Upgrading a Dell M4400: Dual Hard Drives, 2.8GHz CPU, 4GB RAM

UPDATE: new post with specific M4400 upgrade questions and tips as a result of questions from commenter David.

NOTE: you can also view all the entries in this Q & A series

The Dell M4400 has been my laptop of choice for almost a year. For my birthday I upgraded it to 4GB RAM (from 3GB) and swapped out the P8600 CPU for a T9700. The P8600 is a 2.4GHz dual core chip (25W) with 3MB cache, the T9700 is a dual 2.8GHz CPU (28W) with 6MB cache. I also installed Windows 7 x64 (previously XP 32-bit).

The Dell is very easy to work on, unscrew five screws and you have access to almost every upgradeable component: video card, RAM, HD, CPU, wifi, and WAN. While I was replacing the CPU, I replaced the stock thermal paste on both the video card and the CPU with Artic Silver 5. Now the system runs cooler and the fan is even quieter.

Another nice thing about the M4400 is that you can replace the DVD drive with a 2nd hard drive. I use an 80GB Intel X25-M for the primary boot (OS) drive, and a secondary 500GB 7200RPM drive as my data drive.

The machine runs amazingly smoothly with the new upgrades and I’m absolutely loving it :-).

PS thanks to my parents for the CPU, it was an awesome birthday present! I really appreciate my dad kindling my interest in technology so many years ago, it has provided decades of enjoyment and benefits. :-)

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6 comments

  • Man thats a nice upgrade. I’ve a m4400 and have looked far and wide for an e-modular bay hardrive chasis for this laptop and even called dell about it, who said they didn’t offer them. What part number is your 2nd harddive chasis?

    Its slightly disappointing to hear that it does exist as I wanted to have a similar setup to yours, but I had to go for a much larger SSD which was very expensive. But hey i’d still like to do it. I pretty much only use my DVD drive once a year or less.

  • David

    Hey JD,

    Are you still following this thread? I have a few M4400 questions for you if you would be so kind.

    Thanks,
    David

  • David

    Great J.D. Thank you.

    I also have an M4400. I purchased it a year or so ago so that I could have a portable solution as I explore 3D graphics programs such as 3DSMax etc…Based on your above post (and a few others) I have purchased a qx9300 quad core processor, an Intel 320 Series SSDSA2CW120G3B5 2.5″ 120GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD), a WD Scorpio Black 500GB SATA II 7200 RPM hard drive, the newmodus second hard drive chassis and cable for cd drive, an external case for my old hard drive, OEM Windows 7 x64 (my currrent hard drive has Windows XP Pro), Arctic Silver 5, and an 8 GB memory upgrade. Phew!

    My questions involve the order of the upgrades in order to isolate potential problems and (since I am a designer and not a computer geek) if I need to do anything regarding Bios updates, firmware upgrades etc before I start replacing any of the components on my laptop?

    1) I am thinking that I will first upgrade the CPU and see how that runs. I noted that you added the Arctic Silver to the CPU and the video card. In some images, I have seen that Dell has heat transfer pads? Is there sufficient contact between the CPU and video card and the heat sink for just the Arctic Silver to make the contact (after cleaning up the previous goo of course)? Any tips here.

    2) Then I was going to take out the existing hard drive and replace it with the SSD and load Windows 7 onto it using the CD drive while it was still in the bay. Any tips on this process?

    3) Then I was going to load up the memory going from 4 to 8gb. Tips?

    4) I was then going to put the second hard drive in the New Modus caddy and place in the optical drive slot. Tips?

    5) Finally I was going to plug the optical drive into the external SATA connection and check that it works.

    I really wanted to make sure that BIOS and firmware upgrades were completed if needed…and I have never done those before. Hopefully, Windows 7 will lead me through the system install process and it will all occur flawlessly.

    Any tips and words of encouragement you can share J.D. would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time.

    Best,
    David

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