Making It Last


If you recently got a new laptop from a big box store, you can count on 3-5 years of use before you’ll be back for another one. It might be the nature of the beast – cramped layout and poor cooling results in overheating, smaller and weaker components – whatever the reason, it is what it is.

Now if you already have a monitor and speakers, for the same money you can get a robust and commercial grade desktop – ideal if you work in one place and don’t need portability. This is the one I got in 2012 – Acer Veriton M6610G.

Assembled in the USA, the Veriton M has a bunch of features that made it an excellent purchase:

  • Nice mid sized case – small enough to fit on the side of a computer desk but wide enough and deep enough for easy maintenance.
  • Quality components.
  • Modern technology supporting fairly up to date memory, storage connections, and expansion slots.
  • Windows 10 Professional – most home users don’t need the added features, but it’s nice to have the better security and additional memory access if desired.

You can probably count on a desktop of this quality to last twice as long as a laptop – so right away you are on the road to making stuff last. And there’s more. If you have a desktop unit, upgrading it to make it even better and longer lasting is a definite option. I have done numerous upgrades to the basic box over the years and I now anticipate even longer useful life. Let’s take a look at the possibilities, but first what have I NOT upgraded:

DVD-ROM Unit – I could get Blu-Ray I suppose, but with so much video streaming going on it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The basic DVD burner works well, and I am not really making that many CDs or DVDs anyway what with the advent of USB flash drives.

USB 3.0 – the motherboard supports USB 2.0 but I could install a USB 3.0 card in it if needed. However USB 2.0 seems fast enough for me at this point in time.

Motherboard and Processor – The processor in this machine is a solid Intel “Sandy Bridge” processor that was about a year old design when the Veriton M was new. It’s quite obsolete now but Intel has concentrated recently on making its processors smaller and more power efficient as opposed to faster. The Core i5-2320 in the older desktop still runs just fine for everything from web surfing to videos to games.

As for the motherboard, it’s a quality item and supports current (if not leading edge) technology so an upgrade isn’t needed. Replacing motherboard and processor is a major job and you might as well buy or build a new machine if you need to do that.

Looking at things I HAVE done to make the desktop last longer I would list the following:

Memory – it’s cheap and easy to add, and there’s plenty of room on the motherboard. I maxed the memory slots and went all the way up to 16 GB of RAM from 4 GB. That is a lot, but I’ll never have to worry about how much memory any program needs, nor will the machine ever need to swap stuff into the hard disk because it’s memory is full. Stuff runs faster.

Video Card If there’s a weakness this desktop had it was video – Intel’s integrated graphics is not that great anyway – it’s OK for basic office work I suppose. But I want to run my Train Simulator games, and that takes a bit of 3-D capability and muscle. I soon added in a mid-grade video card and things were a lot better. But that meant another upgrade was needed.

Power Supply – The desktop was not over specified when it came to a power supply. The power supply was good enough in quality but delivered only enough wattage to run the “stock” configuration. It did not have the necessary connection to plug into a video card to get that upgrade working. The motherboard was completely standard in design so it was easy to drop in and connect a higher capacity power supply before adding a video card.

Storage – The hard drive in the Veriton M is a fast and robust Seagate 1 TB capacity unit – plenty of room for all my pictures and programs. It’s now 5 years old though and time to think about replacing. In the meantime Solid State Drives have dramatically come down in price and increased in size to the point where an upgrade is quite possible. An SSD vastly improves boot time and performance of the computer – in fact it’s the best upgrade you can make right now.

Because it’s a desktop I didn’t have to replace the old drive with the SSD – I was able to add the SSD to another bay in the case, get Windows 10 working from it, then use the old drive to store my data. This way I can make sure Windows will run well for years and if the older drive fails – well it’s not the end of the world because I have all my data backed up elsewhere.

Cooling – nothing fancy here, I just added an extra exhaust fan at the rear of the case to take away the extra heat from the video card and second drive. The mounting holes were all pre-drilled and there were plenty of spots to power up a second fan on the motherboard.

I suppose one might argue that with all this upgrading I would have been better off to build the machine the way I wanted at the outset. Of course hindsight is 20/20. The upgrades took place over a five year period and each one enhanced the original package – which up to that time was trucking along at its various tasks. Only one item was actually replaced – the power supply – and that might have been necessary anyway. Power supplies are one item in a desktop that could go bad over time. If I do need to build a new machine in future some parts will be reused (power supply, video card, SSD.)

At the end of the day, the objective to make something last longer has been accomplished , and there is one less piece of electronic gear that has to be recycled before its time.






Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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