How old is your work computer? – asks the Wall Street Journal.
Mine is a year-and-a half old. The dual-core former screamer (obviously not the one the the pic to the right) has become an average slow machine now that quad-core is the standard, but I could not care less. I don’t need a faster, bigger computer for work, in fact not even for video-conferencing or watching movies. If I were a gamer, or editing video, well, that’s a different story, but for running productivity apps, and simply managing everyday tasks, including communications, we simply don’t need super-computers.
In fact I (and most of us) don’t even need 1-2 year-old computers, either. I still have and use a 2-year old XP laptop, and even a 6-year-old faithful Sony laptop, which is pretty much limited to Internet-browsing. But if I can browse, I can also create. The “old junk” is still good enough for email, creating online documents, i.e. 90% of what most of do on our computer. Let me correct that: not on the computer, but in the browser.
And therein lies the rub. You need to get off your computers to keep them perform well. No, I am not kidding, after all, the browser is the computer now. Now, you’ve heard this a zillion times, but let me present another side: the more you use your computers, the slower they get.
Data gets fragmented, applications you install and uninstall leave garbage behind (files left, invalid Registry entries ..etc), so eventually your formerly fast computer becomes slow. This Vista-based beast of mine used to have a sub-minute boot time, now it takes 4-5 minutes. But it gets worse: you don’t even have to use your computers: they get slower by themselves.
How? Again, it’s all because of locally stored information. Dan Morrill detailed the security problem:
The issues start with the very large data files that contain hashes of viruses, scans of the local computing environment, near real-time black hole lists, and the continuous updating of the security suit that protects modern computing environments.
I’m experiencing it first hand. The McAfee virus-scan that used to run under an hour now takes half a day on my older XP notebooks. But it gets worse. The two older laptops are part of the home network, and I run synchronization / backup software on them. Old habits die hard, and even know I am now a Cloud user, (Gmail, GCal and the Zoho Suite mostly), there’s a ton of legacy stuff I am still storing on these computers. So here’s what happened when I turned on the old laptop after not using it for a week or so:
- Windows updated itself
- McAfee updated itself
- McAfee Virus Scan started
- Syncplicity updated the client
- Windows Live Mesh updated the client
- Yammer updated itself
I’ve probably left out something … suffice to say, I left the laptop alone for a couple of hours… these housecleaning tasks now take up all resources, not leaving any to me, the user. I
I need a radical solution, a tabula rasa. That means reinstalling windows (a major ordeal, thanks to the ridiculous OEM practice of not providing clean XP CD’s), radically cut down on the apps I install, and moving even my old data to the Cloud. I will end up with 3 lightweight, fast Net Computers, which is all I need.
I’ve used personal examples, but the same goes for businesses. Here’s a really smart CEO, Ridgely Evers, one of the original creators of Quickbooks, now CEO of Netbooks, a small-business focused SaaS provider describing how he buys refurbished, second (third) generation computers for his business.
Just keep them clean. Oh, and with all the money you save, be generous in one area: ergonomics. That means good screens (inexpensive) and comfortable chairs (expensive but last forever).