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What Are the Differences Between a Laptop and Desktop Computer?

A couple using a laptop.
A desktop computer.
A laptop.
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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2014
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A laptop and desktop computer differ in both size and functionality. A laptop is much smaller and therefore often more convenient to use. A desktop computer is much larger, and tends to last much longer than a laptop before it needs to be repaired or replaced. A laptop is often a self-contained unit, and no additional parts are needed to run it. Users often have to purchase monitors and other accessories to operate a desktop computer. There is little to no difference in the types of software that can be run on each type of computer.

The size is the most noticeable difference between a laptop and desktop computer. A laptop is a single machine with the hard drive, disk drive, monitor, wireless modem, keyboard and mouse contained within it, and it easily folds to be stored in a carrying case. The only additional accessory that is often needed is a power cable with an adapter attached to it. A desktop computer consists of a tower, which is a large rectangular box. The hardware for the computer system is contained in the box. An external monitor, keyboard, mouse and wireless router often need to be attached to a PC in order to fully operate it.

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The way in which a laptop and desktop computer system are powered is another difference. A laptop runs on a rechargeable battery. The user often has to plug the laptop into a power source in order to recharge the battery. The laptop can only be used until the battery runs out of power, at which time the owner has to find a power source to plug it in. A desktop computer is operated by a direct power source. Once the owner has found a convenient spot to place the computer, it is plugged into a wall socket and often remains in the same location for the rest of its use.

The way that a laptop and desktop computer are maintained and upgraded is different. If an owner wants to upgrade their desktop PC, they can install a new power source, graphics card, sound card, hard drive, additional RAM or other hardware with very little technical knowledge. This can often be done much cheaper than the cost of taking a computer to a repair shop. A laptop, on the other hand, is much harder to upgrade. Much of the internal hardware in a laptop is often difficult to access, remove and replace. Because of this, the cost to repair or upgrade a laptop is often much more expensive than having the same task performed on a desktop.

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Discuss this Article

TheTechguys
Post 3

A desktop computer is much larger, and tends to last for a much longer period than a laptop before needing to be repaired or replaced. Laptops often have a stand-alone unit, and there is need for any additional parts to run it.

MissDaphne
Post 2

@jennythelib - You make a nice point! That's one of the things I like about using a laptop as my main computer.

The article mentions that it *can* be more difficult or expensive to replace laptop parts, but that can be part of the decision as to which brand of laptop to buy. When I picked out my MacBook, I made sure that it would be easy to upgrade the RAM, After two or three years with a computer, once it has accumulated a lot of new, big programs, you can really notice a difference by upgrading your RAM.

I was able to upgrade from 2GB of RAM to four gigs for about fifty bucks and a few minutes of time. But I have friends who have had more difficulty with their laptops, so again, do your research!

jennythelib
Post 1

One factor that the article doesn't mention about laptops vs. desktop computers. Laptop computers actually have noticeably lower energy requirements than do desktops! And you can make the savings even greater by adjusting your laptop's settings for greater energy conservation.

The savings apply whether you always keep your laptop plugged in or whether you frequently run it off the battery, but since some energy is lost in charge and discharging the battery, they are greatest if you always keep it plugged in On the other hand, some manufacturers recommend that you periodically discharge the battery (Apple is one - they say that a macbook battery should be periodically run down) to keep the battery working longer, so you should follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

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