In our last article on technology for editors we looked at the basic components of a computer and the main differences between a desktop and a laptop computer.

This article highlights some of the main problems you might experience with a laptop that indicate it may well be time for a new one.

Signs that it’s time for a new laptop

Power-related problems

You press the power button on the computer. Nothing happens. This is the worst-case scenario and a definite way to tell that a new laptop should be on the shopping list.

In this case, there are some basic troubleshooting steps you can take. Start by plugging the laptop into the mains, then try to switch it on again. If it’s plugged in, make sure the cable isn’t loose. It might even be worth trying a different power socket in case there’s a problem with that. Also, use a wall socket, not an extension, in case the extension cable is faulty. If your laptop still fails to come on after doing some basic troubleshooting yourself, you’ll need to decide whether to take it to a repair shop to have it fixed by a professional.

This is where you need to weigh up the pros and cons – how much will the repair cost? If it’s an important component that has failed inside the laptop (like the motherboard, for example) it could be expensive to replace.

Something to mention in this category is the ‘blue screen of death’, an error screen that appears when something goes critically wrong on your Windows laptop. The problem is often a hardware fault, an issue with the drivers or an error with Windows itself. The moniker is a reference to the fact that the blue error screen is a telltale sign that your computer encountered a serious – even deadly – error. Such errors frequently occur after a Windows update.

One of the most common power-related problems is battery failure. Given the level and extent of loadshedding, batteries take a severe beating, and their life gets shortened every time the power goes off and returns. Over time, the cells in laptop batteries degrade, which means the older your laptop is, the worse its battery life will be and it may now struggle to hold its charge for more than a few minutes.

By upgrading your laptop, you get a brand-new battery and you’ll be blown away by the difference it makes to the time you can use it between charges. Modern laptops are more powerful and power efficient, which means they can last much longer than older ones. You can expect new laptops to last for between five and nine hours of standard usage.


Is your laptop getting very hot when it’s been on for a while? Does it seem unusually warm to the touch in certain areas? Is it very noisy, with the fans inside seemingly spinning as if their lives depended on it, and are programs running more slowly than normal?

As laptops get older, they can develop heat-related problems which show these kinds of symptoms. These symptoms might occur because of the age of components, the stress they’ve been under over the years and the kind of heat levels that build up inside the laptop’s case.

Your computer is old and outdated

It is well known that the computing power of integrated circuits doubles every two years, so compared to current computers (operating at 100% efficiency), a computer that is two years old will be half as efficient (50%), and a computer that is four years old will only be 25% as efficient as current computers.

One of the most compelling reasons to upgrade your computer is to make use of the latest hardware advancements.

Diminished processing power and less multitasking

When you can’t do many tasks at once, and the one or two you can do are frustratingly slow, you might be dealing with an outdated CPU. No amount of upgrading or tinkering will address this, because in most cases new processors will not be compatible with an old laptop. You may also have found your computer getting slower over the years. As you use your computer, you’ve likely installed plenty of programs and downloaded many files.

The screen becomes faulty

Another obvious point to look out for is a failing display, which can really spoil your overall experience when it comes to using a laptop. The screen may have started flickering, for example – which could be bad for your eyesight and your sanity – or it could suffer from a physical fault, particularly if you’ve dropped the laptop. That could result in a cracked screen, a corrupted section or a display that fails entirely.

If your laptop screen has a major issue of any kind, it’ll probably need to be replaced at a repair shop. However, as we’ve already mentioned, it might just be more sensible or more cost-effective in the longer run to buy a new laptop.

Keyboard issues

The keyboard is another component on a laptop which can stop functioning properly and sometimes certain keys stop working. Some HP laptops have a known issue with certain keys not functioning, a highly frustrating experience.

Hard drive blues

Do you have a laptop that uses a hard drive? These are now effectively clunky old bits of storage technology. Hard drives have long been superseded by solid-state drives (SSDs), which are much faster. If you move from a laptop with a hard drive to one with an SSD, you will notice a huge difference in overall performance.

Hard drives are much slower than SSDs because they use physical moving parts. This makes them particularly unsuitable for laptops, which can be dropped, damaging the hard drives, with potentially disastrous results if you haven’t backed things up.

Memory (RAM) problems

Older laptops were often sold with what at the time was enough memory but, over time, programs have evolved into memory-hungry monsters. The telltale sign of insufficient memory is when programs take a long time to perform any process, such as opening, closing or saving. One of the most common problems in this category is when the computer is unable to handle large documents without the user having to break the documents up. Documents with many pictures can be painful to work with.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Mike Leisegang

I have been a professional project manager since 1995. My career in the corporate world was mostly in information technology in the banking sector. My experience in editing extends far back into my project management career, where I edited and proofread project documents and presentations prior to them being published. I was also requested to proofread two project management textbooks for Rory Burke, the renowned project management lecturer and author. From 2001, I was a project management trainer and facilitator. In 2020 I changed my career to a copy-editor and proofreader, as this is where my passion lies; in helping others to correctly express themselves in their documents such as presentations, dissertations, and any other published documents. I formalised my copy-editing and proofreading skills in 2020 through Russell de la Porte’s Academy. As a copy-editor and proofreader, I work mostly in the academic world, on theses and dissertations for many tertiary education institutions. Additionally, I have edited several books, magazine articles, and medical trials validations.

I live with my wife of 42 years in beautiful Howick, KwaZulu Natal. In my spare time, I tinker with my vintage car, a 1930 Model A Ford, which is a pleasure to drive in the KZN midlands.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.