Got this Acer Aspire 5 (A514-54-501Z) laptop at Walmart for $399 after doing a ton of research on budget laptops. Possibly the best part about this laptop is that it is upgradeable. The laptop comes with a Kingston 256GB NVME M.2 Solid State Drive. Through some projects and upgrades I just happened to have a 1TB Samsung EVO 970 Plus drive laying around. Might as well put it to good use.
If you are trying to keep the total upgrade cost lower than the cost of a more capable laptop then the sweet spot for a drive upgrade is probably a 500GB NVME which generally runs about $50. Add 16GB of RAM for about $60 and your total cost is about $510. Add 8GB of RAM instead and you can lop $30 off of that cost. There is not really another budget laptop with these specs at these costs.
Obviously the drive needs to be cloned, and cloning it in place is most desirable. The best way to clone the target drive is with a USB C enclosure. I used this one that I got on Amazon.
Plugable NVME M.2 Enclosure
The Acer Aspire laptop has a USB C port so connecting it was a breeze. You simply slide the target drive in the enclosure, add some thermal pads (included) to the drive, and plug it in the computer. It will be immediately recognized as your D: drive.
Another advantage of having the Plugable NVME enclosure is that now you will have a spare 256GB drive just laying around. Slap it in the enclosure and you just got yourself a 256GB external hard drive. I recommend using AOMEI Backupper to create an image file of the original drive just in case. Back in the day you used to get a Windows CD with your computer purchase. Now if a drive craps out you have nothing. To retrieve your original 25 digit Windows Product Key type the following at a CMD prompt:
wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey
The software I used is AOEMI BackUpper Professional. While you can accomplish this with the free version of the software, the Pro version will convert your MBR drive to GPT and also automatically resize the unused portion of the partition. Also there will be no issues with it being a bootable drive. I didn’t time the clone process but it only took 2 or 3 minutes.
I blogged about this laptop previously but since then things have gotten better. When I first bought it, it was $499 however Walmart lowered the price to $449 but wouldn’t give me a price adjustment so I returned it and bought a new one.
Since that time the price has been reduced further to $399. Let me tell you why that is such a great deal. Not many laptops are upgradeable these days but this laptop has an accessible NVME M.2 drive (that you would need to clone, or do a fresh install, if you upgrade the drive). It comes with a 256 GB drive however I have a 1TB drive laying around here that I may slap in mine. I just need to figure out how to clone it first. I might have to buy an NVME enclosure as the laptop has no PCIe slot to plug an adapter into.
In addition to that there is an unpopulated SATA drive bay where you can add an additional hard drive. There are 8GB of RAM, 4 of which is built into the main board and a 4GB (PC4-3200) stick in the DDR4 slot. You could change that out to a 16GB stick for a total of 20GB. Lastly you could change the wifi chip if you wanted to.
This blog is mostly for me to remember what I did to fix the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) problem with my new laptop.
First of all I HATE Windows with every fiber of my being. However, I have a CNC machine and the best design software in the world comes from Vectric which is Windows only. So I bought a cheap laptop. An Acer Aspire 5 A514-54-501Z from Walmart. Not sure when it happened, but probably after an update or installation of some program but I started getting the dreaded BSOD with only a KMODE Exception Not Handled. The computer would boot loop with the BSOD every time but if I did a hard shutdown and restart it would boot however, then it would start without Wifi Drivers. The next reboot would clear it up.
That’s too much frustration. Googling the KMODE error basically just said “It”s probably a driver issue” with no more details. Since it seemed the Wifi driver wasn’t getting loaded after a BSOD I guessed it was that one. I did a Search For New Driver in Device Manager and it said I had the latest. Yeah. Not true. Seems there was a new Wifi Driver put up about 2 weeks ago. Probably for the BSOD issue. My device showed as this in the Device Manager
First let me say, “I AM A MAC GUY”. We can also say that “I AM A LINUX GUY”. I am most definitely NOT a Windows guy. All this being said I am also a Maker, or we used to say in the old days…….a Geek.
I have a lot of hobby type hardware such as Lasers, Vinyl sign machines, 3D printers, and CNC machines. These things all have Mac or Linux software of some kind but the cream of the crop software is written for Windows. While I can function on most of the hardware platforms with Mac, the straw that broke the camels back was my newly found love of CNC. The best CNC software, hands down, comes from Vectric, and the new CNC machine I bought comes with Vectric VCarve Desktop. The only computers I own with Windows on it are an old 3rd generation Intel i3 laptop with a tiny amount of RAM and a copy of Windows 10 on Parallels for Mac M1. By the way, Parallels on a Mac M1 runs about as efficiently and trustworthy as the Government. And it isn’t portable as I have it on a Mac Mini. My CNC is in a back yard shed which is either too hot or too cold and I want to do all my prep and design work in the house and run out with the laptop just when it is time to set up the job on the machine.
A new Windows laptop was really my only choice here. Here were my working parameters:
Cost – Always the first consideration. I only want to use this to run VCarve Software.
Availability – I wanted a computer I could run to the store and get and return if necessary. Buying a computer by mail can be a horrible PITA if something goes wrong.
Upgradability – The laptop I chose can have RAM, and the M.2 SSD upgraded and it has an un-used place for a 2.5″ SSD SATA drive.
At least an Intel i5 chip
Upgradeable to Windows 11
I ended up buying an Acer Aspire 5 from Walmart, specifically the: