Thursday, January 13, 2011

To Save or Not to Save – an Older Notebook

An acquaintance sent me the following email that touches on the important issue whether it is feasible or sensible to fix and update an older computer. After I had written my reply I thought this might be of interest to more people and I got the gentleman’s permission to use his email and my response publicly. Here are his email and my response as he got it, only names were removed and minor editing for readability was done, no changes were made to the content:

Hi Eike,

I was recently working on a laptop (which I received with XP Service Pack 1).
After updating everything, I noticed that the hard drive was partitioned to a C and D drive.  The D drive (recovery partition) was at about 38GB (of which less than 2GB was being used) and the C drive had about 13GB (about half of which was being used).  Is there any free utility that you could recommend that would reallocate some of the D drive and put it into the C drive?  Is this a difficult or dangerous thing to do?

I would appreciate any comments you might have.

Loved the new blogs today.


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Dear [friend],
Thanks for reading my blog.

To your questions: Yes, no and YES!

The recovery partition is established by the manufacturer and usually replaces the OS installation CD that we got with computers a very long time ago. I would get the answers to some questions first.

  • What is in the used space on the D drive?
  • What manufacturer and model is the laptop in question?
  • When was it bought?
  • What is the size of the disk drive in Disk Manager (Administrative Tools)?
  • How much memory (RAM) is in the machine?
  • How fast (or slow?) is the CPU?

Yes, the free utility for that purpose is EASUS Partition Master Home Edition.
No, it is not at all difficult to do; I did learn it... Winking smile

YES, it can be potentially very dangerous. If D: is a restore partition any change could "kill" the restore feature. But my guess is that D: contains My Documents or some other data; that can be relocated to C:

On another note: Who would want to keep a restore partition around that would restore to a WAAAY outdated state of XP? Not me.

Here is what I recommend:

  1. When the system is clean (NO malware of any kind!) backup eventual data from D:
  2. Download HD-Tune version 2.55 from here.
  3. Install and run HD-Tune.
  4. Does the disk drive in the Health tab show yellow or red line(s)?
  5. If Yes to #4 toss the whole thing on the big pile and get a Starbucks; it's not worth the pain!
  6. Create Restore CD #1, not a recovery CD; just in case as a fallback option.
    Here is one recipe
    how to do that.
  7. Install Easus Partition Master.
  8. Wipe D:
  9. Enlarge C: to occupy the whole drive.
  10. Create Restore CD #2; just in case as a fallback option.
    #1 from step 6 gets tossed!
  11. Upgrade to SP3!!!!
    If Windows Update does not want to do it, I have the CDs.
  12. Download and install all updates until it tells you "No more updates available".
  13. Create Restore CD #3; this is the "good one" you want to keep!
    #2 from step 13 gets tossed!
  14. Ready to go.

Depending on what kind of disk drive is in there (speed and cache size), how fast the CPU is, how much memory (!!!) the box has and how fast the Internet connection is I roughly estimate the whole procedure to be anything between eight and twelve hours!

Is it worth it? Maybe as a learning experience if there is nothing else to do; I would rather have a play day with my grandchildren. In the end you still will have an older, relatively lame notebook.

I hope this helps. Do you mind to please keep me posted? Thanks.

BTW, I just thought that this would be a good "Case From Real Life" for my blog. May I please use the text from your email and this reply for that purpose? Naturally it will all be anonymous!

Oops, I just realized that you said "... after updating everything ..."; if that includes SP3 and Windows update please ignore #14 and #15; sorry.

Please don't blame me for the long reply, you asked for my suggestions... Angel

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Cleaning up, upgrading and updating an older computer can require substantial time – which for my customers translates directly to money.

I always attempt to explain that as of a certain point it might just not be prudent to spend money for fixing an older computer. As you can see my guesstimate for what he wants to do gets us to a (minimal) price of around $450.

For $450 you can buy really decent basic brand new notebook computers with MUCH more memory, much more disk and computing capacity than the older machine AND Windows 7 pre-installed.

That’s why I would not even attempt to do this job!

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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