and black antenna wires running into it.

Gently disconnect those wires, undo the screws holding the card in place and remove the card from the slot. Insert the new card, reinsert the screws and reconnect the two antenna wires. The specific card you buy will dictate whether you should reverse the wires compared with their positions on the original card.

Depending on the size of the card and the configuration of your motherboard, you might have to remove a motherboard standoff clip to make for a solid fit.

If Windows can't find the new card after a reboot, install the drivers for your new card. You should be able to find these on the manufacturer's website; if not, you might have to install drivers from a third-party netbook manufacturer whose product happens to use the same network card.

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