Question Trying to address the barebones problem

Feb 24, 2021
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Hi,

Before I say anything else, I should mention my dad was a Windows programmer for over a decade, so I have built PCs with him and my brother before. I also have him as a resource.

I want to do the barebones thing. Trust me, I know it is impossible to build a customized laptop. But I am a college student, my current laptop is failing, and as someone with a computer background I cannot bring myself to buy something cheap with an i3 and half the advertised RAM only to upgrade it and treat it as much as a barebones shell as I possibly could anyway. I understand that what makes building a customizable laptop impossible is that their components are so brand and model specific, and that laptop shells can often only operate in their exact layouts for cooling purposes. A long time ago, some brands like Dell used to make barebones laptops compatible with specific models, like Latitudes. Perhaps I could buy one of those (assuming I can find one), and then buy some broken Latitudes with the components I want, and only use those to build the laptop? I was also considering buying a "customized" Lenovo laptop with only the most base components, again buying some of the same shell model for parts, and upgrading the "customized" laptop the same way. I understand that the second option is even less doable than the first because I would struggle to find components in any Lenovo laptop that could be easily removed or exchanged, of at all. For the sake of this post, please assume that I would be able to find Lenovo models with easily removable components, because if the consensus is that what I am proposing is theoretically possible, then I will begin to search for such models. I just don't want to waste my time if it is impossible anyway.

TLDR: could I buy a laptop model with the literal most basic components, and then upgrade each? For those who would argue that I could never swap a motherboard in the first place, could I buy a base model with just the motherboard I want and attempt to upgrade that? I want to be able to choose my processor, graphics card, and pretty much all the performance-related components. If it would require building/modifying circuits, I am capable of doing that.

I need to save money on a quality machine, and buying laptops online sucks because people really overvalue their old hardware.

Thanks!
 

Wolfshadw

Splendid
Moderator
I think the biggest problems you're going to run into are going to be power and cooling.

If you pick up a laptop with something like a celeron processor, the motherboard is likely electrically set to only allow the minimum wattage to the CPU socket that is required for the celeron. Replacing it with an I7 processor isn't likely possible. Even if it is, the cooling design is still just for the celeron processor. The new processor is going to be running much hotter and will require better cooling that what is available.

I just don't think it's possible (but I've been wrong before).

-Wolf sends
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Hi,

Before I say anything else, I should mention my dad was a Windows programmer for over a decade, so I have built PCs with him and my brother before. I also have him as a resource.

I want to do the barebones thing. Trust me, I know it is impossible to build a customized laptop. But I am a college student, my current laptop is failing, and as someone with a computer background I cannot bring myself to buy something cheap with an i3 and half the advertised RAM only to upgrade it and treat it as much as a barebones shell as I possibly could anyway. I understand that what makes building a customizable laptop impossible is that their components are so brand and model specific, and that laptop shells can often only operate in their exact layouts for cooling purposes. A long time ago, some brands like Dell used to make barebones laptops compatible with specific models, like Latitudes. Perhaps I could buy one of those (assuming I can find one), and then buy some broken Latitudes with the components I want, and only use those to build the laptop? I was also considering buying a "customized" Lenovo laptop with only the most base components, again buying some of the same shell model for parts, and upgrading the "customized" laptop the same way. I understand that the second option is even less doable than the first because I would struggle to find components in any Lenovo laptop that could be easily removed or exchanged, of at all. For the sake of this post, please assume that I would be able to find Lenovo models with easily removable components, because if the consensus is that what I am proposing is theoretically possible, then I will begin to search for such models. I just don't want to waste my time if it is impossible anyway.

TLDR: could I buy a laptop model with the literal most basic components, and then upgrade each? For those who would argue that I could never swap a motherboard in the first place, could I buy a base model with just the motherboard I want and attempt to upgrade that? I want to be able to choose my processor, graphics card, and pretty much all the performance-related components. If it would require building/modifying circuits, I am capable of doing that.

I need to save money on a quality machine, and buying laptops online sucks because people really overvalue their old hardware.

Thanks!
Bit confused about your plans, you said you don't want to buy something cheap then upgrade it with RAM, but you want to buy something cheap and then buy your own parts for it which is the exact same thing. You are getting something, then putting other parts into it.

If you want to build a system from parts, sure buy a dead system to use the shell from, buy the same model working system with a cracked shell, and you will have a working laptop form two not so working ones.

You can't pick and choose CPU or graphics card since in newer laptops those things are soldered onto the system board, and they are designed around some specific models that they can work with. Even if it's the same range of CPU there are many motherboards that won't boot with a replacement.

Laptop motherboards and parts are not build to any standards really past some core connections. Locations of ports, shape of the motherboard and location of parts on it, ribbon cables, how the ports are wired, CPU and video card support, etc.. are changed often and not standard for any brand or even between models of the same brand.

Your best bet to get a cheaper system is to buy a used laptop with the CPU and video card you want and then upgrade the RAM and storage if you need to. Any cost savings you think you will have with just buying parts or customization you can do does not exist with laptops.
 
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