cosmic computer problems (and a question for readers)

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Well, the photo is more of a cosmic oil spill than computer problem but my problem now is with my computer.  After 7 years and a few upgrades, it is now on it’s last legs, requiring at least a new power supply, which I have to tap with a rubber mallet repeatedly to keep the noise down.  The PC is an HP Pavilion with 6G of DRAM.  I’ve replaced the original hard drive with a 120G SSD (for the operating system (Win 7) and programs) and two internal drives for photos and data.  It has a quad core processor and the entire system is adequate for photo processing but it is slow in performance.  The files from the D600 have taxed it considerably.

I have two choices in replacing the HP.  The first involves starting over from the ground up, building a new PC from scratch and keep using the  hard drives, monitor and keyboard I have.  I would keep my OS as is since I’m happy with Win 7, I know everything I have works with it,  and I’m not eager to use Win 8.  Second choice is to buy a computer with a faster processor and at least twice the DRAM off the shelf and customize it with my old hard drives and OS.  Either way the system would have to process the large files I’m dealing with now.  I’m also thinking of an enclosure for 4 hard drives which can be swapped at any time and just have the SSD in the computer case.  I would use this with either of my options.  Since I have my investment in Windows hardware and  software, I’m not considering any Apple products, though this is not to say I don’t think they make a fine product.

My questions for you, loyal readers, is what are you using for a computer, are you happy with it and what are your suggestions for a replacement for my aging HP.  Keep in mind I would like to keep the budget in the realm of a realistic possibility.  I would appreciate any advice you can give me and as a reward I will continue to provide you with more photos here and here.  Thanks for your input.

 

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26 thoughts on “cosmic computer problems (and a question for readers)

  1. Meanderer

    What a beautiful oil painting!

    I’m not going to be much help with your search for a computer as my gear is becoming aged too. All the best with finding what you need.

    Reply
  2. John

    I have a three year old Dell 3### (don’t know which) XPS which isn’t on it’s last legs, but after three years (the usual life-cycle of corporate PCs) I’m starting to look at new machines. Personally, I think that’s the way to go. Heat and dust can adversely affect components you normally don’t think about – e.g., the motherboard, graphics card, etc over the years, which could be the source of a rude surprise one day. Plus, if your old HP is like my old Dell, you’re limited to probably 16GB RAM. That’s may be enough, but you can get some nice machines with 24-32 GB now, better processors, better graphics, in the (I think) $1200-1400 range. And these come with two drives – a SSD for your OS and programs and a large hard drive for data.

    Really tempting stuff.

    Good luck – let us know what you end up with!

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Thanks, John. The best of worlds is that I take the SSD card with my os and programs and put it into a new PC with just a change of some drivers. The enclosure I’m getting will take the hard drives and I should be good to go. It’ll never be that easy but I can hope.

      Reply
  3. John

    No help from me… I am on my second iMac (the first was stolen last year… right here in Webster where life is worth living!). My newer iMac (a bit over a year old) has a quad processor and higher speed but to tell the truth I do not see much difference in performance over the earlier (3 year old?)… both are/were good with RAW files and Lightroom. With the iMac of course I have very limited options for upgrades and the monitor is the computer but I have been very happy over my old slow Windows machine. Of course the new fast WIndows machines are very good too (my work machine is Win 7 and works adequately,,, it is a Dell laptop). The Windows machines all do seem to slow down as the months and years go by but I have not experienced that with the Macs.

    Good luck in your search. Buying and setting up computers seems like such a waste of time but it is certainly necessary once in a while.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Thanks, John. I’ve been using Macs at the Museum for about 6 years now and this past Summer started work on a new one with a 27 inch monitor. It’s very fast and the display is outstanding, but there is no DVD burner, a smallish HD and not much ability to be upgraded. It also came with the worse keyboard and mouse I’ve ever used.

      Reply
  4. db walton

    Sounds like you have a good investment in drives. I’ve found that buying a pre-configured system typically is cheaper (especially this time of year when they have so many sales on computers before Christmas.)

    I was an HP user since 1982 until about 2 years ago when I just had a really bad experience with my HP desktop system. HP replaced the system and it has been stable since, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. When it came time to replace my laptop, I bought a Lenovo. VERY IMPRESSIVE! I love my Lenovo laptop. The thing is sold and runs like a champ. When I replace my HP desktop, I’ve already decided this time it will be a Lenovo desktop.

    So, I think I would be inclined to take the drives, buy a Lenovo on sale, and add my drives to the new system. I’d probably go with Windows 7. We have one computer at the house with Windows 8. It isn’t bad, but the tiles were meant for tables and phones. (I’m a Windows phone user and LOVE it on the phone… hate the tiles on the PC. So, if you do get stuck with Windows 8, just go to the desktop and use it like you would Windows 7.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Your Win 8 experience is similar to mine. I’m happy with Win 7 and everything works well with it. My wife has been using a Lenovo desktop for about 4 years now with only one problem. The hard drive started to make a noise we didn’t like so I called customer service. The sent out a new HD and a tech to install it. He migrated everything from the old HD to the new one. Couldn’t ask for better service and the machine has been trouble free since. I’m looking a two now but haven’t made a decision yet. Stay tuned.

      Reply
  5. ehpem

    Hi Ken – you and I are in the exact same situation apparently to the details though mine might be a year or two older than yours – I too have an old quad core with new drives incl an SSD system drive, and older power supply that is too noisy. My weak link is a graphics card that is intermittent for HD video, and the processor which is a bit slow, esp for video work.

    I have been looking into a new system and my local store (I have used them for 15 years, they are owned and staffed by people with computing science degrees) and they will build a system or bring in something prepackaged, my choice. They advise strongly against recycling anything but my drives and monitor – they even say it is not worth replacing the video card in existing system as everything is getting past its life expectancy. The RAM is obsolete, the keyboard is getting sticky, the power supply is new to me but was second hand, the video card is 8 or 9 years old. I think what I will end up doing is using the tower with some of the drives (I have several TB of storage, thanks to shooting RAW with a full frame sensor) as a remote backup system without a monitor, and will either hardwire it to the network or connect wirelessly since I have a wireless card in it. I can put that somewhere that I don’t have to listen to it and where it is less likely to be stolen if someone broke in. I will then get a new tower with at least an i7 board and at least 16gb RAM (I do quite a lot of video work, and 3D modelling which is RAM intensive in a way photo editing is not), a quiet power supply since the computer is located in our main living area, will move the SSD drive over as the C:Drive and get another couple of TB in the new box, and perhaps a graphics card if the on-board one is not up to the task. I will use my existing monitor which is OK and really good ones, while a lot cheaper recently, are still expensive.

    This all depends on finances. My local computer store is about $200 more expensive for a system than the big box stores, but they have a no charge 3 year guarantee on parts and labour, which I have made good use of over the years, well worth the extra $200, plus they know their stuff and are not just trying to sell me something quickly. Besides which they are local.

    Not sure any of that helps, but it is where I am inching towards. Or will be flung at when something breaks which could be any moment.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Thanks, ehpem. I will recycle the drives and monitor for sure. Hopefully, I can continue to use my present Win 7 os and I’d be happy to double my DRAM to 12G but 16G would be even better. I’ll probably end up buying a system and having a friend, a computer genius, put it together for me. I’m starting to buy the things I need, like a new SSD (240G) to replace what I have. I’ll need an eSATA PCI card as well for the hard drive enclosure. I also bought a Buffalo 3.0 TB external drive for back up ($99.00 US, an Amazon lightning deal). I’m getting a kick out of planning all this, too.

      Reply
      1. ehpem

        Sounds like you are well on the way! I would keep Win 7 as well – it is possible (unlike with Laptops where they come bundled with Win 8 and a big fee for switching ‘backwards’). I understand one has to, or are supposed to, buy a new version of the OS software for the new computer… It’s a license only, for a single machine. In other words, its outrageous. But if you have the disk for Win 7, then no big deal, or a computer genius friend to make it happen.

      2. oneowner Post author

        Since I’m retiring the old HP, I think I can continue with the license with the new PC. I’ll double check this, though as I don’t want the Microsoft police here to take it away. Besides, I don’t know if you can still buy a copy of Windows 7 anymore.

  6. LensScaper

    Love the cosmic image, Ken. When I retired 6 years ago, my two offspring (son: graphic designer, daughter: analyst for Macs at MacMillan publishing) said – buy a Mac. So I did. Firstly a Macbook Pro (currently expired) and now I work on a 27″ iMac with a small Macbook for travel. I would never, ever go back to a PC. I was up and running in a week or two. All my old Office files transferred over and were read by Mac’s OS. The system is intuitive, reliable and easy to use. Occasionally when I am out speaking and having to use a PC again I find it a chore.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Thanks, Andy. I’m using a 27″ iMac at the museum and it is dedicated to digital imaging. It has one of the best monitors I’ve ever seen. I think it would be up to the task I need it for if I were to purchase one but since I am heavily invested in PC software and hardware, it’s simply out of the question. This, however, is not a hardship for me since I’m very happy with the PCs I’ve had and found them to be just as reliable as Apple. I have a very nice 24″ monitor that calibrates very easy and has 2 USB2 ports built in, a new keyboard and mouse (I would have to replace the Apple keyboard and mouse), and a printer and scanner that is not Mac compatible.

      Reply
      1. LensScaper

        I suspected that the bottom line would be about the reinvestment costs which can be substantial. The image quality on the big iMac makes everything pale into comparison – it’s a joy to use, I agree. Good luck with your search.

  7. Earl Moore

    Lovely image, Ken. Due to our recent lifestyle downsizing I’m in the process of converting from a self built Hackintosh (Tower PC running OS X) to a 13″ Macbook Pro and have been impressed by the speed and ability of this small laptop. Hooked to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse taken from my old system I don’t believe I’ll miss the old system as much as I thought I would. I purchased a couple of USB 3.0 external drive enclosures to mount my old drives from the tower system — don’t even have to move the data. The nice part is I can unplug and take the small laptop with me when I want to be mobile. I don’t see why you couldn’t do the same with a Windows system if you wanted — I agree software is a major reason to consider staying with Windows.

    Good luck on your decision.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Thanks, Earl. I suppose I could use a laptop since I plan on putting my hard drives in an enclosure and attach the monitor I presently use. I have not looked into laptops yet and I really should see what is available in the Windows world. I’ll check some web sites to see if there is anything off the shelf that I think would fit my needs.

      Reply
      1. ehpem

        Hi Ken. I should have mentioned that I recently bought a laptop for my consulting business and got one with the specs I listed above (it can handle two drives so I added an SSD drive for the OS), a wireless keyboard and mouse with the intention of buying a monitor for it too. I need to take something portable with me in the field which is why I bought it and as a business expense I could afford a bit more than basics.

        I don’t much like working on the laptop even with the keyboard and mouse, and while it has a large 1080 display, I have not been able to calibrate it so as to remove a silvery tone that laptop displays often seem to have. I find I can’t edit photos on it for that reason, they don’t feel right. Also it actually takes up more desktop real estate than the desktop computer does and I don’t yet have the right work space to use it on. Eventually it might serve all the needs I have, and that was the idea when I got it, but so far I have not been able to get comfortable with it. The household has need of a desktop computer, which is why I am considering upgrading it.

  8. oneowner Post author

    I did look into laptops but even the best of them leave me cold. I’m sure a well equipped one would get the job done and I can see a day in the future when I might desire one, but not at this time. I don’t need portability just yet.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Thanks, Monte. You must have filled up that hard drive years ago. I have about 3T of files shot in the past 6 years. I would love to simplify. Maybe that is how i should continue my search.

      Reply
  9. TomDills

    I built my own computer earlier this year, with a lot of help from my geek son, and it works great. The only problem is that I don’t have the knowledge to diagnose the issues inherent with running an operating system on hardware it wasn’t designed to run on. My local “Hackintosh” expert has changed his name, sold all his stuff and run off and join the circus 😉 so I may convert it over to a Windows OS, which at least my son can help me with.

    I will say that other than the thrill of building my own machine, I probably could have done just about as well buying something off the shelf from a known retailer. Seven years is pretty old in computer years, and I would think you would see quite an improvement from upgrading the entire system, even at a “budget” level. I’ll be interested to hear what you decide.

    Reply
    1. oneowner Post author

      Thanks, Tom. The department I work in at the museum has Apple computers so when we bought some equipment that required a PC we installed a copy of Win 7 in an emulator and it works very well. The software runs well on it and we have never had a problem with it. You might try something like that on your Hackintosh. I have not made a decision yet but as long as the HP holds out I’ll be fine (except for the noise).

      Reply
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