New Computer – Sort of

Posted: October 16th, 2010 by Militant Libertarian

Mili Note: These will be appearing on one of my other sites, Aarons EnvironMental Corner (  I will republish them here, but it may be days later.  So if you’re interested in this kind of thing, I’d suggest subscribing to the RSS or visiting Aaron’s EnvironMental Corner (Putting the Mental into EnvironMental).  You can also learn how to compost, plant trees, build stuff for nearly no money, and save energy in my version of free market environmentalism on the cheap..

by Aaron Turpen, Aaron’s EnvironMental Corner

My mother-in-law rocks.  Not only has she sent us all kinds of great stuff in the past (her and my wife are the same size), but she’s also sent me something special.  The UPS man showed up yesterday with a box.  I opened it and found the usual assortment of shoes and clothing meant for Kathy and Heidi (our baby), but also a well-wrapped something just for me.

It was her old laptop, which she’s recently replaced.  It’s a Dell Inspiron and is probably 4-5 years old.  It’s a single-core, 2.0GHz Pentium.  She replaced it because it was getting sluggish.  She’s not a computer geek.  Of course, once she’d bought a new one, she immediately thought “my son-in-law is a geek.  I should send this to him, he can probably use it.”

Hell ya, I can!

My old laptop is about 8 years old now and still running strong.  It’s an HP Pavilion with a wide screen.  That’s now my wife’s system.  I built a new desktop for myself a couple of months ago.  What I don’t have is a reliable “take it in the other room and sit around with it” portable.  Until now, that is.

So what I’m going to do is show you how to take an older system and make it basically new again.  Why would I do this on a website dedicated to free market environmentalism?

Because computers cost money to buy and they fill landfills when they’re thrown out.  Ten years ago, it was virtually a requirement that you upgrade your system at least every two or three years.  Now?  That laptop that’s 8 years old will run anything I throw at it that’s not the latest graphics-intense game.  That old computer was my main system up until just a couple of months ago when I completed this one.  I’m a geek and that wasn’t bothering me until recently, when I found that it was struggling with some of the graphics apps I run to edit video, sound, and photos.  Mainly with video.  Plus, the old computer I’d been using as a backup box (a 14-year old desktop box) finally gave up the ghost.  So I decided to start building a new system.

Most people don’t need the latest and greatest, just something functional.

Even if you’re worried about looks, there are dozens of websites selling wraps and stickers you can put on your old laptop to make it look brand new again (covering up the scuffs, decorating it) and desktops rarely start looking shabby – assuming you know how a duster works.

My first step will be to pull a punch of things off of this old system (it’s running Windows XP Pro) that I promised to save: mostly photos and some wedding videos.  Then I’ll be starting it from scratch and I’ll show you how with just a little time and effort and probably zero out-of-pocket expense, you can turn a 5-year old computer into a brand new system that runs better than it did when it came out of the factory.

Most of this isn’t even technical, but it does require that you spend some time and have the ability to reconsider what you think something “has to have” in order to be a good computer.

Here’s a hint of what’s to come in future posts (with better photos, I was in a hurry today):

  1. 99.9% of the time, a slow computer is due to its operating system and how long it’s been there – especially if it’s a Windows system.  We’ll replace that with a Linux option that is so user friendly, you’ll wonder why you’ve kept buying Micro$oft.  I’ll also show you how to dual-boot or re-install the Windows that came with the computer you might have so you can still use Windows applications.
  2. Dirt and debris are also another common problem with slow-running computers, so I’ll show you how to clean it out without risking destroying your computer in the process – easy with desktops, hard to do with notebooks.
  3. This Dell laptop is from before the time when WiFi was commonly built into notebooks, so I’ll show you how to come up with solutions to remedy that – assuming you need it.
  4. Finally, once all is said and done, I’ll talk about some of the differences between Linux and Windows and why I run both and why you probably don’t need to – unless you’re a geek like me.  If you kept the Windows core from Step 1, though, you can actually run most Windows-based applications through Linux without trouble.  So if you’re married to an app like Microsoft Money and can’t live without it?  You’ll be OK, even if Windoze isn’t your primary OS anymore.

I’ll include pictures as I go, using both the new system I’m upgrading and the older HP notebook I talked about.

With just a little knowledge and time, you can take nearly any functioning, but old computer and make it like new.


Comments (2)


  1. If and or when you need stuff…you should just ask. We find great used stuff for free or super cheap all the time.

    The agoristic barter underworld economy is growing each and every day!

    Starving The Monkeys and Ending The Looterfest,
    John and Dagny Galt
    Atlas Shrugged, Owners Manual For The Universe!(tm)


    • Aaron says:

      Awesome, thanks. There is tons of stuff out there for people to get free or at low cost for sure. I didn’t really need this notebook, but will put it to use anyway.

      People should Google things like “freecycle” and “meet and swap” (not “swap meet”). There are a lot of places online to find where people are getting together to trade, barter, or just giving stuff away.

      Plus, as is a tradition around here, on town garbage day, a lot of people troll town in their pickups and dig through the garbage piles people have made.

Leave a Reply