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Are laptop/notebook computers only for people who travel a lot?

No. laptops can be used for whatever you need – whether you travel with it or never take it off your desk. In fact, the new laptops/notebooks have become as powerful as desktop computers, so there is no reason that a laptop cannot be used as a family’s primary computer.

There are a number of reasons to own a laptop/notebook. The main one being portability. Perhaps you want the ability to move around your home and use the computer at different locations. Students who have a small amount of space prefer them because they can use them in their dorm rooms.

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What’s the difference between laptop/notebook computers and Netbooks?

There are two main differences between notebook computers and Netbooks: price and size. Netbooks are smaller versions of notebook computers. They typically weigh around three pounds (plus or minus a few ounces), while regular notebooks weigh from five to seven pounds. Netbooks also sport a smaller screen size – most are less than 11-inches in size, while most laptops/notebooks have 15-inch or larger displays.

Netbooks tend to have much lower power consumption – because they aren’t powering as many extras as the laptops/notebooks (like optical drives). As a result, they tend to have longer battery life. Netbooks are also much less expensive than laptops/notebooks.

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Can I upgrade my laptop/notebook?

Upgrading a notebook is not as daunting as it may appear. While the computers are put together with some engineering skill and creativity, many components are located with easy access in mind.

  • Memory (RAM) – Most notebooks have a panel on the bottom that, when opened, reveals the DIMM slots for RAM. (Some notebooks require you to remove the keyboard to access the slots.) Simply plug in the newly purchased RAM sticks and put the panel or keyboard back in place.
  • Hard drive – Typically access to the hard drive is through a panel on the side of the notebook. After unscrewing the hard drive from the notebook, it slides out on a sled. Put the new hard drive on the sled, push it in, and close up the computer.
  • Optical drive – These tend to be easy upgrades. Often they are modular and pop out easily and can be replaced with a new drive. However, if it is not modular, it is still fairly simple. Optical drives are typically held in by one screw. Just remove that screw, put in the new drive, and replace the screw.

Other components – like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards – are typically accessible through a panel – often the same panel that houses RAM.

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Do I need a docking station for my laptop/notebook?

Docking stations are a great benefit for laptop users. First, they allow you to quickly and easily connect your laptop to multiple devices. For instance, if you have a printer, monitor, and mouse, rather than have to plug in each one individually, a docking station makes it such that you only have to plug the laptop into the docking station, and then you have access to all those peripherals.

If you use your laptop both at home and in the office, a docking station can make transitioning between the two very easy. Docking stations also allow greater compatibility between devices. For instance, if you have an older printer with a serial connection, modern laptops probably don’t have a compatible port – a docking station can alleviate that. It works the other way too – newer monitors might have ports that were not included on your laptop/notebook and a docking station can act as a go-between.

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What are the common accessories for laptops/notebooks?

Notebook accessories range from the cosmetic (skins) to functional (higher capacity batteries). Common accessories include:

  • Batteries – Having an additional battery for your laptop is a great idea, especially for those on the go. If you need to use your notebook and your battery runs out of juice, plugging in a spare means that you can keep working.
  • Battery chargers – Notebooks require power, and if you are toting your notebook between home and work, chances are you’ll need to recharge the battery at both places – and it’s better to have an extra charger in place before you learn that you need one.
  • Cooling pads – These accomplish two things you didn’t know you needed: First, they keep your notebook cool by blowing air via a small fan. Second, they elevate the notebook so you don’t strain your neck trying to look at the screen.
  • Mice – While notebooks come with built-in touchpads, you might prefer the action and comfort of a traditional mouse. A wired or wireless mouse is easily installed and gives you more freedom and comfort.
  • Keyboards – While notebooks already come with keyboards, they suffer from the same problem as touchpads – they’re built to fit the computer, not the person using it. External keyboards can be connected via a USB cable, or wirelessly via Bluetooth.
  • Bags and cases – Protect your investment and make porting your notebook easier with a bag or case. Bags and cases can be both stylish and utilitarian, giving attractive looks, along with the storage and functionality that you need.

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What’s the best laptop/notebook for me?

The best type of notebook depends on how you will use it. Will the notebook be left on a desk and rarely moved? If so, a Desktop Replacement would work fine. This class of notebooks is heavier, consume more power, and run for a shorter time on battery power. They also offer more robust features than other models. Will you travel with the laptop/notebook often? If so, a more portable one would be a better option. Smaller, more portable models consume less power, run cooler and have longer battery life. They are also lighter and easier to tote around.

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Why does my laptop make some weird grinding noises?

The noise usually comes from the cooling fan or the hard drive. Listen closely to the bottom. If the laptop starts making noise when the cooling fan starts running, you most likely have a failing fan. If the laptop makes noise while the fan is not spinning, the hard drive is probably the problem. If may fail soon. Prepare to replace the hard drive.  

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Why won't my laptop turn on?

If you hold down the power button and the laptop won't turn on, the battery is quite likely the problem, though it is possible other component is malfunctioning. If the battery light is not on, check the power adapter is firmly plugged in at both ends. A red light means the battery is low and cannot perform a startup. If the battery does not charge, replace the AC adapter and try again. If the battery does not charge, replace it with a new one.

If the battery's light is on but your notebook does not power up, the problem lies with other components. It’s time to get professional help.

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Why does my laptop freeze and shut down without any warning?

If the laptop feels extra hot on the bottom and the cooling fan works harder than usual, it is most likely a heat related problem. The cooling fan is clogged with dust and it fails to keep the processor (CPU) cool. When the processor overheats, the laptop shuts down. Cleaning the cooling fan should fix the problem.

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Why is my laptop running slower than it used to?

You may have accumulated a lot of content, such as photos, music, videos, documents, applications, etc. in your laptop. They negatively impact your laptop’s responsiveness. You need to defrag your hard drive. (If you have a SSD instead of a hard drive installed in your laptop, defragmentation is unnecessary.) It is also possible that you have acquired malware without knowing. Run anti-spyware software to eliminate any malware that is slowing down your laptop's performance.

In addition, you may also want to disable any unnecessary programs that are set to auto-run at startup. You can check these programs by clicking the Start button, then Run, and type "msconfig" into the textbox.

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