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Computer question?
Old 04-19-2008, 10:36 AM   #1
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Computer question?

I purchased my Dell laptop for $1,300 around May, 2001. The battery is dead now, but I have taken good care of the computer overall; but have used it a good 5 hours a day normally, so it gets its use. How long do these Dell computers generally last?
When I searched the net for general answers, it came up that laptops most often last 5 years, maybe 7. I'm at that point, so am a tad concerned.
Is there some MAJOR sign when it is starting to really go out that I should watch for? I'd surely like some warning as I am taking courses at this time on the net, and really cannot afford a few weeks downtime.
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Old 04-19-2008, 10:59 AM   #2
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Is the laptop meeting your needs right now? You've definitely got an "oldie," and the mechanical stuff (keyboard, hard drives) do start to break down after awhile. On the other hand, getting a new computer is no guarantee of flawless operability either. And, as you know, you'll experience a period of reduced functionality as you migrate your software, set up your printer, get your Internet connection sorted out, etc.
If I were in your shoes, I'd either:
1) Bite the bullet now and get a new machine. Prices are very reasonable,a nd you can go through all the teething pains before your schoolwork starts. You'll have a functioning laptop (your old workhorse) available in case something goes wrong with the new machine or its set up. You've had the machine for 7 years and gotten good use out of it--it is time.
2) Try to nurse your machine along for another year. If you go this route, at least make sure you're backing up your data in an external drive on a very frequent basis.

Another non-expert opinion, worth exactly what you paid for it . . .
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Old 04-19-2008, 11:09 AM   #3
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That's kinda where I'm at with it, samclem. That seems like pretty sensible advice, but maybe that is just because I agree with you.
I plan to milk this Dell until it...sob...croaks, but what should I look for OR are there any signs that it is about to expire?
I wonder what the longest period of time people can keep these Dell laptops? I wonder if they can make like 9 years? Just curious. I don't know anyone off the top of my head with one but me except a girlfriend, and she bought hers used from a pawn shop (I'm frugal, but that seems just too risky to me).
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Old 04-19-2008, 11:17 AM   #4
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That's kinda where I'm at with it, samclem. That seems like pretty sensible advice, but maybe that is just because I agree with you.
I plan to milk this Dell until it...sob...croaks, but what should I look for OR are there any signs that it is about to expire?
I wonder what the longest period of time people can keep these Dell laptops? I wonder if they can make like 9 years? Just curious. I don't know anyone off the top of my head with one but me except a girlfriend, and she bought hers used from a pawn shop (I'm frugal, but that seems just too risky to me).
I had my old laptop (just bought a new one) since 2000. It wasn't a Dell, though - it was an HP. It got to the point where I'd start it up and run one program, and it was immediately telling me I was running low on disc space. I'd run the disk clean up, but it would only fix it for like half a day. It ran soooooooooo slow. We had done a system restore about 6 months earlier and that helped for a little while, but I was tired of putting up with it overall. Add that to the fact that the screen would blink periodically, and well, I knew the writing was on the wall.

Thanks to CFB, I got a screamin' new Dell from Best Buy for $500. Very glad I finally bit the bullet and gave up on my old laptop. She did serve me well for 8 years though!
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Old 04-19-2008, 11:36 AM   #5
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Back up important data from time to time, and keep going.
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Old 04-19-2008, 11:47 AM   #6
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Whats going to happen....

- Battery will fail to hold a charge as its worn out. Replacement batteries are $50-75 on average
- Hard drive will start experiencing lots of errors and eventually expire. Cost is highly variable but you'll be starting with a "new computer" look when it dies and you have to reload your data and programs. Laptop ard drives of that era didnt have a lot of shock protection and they take a lot of abuse and heat.
- CPU heatsink/fan will clog up with dust and whatever it sucked off your pants leg or the table you set it on. Eventually will fail to move enough air and will fail to cool the system properly and heat will soon kill something, most likely the CPU. I took my keyboard off of my old toshiba laptop after two years and dumped out enough dog hair to make a small poodle. The dog never lays on the computer as far as I know.
- Backlight in the LCD screen may go and the lcd's will start turning yellowish, light brown or orangish after about 7-8 years of constant use.
-Key switches will start to fail or become clogged with crud.

Right now I have two laptops from the 1999 era. One is a dell latitude that Gabe plays with and so far he seems to have been able to do nothing to it to make it break. Its battery is only good for about 15 minutes. Other than that I could boot up windows 98 and go to work on it. One is an IBM thinkpad that work bought for me. Its got a 15 minute battery life as well but other than that its functional.

I shop vac'ed both of them out regularly and avoided dropping them. And they're both very solidly made machines.

At this point I'd start looking for a replacement for that one. Not sure what it is but you can usually get $25-50 for any fully functioning laptop even one with a bad battery. Someone will want to install Ubuntu on it, stick a big external hard drive on it, and use it for a low power web or media server.

Even the $399/499 specials I keep finding are going to have a huge performance and capability advantage over what you're using.

Good brands are the Lenovo (used to be thinkpad), HP, Dell, Apple, Toshiba and Sony. Midrange will be the Acers and gateways. Lower rung are Compaqs, packard bell, emachines and companies you've never heard of.

Generally you'll get cheaper screens, fewer features, cheaper power supplies, smaller batteries, less rigidity and solidness in the build, off brand parts etc as you go down the line.

I tried out a super cheap 3rd/4th tier 12" laptop a few years ago, cant even remember the company name. It was filled stem to stern with parts from companies i never heard of or who had gone out of business. No new drivers for any of the stuff since there werent any company's to do it. When I ran into several glitches I called the company to find they only offered email support. Emailed them and basically got a response saying they actually had no tech support, so if the computer didnt work right I should return it to the store.
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Old 04-19-2008, 12:47 PM   #7
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Oh, one good tip for a longer notebook life (other than not dropping it)? Get an aluminum cookie sheet and set it on top or velcro it to your laptops bottom. Dont block any of the vents.

I have one thats exactly the same size as the laptop, its flat, and has a slight curve on one side.

This gives the unit a flat surface when sitting on your lap, prevents your legs or pants from blocking any air intake vents, limits dust and hair suction into fans, and also helps draw off and disperse excess heat.

Keeps the family jewels a lot cooler too.
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Old 04-19-2008, 02:19 PM   #8
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Well, I don't have any family jewels (despite several ex-clients of mine probably swearing I do), and I have kept the laptop strictly on a tabletop or desk. Maybe that's why it's doing okay so far?
You really know alot about this, cute fuzzy bunny. I wish I had your knowledge, and thanks for sharing it. Very appreciated.
I don't seem to have any of the symptoms you mention yet. Maybe a pro could find some. I'm keeping a close eye on it as it's a'gettin' old now, tho, and headed for pasture in the not too distant future.

When I buy again I will spring for the BEST brand out there for durability and quality. It's worth it to me. Which brand do you suggest then? If it's Dell, I know they have coupons on the net. Any suggestions are most appreciated.
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Old 04-19-2008, 02:49 PM   #9
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Last year I sold a broken Dell Insprion from 2001 on Ebay for $200 . I removed the hard disk and sold it for parts. I was surprised to get some much, it was probably because it had a hi-res XVGA+ display.

Good info above on how to care for and get more life out of your old system. The only things I'd add is to increase the memory (if it's not already maxed out), and to reinstall XP (or Ubuntu). A fresh system install will make a big difference in performance. If you get a new machine you'll have a decent backup and guest machine.
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Old 04-19-2008, 03:35 PM   #10
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I bought my Dell Laptop in 2000. It still runs on windows 2000 and still works very well for surfing the net and for most basic tasks. It feels definitely slow compared to newer computers and many new peripherals and softwares are not compatible with it, though I have been able to find a wireless card which works on it. But it is still working like it used to... Well, almost... I shut it down on Wednesday and I have not been able to restart it since then. But it looks like a problem with windows rather than a problem with the computer itself.
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Old 04-19-2008, 04:28 PM   #11
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Depends on what your needs are. Any of the top or mid range companies make good products. Check for specials, Dell runs a lot. Keep an eye on that "cheap notebooks" thread I occasionally update. Look at your office supply store circulars (staples, officemax, office depot) for clearance deals.

Generally under $500 for a 15" and $600 for a 17" are pretty good prices.

If you're into Dells, the Inspiron/Vostro line are widescreens and good general purpose machines with good feature sets. The Latitudes are mostly squarish screens, stronger chassis build, somewhat better keyboards, and cost a bit more.

If an 8 year old laptop is meeting your needs now and you dont expect those to change, almost anything new would be an upgrade!
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Old 04-19-2008, 04:30 PM   #12
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Well, I don't have any family jewels
Oh, and I can probably find someone to lend you some. Sorry, pulled my back yesterday and the pain meds are making me even sillier than usual.
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Old 04-20-2008, 09:13 AM   #13
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I have to ask: Do you think the good brands mentioned in the post above are equal in quality? Not heard of Lenovo. But if all the good brands are pretty equal in quality, then it becomes just a matter of who has the best deal for the money. They surely have come down in price as I paid $1,300 for the Dell Inspiron in 2001.
Off to find your postings on cheap notebooks....cute fuzzy bunny.
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Old 04-20-2008, 09:24 AM   #14
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I think the lenovo thinkpad t-series, the dell XPS and Latitude, the apple powerbooks and some of the sonys have very good construction, tend towards better screens and keyboards, and have excellent resale value. Toshibas have good screens and keyboards but often have flimsy cases. Dell inspirons and vostro base models have a decent but somewhat fuzzy screen...a bump upgrade where available gets you a screen as good or better than the more expensive machines without a lot of the cost. Inspiron/vostro's can be heavier than their peers.

You can often get good deals on acers and gateways. They're not bad. I'm using an acer right now. Only thing with them is that you'll get no tech support whatsoever. Your choices are reload the system restore disk and send the machine in under warranty.

Basically pick it up, feel how rigid and strong the case feels, look at the screen with both text and photos to see if you like it, type on the keyboard and see if theres enough key travel and snap to make you comfortable typing.
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Old 04-20-2008, 05:39 PM   #15
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IMO, lenovo (they bought the IBM line of PCs), Sony, and HP are the quality brands. Quality counts in laptops.
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Old 04-21-2008, 05:41 PM   #16
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This one I have is a Dell XP, the first model I think it was. No battery now, but I update it and use CrapCleaner every day and defrag it once a week. I'm keeping this baby purring so far...
When the time comes, I am putting "computer" in the search function here and reading all your tips. Thanks.
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