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Should I try to update my laptop? Or get a new one?

Kaitlyn Van Arsdell June 9, 2009
I love my 5-year-old Dell Inspiron laptop. But I have no hard-drive space left, a dark spot is spreading on the screen, compatibility issues with Office 2003 are becoming an issue, and the "s" key got lost a year ago.

I'm starting med school, and need, at minimum, increased and reliable hard-drive space.

At this point, is it a better idea to get an external hard drive, or to get a new laptop? If I get an external hard drive and update my software, then my computer becomes unusable a few months later, I'll have wasted that hard drive plus the money spent on software (assuming my new computer comes loaded). But at what point should I decide the computer isn't working for me -- is it worth it to buy a new monitor? Does the old computer use more energy than a new one would?

This also begs a couple questions: what laptops are most environmentally-friendly? How should I dispose of an old laptop?
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Jeff Gunther June 9, 2009
I am not much of an expert on these things, but it sounds like your computer is headed for a recycling plant sometime soon anyway, so maybe it's time to start looking at new options.

Energy usage should be pretty easy to look up, it should either say on your power brick or you could look up new power supplies for your model computer and see how much they draw. You could then compare that to the power supplies of newer computers. Look for Energy Star ratings at a minimum

As far as environmentally-friendly laptops, I know the new MacBooks (I think they're all a part of the MacBook Pro family of computers now) are pretty good. They have low power usage, arsenic-free glass, a highly recyclable glass and aluminum enclosure, PVC-free cables, a mercury-free display, reduced packaging, and earned a Gold rating from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. You can find Apple's Environmental Status Report for these laptops on Apple's website.

I do love my Apple products, so I'll leave it to some PC users to talk about green PCs. As far as recycling goes, Dell will take your old laptop if you submit this form.
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Sam Fladung June 10, 2009
You can't really use the ratings on the power bricks to get a good estimate of power usage. The bricks are sized to maximum power usage, rather than average usage. Also, the size will vary depending on how fast your battery charges. Since to charge faster will require a larger supply even if the two computers use the same amount of power.

A better way to judge power usage is to compare battery size with run time. If the computer has a long run time and a small battery it will be efficient. If it has a large battery and you need to plug in every half hour, it is pretty inefficient.

Also, if you are using the computer as a laptop and not a desktop that you could move occasionally the computer will probably spend most of its life either shut off or in a power savings mode.
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Kaitlyn Van Arsdell June 12, 2009
That recycling link is amazing -- thanks!!

Now that a lot of my first-purchase electronics are ready for the retirement home, I'm often looking for things like that. Is there a way they could be worked into a guide (even if the guide carries no points, I would love the easy-to-access instructions).
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Jeff Gunther June 13, 2009
I like this idea. There will be one soon. Either tomorrow or Monday. Reply to comment
Jeff Gunther June 15, 2009
It's in. Enjoy. Reply to comment
Steven Skoczen June 10, 2009
I, like Jeff, will vouch for the new macbooks. As the owner of one, the energy consumption is lower than comparably spec'd computers, they're light, powerful, and rock-solid.

And let's face it, this is SixLinks' main coding machine, and I'm downright abusive to it. It's been great, and still tremendous when I take it out to a coffee shop, and do some writing, office, or photos.

So that'd be my recommendation, even if you plan to run Windows on it, actually. If you're looking for another computer to last you years, that's where I would (and have) put my money.

Jeff's Dell recycling link is awesome. Definitely the way to go.

From a tech/environmental standpoint, you're well past the normal lifetime on laptops, with a questionable LCD. The screen's likely to need replaced shortly, at decent cost, and as you mention, the HD needs upgraded. You've got enough high-ticket items that I'd be looking at new computer-land. The fact that Dell will recycle yours makes it an easy decision to me. You're not likely to come out ahead (if at all) upgrading your machine, and you can definitely get more stability and functionality at the same cost. So I'd say recycle and upgrade!

But those are my late-night, not-having-seen-your-puter opinons! Take with however many grains of salt you deem necessary :)
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Kaitlyn Van Arsdell June 12, 2009
But Macs are so expensive....I know they're comparable to PCs with similar hardware, but I just don't need specs that good. And my camera came with a ton of amazing new photo + video software.

And I know people say the reliability pays off, but I had absolutely no issues with my PC (errr, after a 2005 black-screen spyware crisis which proved that 16 yo boys should never be left alone without a firewall). Maybe I just got lucky, though?? I would like my next computer to last a long time.
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Steven Skoczen June 12, 2009
I'd love to hear from some PC-heads on good options - I'm just not familiar enough with the options and reliability to be comfortable making a recommendation.

The big reason I went mac is that I no longer have to spend time maintaining my computer, and worrying about firewalls and spyware and viruses and trying to find drivers for cameras or printers. It's all just there, and all just works. Much lower overhead and mental furniture required. The photo, video, music, etc software is also pretty bad-ass. :)

I've also found that my macs have been tanks. Maybe I've been lucky, but I've done terrible things to these computers, and they keep on ticking.

PC people, chime in!
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Rachel Mays June 16, 2009
Having traded in my 3 yr old PC for a mac of the same age (roughly), I. Will. Not. Buy. A. PC. Ever. Again.

As Steven said, I no longer have to spend time adjusting firewalls, updating my virus software, doing system resets, and figuring out how the hell I get to my network from Windows Explorer. This mac is simple and fast to use. And I don't have to spend hundreds to get decent video-editing software, since it comes with the mac itself.

PC fangirl no more
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Sam Fladung June 16, 2009
I run a pc (the Macs graphics card isn't supported by the 3D CAD software I use). I think the biggest difference is that there are more options of PCs allowing you to buy a "cheaper" one. If you buy a quality one it will match (or exceed) the quality of a mac. Reply to comment
Kaitlyn Van Arsdell July 6, 2009
After hearing so many people complain about PC viruses, I was finally convinced and went with a Mac. Also, turns out you guys were very right -- there are cheaper PC options, but a PC with comparable specs is more expensive than a Mac.

Just got here yesterday, and after using it for a day, I LOVE it. The Stickies have already changed my life. It's really strange, but I feel like having the different operating system has actually changed my behavior... I feel like I have more ideas, and am more likely to follow through with them, just because things are more accessible. I would never have believed that a computer could foster creativity, but yeah, it actually does - weird!! I'm a convert.
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Steven Skoczen July 6, 2009
Nice! Had a similar experience when I switched over. Was unsure at first, but quickly realized that the headache and maintence of my computer had disappeared, and I could just do things now. Quite liberating, and definetly gave me a creative boost!

Feel free to ask if you've got questions on good programs to use for this and that - most everything I'm using these days is free and pretty good, so post if there's something you're looking for - someone's likely to have a good idea!

As for old inspiron lappy, what's the tale there? Was is traded in, recycled, or simply passed along to someone who never needs to type the letter s? :)
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Kaitlyn Van Arsdell July 6, 2009
I have a friend in Peru who wants it, so I'm going to hang on to it and bring it down to him. Hopefully this isn't just putting my trash somewhere else, though - he's asked me about it a couple times and seems to have some plans for it. Reply to comment
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