You may have heard of Moore’s law, in simple terms it was an observation made 50 years ago that computers would become twice as fast every two years. For the most part, this ‘law’ held true for the past fifty years thanks to scientific and manufacturing advances in semiconductor technology. Companies such as IBM and Intel were able to cram more transistors onto a silicon wafer by shrinking down the transistor size.
Over the past few years, Moore’s Law has been proclaimed dead or failed a dozen times by pundits. The real laws of physics seem to have caught up with transistors and they simply cannot be shrunk down any further before the electrons traveling inside start to do funny things, like teleporting. The result is a stagnation in computer CPU performance.
For example, consider the 2010 Macbook and its 2016 descendent. According to benchmark tests, the 2010 laptop scores 1536. By Moore’s Law, every two years, that score should double. You’d expect the 2016 to score 12,288, but it actually only scores 3221. So a six year difference only amounts to a doubling in CPU performance.
So why would you bother buying a brand new laptop if it is not leaps and bounds faster than a six year old machine? Well, typically because other components are leaps and bounds better. The two biggest areas are in Random Access Memory, RAM, and storage space, i.e. hard drives. Usually, both of these items are user upgradeable, so you can take that six year old machine and make it very competitive with a brand new machine.
The 2010 Macbook comes with 2 GB (gigabytes) of RAM, and a 250 GB spinning disk hard drive. For $100, you can upgrade that to 8 GB of RAM and a 250 GB solid state hard drive (SSD). A solid state hard drive is faster, lighter, and more robust than the traditional spinning platter hard drives of old. The computer will boot up faster, apps will start quicker, and the whole feel of the computer will be ‘snappier’.
Doing these upgrades on a 2010 Macbook is extremely simple. Use a philips screwdriver to undo the bottom cover screws.
You can see the blue RAM chips in the right side of the picture. The silver hard drive is in the bottom right corner.
The two RAM chips will pop right out from the motherboard. The hard drive has a couple additional screws holding it in place. Installation is the reverse.
After replacing RAM, it is generally a good idea to run a test. MemTest86 is a free piece of software that will do an exhaustive battery of tests. The setup instructions are a little technical, but once you have made up the flash drive or CD, the test itself is incredibly easy to run.
TADA! You now have a cheap laptop that is almost as good as a brand new expensive one. What a great deal for an ‘obsolete‘ machine.