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Old computers, probably not worth the effort?

January 19, 2015

I periodically get an older computer returned from its original user/purpose. My tendency is to reset it to a “ready and safe to use” condition and keep it for testing, guest use, dedicated use (e.g. running a nightly file copy or serving out a non-networked printer), etc. But with new and refurbished computers so cheap I’m not sure it’s really worth the effort any more.

Today I took back a ThinkPad T61. It’s a nice machine with a big screen. But it’s been all morning and into the afternoon and it’s still not ready to use.

What it takes:

Reset to factory as new — actually pretty fast and easy using the Lenovo recovery from the ThinkVantage button.

Now I’ve got a working machine with Windows XP SP2 and 2 GB RAM. So first step is to salvage some memory from another old machine so I’ve got 3GB (the maximum a 32 bit OS can use anyway). Then I need to get it up to Windows XP SP3 so there’s some chance of running it safely.

This involves two installs (learned from long experience) for which I keep CDs: 1. Install IE 8. 2. Install SP3. If you don’t do it in that order you’ll run into trouble.

Then install some sort of antivirus. I used AVG free. Microsoft’s own AV, Microsoft Security Essentials, will continue to update on Windows XP but you can no longer install it on machines that don’t already have it.

Then start the process of letting all the Windows updates since SP3 was released download and install, in their own arcane order.

And finally install the missing pieces that make a computer usable: Adobe Reader, Java, a browser other than IE.

Granted most of this doesn’t require much attention from me, just an occasional glance over to hit OK or uncheck the inclusion of unwanted junk. It still makes the investment in time much more than the computer is worth.

But I’m still old school enough to hate to toss useable gear.

First world problems I guess.

  1. Stephan H. Wissel permalink

    Toss a current Linux on it. At least holes are stuffed and you can (re)use a script to install the additional tools you like.


  2. Stephan: Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve done that with a few machines for my personal use but the pool of who they can be passed on to shrinks with a Linux install.


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