So much cheaper
My mother-in-law's laptop was getting so slow that even she was complaining about it. It's a Toshiba I got for her from Staples many years ago; it still runs Vista.
As I thought about how to replace it, the high cost of decent laptops put me off. Browsing black Friday sales I came across an offer for a reconditioned mini desktop. That was it! I realized that she never moves her laptop from the desk in her office, so a desktop would (1) save her lots of money and (2) be more powerful.
A Dell, it had excellent specs, such as a 2.8GHz dual-core CPU, 4GB RAM, and Windows 10 -- all for only the equivalent of US$105, plus $4 for shipping. (How can a company ship a heavy desktop computer for only $4 in Canada?) It's like paying for a license of Windows 10 and getting the computer free.
Monitor Connection. When it arrived, I found it included the keyboard and mouse, but no monitor. No problem, as I have several spare LCD monitors laying around. But this desktop, being older, didn't have an HDMI connector: just full-size DisplayPort and VGA. I ordered a DisplayPort-HDMI adapter from eBay, but in the meantime hooked up the monitor using a spare VGA cable.
Huh. The monitor was just fine using "just" VGA (a spec invented by IBM in 1987), and so when the $6 adapter arrived a few days later I set it aside. Maybe it'll come in useful some other time.
BTW, the largest monitor on a laptop is 17", but by using a separate monitor I can go 21", 23", whatever.
Starting up the computer, it then took hours to install Windows 10 updates. Even now, weeks later, there are updates that aren't updating. Oh well.
More RAM. But it did feel sluggish, so I went about fixing that. I happened to have two full-size RAM modules laying around that I had thought of throwing out; until this computer came along, I didn't think I would need the two anymore.
This being a business-class Dell computer, it opens with no tools. As I looked about the innards, I found the DVD drive was held in place with a couple of dabs of silicone. Oh, dear. On the better news side, I found that there was room on the motherboard for two more RAM modules; I checked the notches on them, and they fit! So, a free upgrade from 4GB RAM to 8GB RAM.
It was a bit disconcerting to find a jumper bouncing about inside the cabinet. I wonder where it came from. Its absence from the motherboard did not seem detrimental to the operation of the computer.
Switching Drives. The computer still felt sluggish, taking forever to start up. Fortunately, I had a spare SSD (solid state drive). Job 1 was to remove the existing hard drive -- not so easy, as it was kind of jammed into the mounting pins and sheet metal. I wonder if a slow, small hard drive has been quickly jammed in by the store that sold me the computer.
Drive Cloning. To clone the existing drive to the new one, I have an Inateck drive cloner hardware. Using it is easy but slow:
- Insert the source drive in the A slot
- Insert the destination drive in the B slot
- Plug in the power
- Hold down the Clone button for exactly 3 seconds (and not too much longer)
- Let go, and then immediately press the Clone button briefly a second time
- The blue clone LED lights up, and then progress LEDs show the slow progress
It took nearly an hour to clone one drive to the other. Note that this is hardware cloning, and so there are these limitations:
- The destination drive has to be as big or bigger than the source. My destination was 240GB, the source 160GB
- The clone is made 1:1, so a bigger destination drive loses any left over space; in my case, this was 80GB. Given that this computer is being used by my mother-in-law, large disk storage is unnecessary
Never mind, When the job was complete, I connected the SSD to the computer's power and data cables, and then wraped in a bit of cardboard. SSDs don't need to be mounted like HDDs, as they have no moving parts, but the SSD's metal body might short out something on the motherboard, so the cardboard acts as an insulator.
Booting up the computer, the BIOS noticed a new drive, and then booted into Windows 10 in a much faster 25 seconds.
So, now my mother-in-law has a speedy "new" computer that cost me nothing to upgrade, and that cost her just over $100.