Monday, June 20, 2011

When to Upgrade Your Computer

When my old 2002 Dell 4550 PC Tower started hiccuping with repeated problems. I knew it was time to replace it. I had tried the usual “fixes” and was facing reinstallation of the operating system, a sort of heart transplant. I decided to try the latter anyway, for “fun”, and I learned something surprising which changes my approach to old computers, I think, but wait and see...

And, if this is all gobbledegook to you, read on anyway. It does not matter. You will get general idea on when to upgrade.

I needed a tower which could record HDTV, and hold my iTunes music library and otherwise support my iPod Touch hand-held music player, really a handy tiny computer because it does so much wherever I need it. I also needed a MUCH faster computer to keep up to date with the new.

Basically the tower is therefore a “server”, (that’s a holding tank), though wherever possible more and more of my storage is going to the cloud, in which case my tower is also a backup for the cloud. I wanted Windows 7 and its easy search, document preview, and document management capabilities. I do like Windows 7---it is just Microsoft I hate (not really). though I like Apple a bit better--a lot less to go wrong.

I had found a new powerhouse Dell Inspiron 560 for $279 upgraded to a 3.2 processor for $40 more. Consumer Reports recommended a similar computer from Dell, the 580.

Click for Dell details.

But how much could I have done with the old computer? I decided to find out.

When all else fails with an old computer, you are up against about a day’s work with uncertain outcome. You first need to find the old installation cds or get them from the provider. Now where were they, plus all the other “app” CDs? In the case of the Dell, I found them and downloaded updated new utilities from Dell’s site. Dell has guides and manuals, too. Dell is a big help, with clear instructions for the do-it-yourselfer. (Just “Google” Dell manuals.)

I actually had an early-adopter $50 Windows 7 upgrade CD to replace the old XP. It loaded quite easily to my surprise. However, it did not recognize the graphics card, and so on. Worse, I could not find drivers for Windows 7 on Internet. The new Windows 7 just does not support all old peripherals. I could not even get to internet to proceed. The old internet card was shot, and an old wireless adapter was not recognized.

The next step would be to load all the upgrades which were needed since Windows 7 was originally issued. After that I would need to install all applications. I might avoid other apps by using cloud apps like Google Docs as opposed to Word Perfect. Still, a lot more work.

I gave up. The old computer had a bad network card, an incompatible graphics board, no more XP support and upgrades, and no ability to provide what I needed above. It also had a loud whirring and irritating wining noise, but that did not bother me that much due to my loss of hearing. It now took three or four tries to get started after being shut down, but I had just been leaving it on.

But was there a way to use it somehow?

I tried something I had tried for years without success. As a server, or just to use internet, I could maybe use Linux, a free alternative to Windows. Now Linux always had failed me in one way or another, but in recent years a philanthropist, and Google, too, have both been supporting it and Google has adopted it for its nifty Chrome computer. What if I tried the Google Chrome OS installer? An alternative would be something called Ubuntu. I downloaded both to CD with my laptop. Then I booted the old tower with the CD.

Click here to get Ubuntu...

WOW!! In ten minutes both worked, including basic apps!! TEN MINUTES. Free, too! I might have needed only a network connection for internet.

Well, the old computer is going to be laid to rest anyway, because it does not support my iPod Touch* nor record HDTV, but I do have a new way to help others stave off buying new. Just try Ubuntu at least until completely exasperated with the old computer's shortcomings. Might be OK if you wanted nothing but browsing internet.

Footnote: the old computer may not be laid to rest right away---it runs internet browsing faster than the others, probably becuase it is not bogged down with Windows or Mac.

1 comment:

  1. Gerry Culling WVJuly 31, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    Martin, I agree with you that Ubuntu (Lucid Lynx, currently) is much faster and friendlier than Windows and rejuvenates an old computer.
    My "second computer" is a six-year-old Gateway laptop and I keep it dual booting Ubuntu and XP. Ubuntu makes the installation of a dual boot a snap, and you can choose which system boots by default. I use the Ubuntu routinely for financial stuff and just use the XP for old programs and as a fall-back if my big desk top is in "care and feeding" mode.
    I can heartily recommend Ubuntu.