Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Win7 RC

As any good geek, I have been playing with Win7 RC. It went surprising well - after a few instabilities which might have been due to an old NVIDIA 7100GS card. I doubt that was a very popular model, so upgraded to a nice ATI card with HDMI (with audio) output. I've also ordered the released Win7 to be shipped in Oct 2009.

I hope to use it as a Media PC (things like NetFlix, Boxee etc) and have the Win Media Center TV running fine with both analog (from basic cable) and digital channels active. It also runs OpenOffice for document editing.

I also have file-sharing active, with XP computers able to access the 1TB drive in the Win7 system. The file sharing was surprisingly easy to setup - its not the new Win7-only "HomeGroup" stuff, just older XP xompatible file sharing.

The system is Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 with 4GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD 4650 with HDMI/HD audio to Asus 24-inch at 1920 x 1080 LCD. WD 1TB drive. Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 (dual TV tuner)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hard Drives Galore

I went to my 30-year high-school reunion last night - and I was reminded of this blog by several people who had read it recently, soundly declaring me a true geek due to my "perspective" on hardware. Hmmm ... good or bad? Well, at least I am still employed with a job paying me far too much to quit.

The subject of computer hard disk came up, as someone joking said that he felt clever just being able to add a second hard drive ... and I thought perhaps it appropriate to add my opinions on the subject here (as I wait for Win7 RC to load on an old system).

First, I'd suggest that one not "add" a second hard drive - it only wastes power (as in your cash & added green-house gases) plus it makes your life more confusing. Chances are the new hard drive will be both faster and use less power, which means it will heat up your computer (and room) less as well. So given the low cost of large drives these days, anyone wishing to "add" drive space in an older computer should instead:
  1. Buy a nice 320, 500 or even 1000GB (1TB) drive - if your computer has the SATA ports, then buy a SATA (serial) drive drive. It is faster, plus the thinner cabling runs neater and allows better cooling in your case. Otherwise buy an older style.
  2. Buy a full retail version and not an "OEM" version which comes bare and bubble-wrapped. The retail package costs $20 more, but comes with a CD utility you'll need - plus it promises your drive is not a used one (I have heard of people buying the "OEM" drives on line and discovering in the fine-print that it is a "reconditioned/used" one which coems complete with someone else's data!) OEM drives make the most sense for people buying more than 1 drive, but for 1 drive the cost savings isn't justified
  3. Install the new drive (screw-driver perhaps required)
  4. Your new drive should now function as a second drive, but you do NOT need to format it yet.
  5. Run the utility on the CD which came with the drive and it will allow you to "copy" or clone the data (including Windows) from your old drive to the new drive. It magically "expands" the Windows space to fit the new larger drive.
  6. After you shut down the computer, remove the old drive. When restarted, your computer will runs the newer, roomer, faster, cooler-running drive ... plus your old drive a pure "backup" of your system.
  7. Either store the old drive, or pay $20 more to buy an EXTERNAL USB enclosure for it. I tend to do that with my old drives - I can then use them for backups or like 80GB floppy drives.
I bring this up in part because a few months ago I was aghast to read an article in a well-respected computer magazine which explained how to reload Windows, and the sample computer "like one your relatives ask you help with" had three hard-drives - the smallest 40GB and largest 120GB. They suggested one buy Norton Ghost and do both disk images plus manual data backup of the old drives so they could be reformatted.

It was a nice article, yet wrong. The writer should have suggested that "the user" NOT buy Norton, and instead use the money saved to buy a 500GB drive. The other three older drives would NOT require backup, as Windows would be installed fresh on the new larger drive. Then once the 500Gb drive was working, the user could pull files from the older drives temporarily installed for that purpose. All three of the old small drives should have been retired, plus would have remained their own backup!

I am also waiting for a hard-drive test to complete on a pair of new 1TB drives I purchased (yes, these were the OEM form). I am running a destructive Western Digital write+read test which I found on the free Ultimate Boot CD, which is indeed I guess a geeky tool. It includes all kinds of free tools on a self-booting CD which allow running memory tests, disk tests and so on.

The 2 new drives are the Western Digital "green products" (WD10EADS), which just means they run at the older slower speed of 5400 RPM. One of the new tetrabyte drives is going into a "media computer" I am setting up to enable watching online NetFlix movies on the main TV. It will also function as a network file server and I figure the slower "green" speed makes sense. The second drive will go into a Vantec/Nextstar 3 USB enclosure for use as backup, and since it runs over USB the slower drive speed should not be an issue.

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