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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Now Doesn't Seem To Be A Good Time To Replace My Computer

Since the beginning of summer, I have been doing computer shopping on and off to see if I could get a good deal on a replacement for my two and a half-year old computer. The computer still works fine, and I have no problems with the processor speed, or the fact that it has Windows XP on it. Windows XP is still the most used Windows operating system out there, and I have no dearth of software to get anything I want done on the computer.

But, the 250 GB hard drive on the computer has become quite inadequate for me. I have filled it up with videos, photographs, music and ebooks, so I now have only 15 GB free on the computer's hard disk. So, I thought it may be a good idea to pass this computer on to my wife (who uses a 6 year old computer with a single-core processor and 256 MB of RAM to surf the web and check her email), and get myself a new computer with a bigger hard drive and Windows 7 on it.

Well, that effort has basically run into a brick wall now. My computer, when I bought it two and a half years back, cost me less than $500. And it was pretty much top of the line when it comes to hard disk space, battery life, etc. It is a vostro 1500 from Dell with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 1.4 GHz, 2 GB of RAM, a 9-cell battery that started out powering the computer for a full 7 hours (now I can get it to go about 5 hours between charges, but the battery has certainly seen better days).

I thought I could upgrade to a similar processor with 4 GB of RAM and either 500 or 640 GB of hard disk space for under $500. After all, computer are supposed to get inexpensive year after year. But apparently not this year. The cheapest computers that I am able to get with 4 GB of RAM and 500 or 640 GB of RAM have been well over $500 so far. If I then add on a blu-ray player to the list of upgrades, the price jumps up to almost $700. And this is assuming I went with an old processor like an Intel Pentium dual-core, not even the newer generation of i3, i5 or i7 processors.

I have come to the conclusion that given the general health of my computer, now is not the time to replace it. The stars must be aligned wrong or something like that. Instead, I have decided it may be better to just upgrade the hard disk with a new one and retain the rest of the computer as it is.

And I have run into problems there also. Hard disks have definitely become cheaper. But for some reason, portable, external hard drives have become cheaper than internal laptop hard disks. I have never seen this before. In the past, when I wanted an external, portable drive, I used to have to buy an internal drive and an enclosure separately, then mount the drive in the enclosure. But now, in the computer stores I have visited, internal drives of the same size are up to $30 more expensive than external hard drives.

Just to make sure, I asked a store employee at one of these stores whether the disks inside these external drives can be used as internal drives. He said, as far as he can tell, the disk inside these external drives is a standard 2.5" SATA drive. So, it should be possible to take it out and use it as an internal drive in a laptop. Yes, some of them use a 12.5 mm height form-factor rather than the standard 9.5 mm height because they have 3 platters in them rather than 2, but that is only the higher capacity drives such as 750 GB and 1 TB varieties. The 640 GB and lower drives are standard 9.5mm height 2.5" drives.

So, why were the external ones (which include a casing and backup software) less expensive than the internal ones? He shrugged, and couldn't answer the basic logical question. But he did caution me that some of these hard drive cases were tough to crack open to get at the hard disk inside, so I had to be a little careful about how I did it. But that does not seem like much of an insurmountable obstacle to doing what I want to do. So, perhaps I will still do that this summer, though it looks like it will be more difficult to do it than I thought it would be.

Apart from all this spinning my wheels as far as my computer upgrade is concerned, other things went on as usual this week. Work was not bad, though we ran into more technical issues with the data and are still waiting on others to resolve these issues. As far as blogging was concerned, I published posts on Day 4 of my vacation. I had to split up my experiences on Day 5 into 3 separate posts because I had a lot to write. So, one post contained a write-up of the trip to Machu Picchu, the second one contained photographs from the trip, and the third post contained photographs from Machu Picchu itself. I also published a lengthy write-up of our trip from Cusco to Puno on Day 6 of our vacation, with photographs to follow.

My blog was also visited by visitors from 2 new countries in the previous week: Angola and Yemen. With these 2 new ones, the number of countries on my flagcounter is now 144. A round dozen dozen (I have no idea why they decided this was gross)!

These being the last couple of weeks before my kids have to go back to school after summer vacation, I am taking some time off from work to take them to the city for visits to some museums, etc. The first visit is going to be this Monday. I don't know when I will have them do more stuff. It will probably depend on my work schedule, and when I can take time off. I also took my kids to a festival in a local park yesterday where they had a lot of fun climbing up a rock-climbing wall, and petting various animals in a petting zoo.

Now, it is time for me to take care of the laundry and other chores before the start of a new work week. It is also time for me to start working on drafts of all the posts I plan to publish this week. Please be sure to check back often for updates!

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