Small Form Factor PCs Have a Smaller Lifespan for Geeky Users

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 28, 2009 in Tech |

Space Saving PCs: It's a Trap!

First a disclaimer: My opinions do not represent 99% of computer users. Because of my career I’m part of that geeky 1% of computer users who by the nature of their job needs to download and try out new software on a regular basis. Most users really do live in the browser and MS Office, but I’m the guy who’s installed Tweetdeck, has all three major browers up and running and Xobni running inside of Outlook.

HP Compaq dc7700

Today I hit the beginning of the end of the life cycle of my HP Compaq dc7700 Small Form Factor. I admit it, after years of owning huge tower PCs that I’d need to store under my desk the idea of a cute little box sitting behind my then new flat screen monitor seemed like a science fiction dream come true in 2007. Now being a geek I swear that I didn’t cheap out! I went all out knowing that things get dated too quickly and got an Intel CoreDuo running at 2.13 GHz with 2 gigs of memory with Windows Vista Business.

Two years this has become the worst computer purchase of my life! My once fast copy of Vista has been slowed down my numerous security updates. And the once vast unclaimed wilderness of the back of my desk now has three external harddrives camped out in the back like some trailer park on the wrong side of town.


Finally a day ago after only a month I downloaded and installed the latest Microsoft patches — the computer started to crash. I suspect part of the issue is memory leaks: I love to run to PC 24/7 so I can access it at home. And then adding pain to this I love to run programs like Tweetdeck and Safari that have a bad habit of running in the background even after you’ve quit the program. I guess if I’m honest about it I run my PC like a server, which is not normal usage.

After downloading this patch I realized that unless I changed things I was going to be out of business. This isn’t theoretical as my entire business is centered around Outlook. So I went to uninstall said updates and I was in for a shock, unlike the installation process where you could install everything at once you for some reason the Vista interface only allows you deinstall one patch at a time. Over three and a half hours later my computer was unpatched but useable.

I've had two Dells die on me in a row!

The enemy wasn’t the hardware — I switched from Dell after two PCs died in a row (first from a 2nd rate harddrive that failed and next from a power supply that died way before it should have). Instead I went with good old HP, and I have to say two years later the hardware is in great shape — nothing (knock on wood) has failed me. But my mistake was that as a certified geek I should never have gotten a small form factor PC.

Right about now every self respecting geek is about to upgrade to Windows 7, but I can’t do that because I know the machine won’t age well with the new OS. Yes it may run well this year, but with the next update to Windows 7 it will die. Now if I was smart in 2007 and got the big ugly tower I might have been able to upgrade the memory with ease. And better yet the back of my desk wouldn’t be littered with external harddrives left and right.

The G5 Macintosh: Drop this and you will break a toe.Adding insult to injury my old Mac G5 which I purchased back in 2004 was at an end of cycle a few months ago too, but because I purchased the most heavy computer of my career (you could crush a toe if you dropped it) I popped the side open and doubled the memory in just a few minutes. Six months later that mac isn’t any younger, but it’s not suffering the spinning pinwheels of death. I’ll need to replace it, but even after 5 years I’ll have a spare iTunes player for the office which can double as a scanning station for an intern.

The lesson here is that if you’re a geek don’t kid yourself that you’ll need anything less than a tower computer. Yes I know it won’t look sci fi, but trust me that in the future you won’t regret at least having the option of doing a hardware upgrade with ease. That or just assume as a geek that you’ll be buying a new box in two years.


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