Computer Problems

Right now I have a silly number of computers at home that I use. I have my new Dell Inspiron (2014) and the laptop that it replaced, the Dell Vostro, which still works fine (2008). Also I bought an Asus Transformer in 2014 which I don’t use that much because it is too small to use as a laptop and instead of design the interface for a 10″ screen, they just shrunk it, so it’s too tiny to read. Also I have my very old Dell Dimension 4700 desktop (2005) which I still use a lot when I want to do serious work since it has two monitors available and a full size clicky keyboard. That’s 4 Windows computers plus I still have the Nexus 7 tablet (2012) and the iPod (2015). The thing I don’t like about the desktop is that it is still running Windows XP, which is becoming a bigger problem (iTunes won’t run on it) and it uses a lot of energy, maybe about 200 watts if you include the monitor. Since I leave it on when I’m home, I can share its files and access them from anywhere in the house with the other computers though.

Last week the primary hard drive on the desktop computer seems to have died (Eric is going to test it in his computer and see). I do backups manually, but my latest backup was in April. I also sync my most used spreadsheets to my iPod, which I had done earlier in the month. I don’t know that I can recover the spreadsheets from the iPod, but I can see the contents and update the April versions. I bought that hard drive about 2 years ago and reinstalled Windows XP on it. But the secondary hard drive was the desktop’s original hard drive, which still has Windows XP on it from 2 years ago, so I was able to boot from it and then do 2 years of Windows updates. But because it had a very old version of Microsoft Office that wouldn’t open my latest spreadsheets, I upgraded Office to 2007 on it. Also, the old Windows installation and hard drive were pretty slow, which was one reason I rebuilt a new operating system on the new hard drive.

The most logical thing might be just to get a new desktop computer, but I like having the 2 monitors and most desktops don’t support 2 anymore. Monitors are bigger now, so I could just use one big monitor (a 27″ monitor has 3 times as much area as my 2 17″ monitors), but now I’m paying for a desktop and a big monitor and the power consumption is still going to be high.

I can leave things the way they are now, but I’m also thinking it is time for a better computer strategy and maybe I could somehow get rid of the desktop. One thought is I could use the old laptop as my desktop by connecting an external monitor, clicky keyboard, and mouse. Then, if I needed a second monitor, I could use the laptop’s screen (on the desktop usually the second monitor is turned off, but all I have to do is turn it on and I double my desktop instantly). I tried this out and it worked except that the laptop doesn’t have a port for a mouse and all of my mice are the old PS/2 connection instead of USB. I bought a new USB mouse for $8 from Amazon, so that’s not a problem anymore. The graphics on the old laptop aren’t great, but it can extend the desktop to a second monitor, though if you switch from that back to the laptop screen only and then back to the monitor, you have to re-enter the settings (screen resolution; the default is 800×600 VGA which is silly). Even though the laptop is old, it still outperforms the even older desktop and has Vista as its operating system instead of XP, which Microsoft doesn’t support anymore. If I leave the laptop plugged in, I can set it where it never goes to sleep, so I should be able to share its files and I upgraded its hard drive to 500 GB not that long ago, so it has room to spare. When I want, I can have it sleep, and then when I wake it up it is ready to go in a few seconds instead of having to wait for the full power on boot up like I do with the desktop a couple of times a day (morning and when I get home from work).

It might be possible to get a dock for my newer laptop and use that. Or if a dock isn’t available, just hook up an external monitor, keyboard and mouse, which wouldn’t be that much trouble. Then I just use the new laptop for everything. That’s not bad. I could still use the old laptop as a floater.

Another possibility is to set up a networked hard drive that would keep all of my files in one place, accessible to all the other computers. I can get a 2 TB server for $80-$150. I’d still need to back that up because it would be my primary storage now. You can get network drives with two physical hard drives, and they could back each other up, but if lightning hit the house, it could take out both drives I guess.

5 thoughts on “Computer Problems

  1. I like the idea of nearline storage, especially because it looks pretty cheap. I wound up paying $132 for a 2 TB networked hard drive, a Western Digital MyCloud. I liked that they are still updating the software for it (didn’t like that it was Western Digital since that was the brand of hard drive that failed in my desktop). I hooked it up as a networked T: drive for all my computers. It can be accessed from the internet somehow, but the firewall at work doesn’t let me do that. I’ve been using the old laptop with external mouse, keyboard, speakers, a second monitor, and wired ethernet and it has been working great so far.

    The nearline storage might be a good backup to the 2 TB drive, which is nowhere near full.

    • I have had about a 1/3 failure rate with the low-price Western Digital external drives. They end up going “click click” and that is the end of them. So I was also thinking Google’s new nearline service would be a great secondary backup space. At work I use uncased 2TB “Enterprise Storage” (better?) drives and a USB drive bay to backup about 6 TB of data with Retrospect. I already have dual backups, but at any point the recent stuff is not offsite, so I was thinking about nearline cloud for just the last 30 to 60 days until the backups rotate off site. This strategy would cost us about $50 a year since we would not be accumulating cloud data.

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