His 12-year-old Dell Windows XP machine was finally too slow to be useful. Here's the saga of replacing it and what the Dell looked like from the inside.
In a way, engineers are like many senior citizens, for we hold onto electronics and mechanical devices longer than most. In the case of engineers, it's likely because we fix things rather than simply buy a replacement. For many retirees, it's more of a financial decision: "Why replace things when the old one still works, and who wants to learn a new thing at my age?"
After convincing my father-in-law to give up dial-up internet access in 2014, I tried to convince him to replace his Windows XP computer and get a Windows 7 PC when XP support ceased. "Why replace something that works?" he said. "This old computer does what I need it to do and it's so fast now that I have DSL."
Jump ahead two years. A few weeks ago, he called to say that it was time to replace the XP box. The first thing I did was pay him a visit to make sure we had backups of his files and his bookmarks, a grand total of 25 Mbytes. That's megabytes, not gigabytes.
Next, I set out to find him a new Windows 10 PC. He also needed a new monitor and printer. He didn't realize how his 17-in. CRT's display had lost its sharpness over the years. I brought him to my house to see what a new 24-in. monitor looked like. "Wow, so clear," he said, "but it's too big for my desk." We decided that a 22-in. monitor was the right size. He also wanted a new printer, but it had to be a multifunction unit so he could make copies at home. Again, size was important, for it had to fit on his desk.
Fig. 1: Acer
Windows 10 PC
After doing some research, I found what looked like a good and reasonably priced set of equipment, so we went to a local computer superstore, as opposed to an office supply store or general merchandise store. I wanted Grandpa to see the large selection of equipment firsthand. But it was a bit overwhelming and I could see that he just wanted me to tell him what to buy. We then saw that the Acer desktop (Fig. 1) was on closeout, marked down $100. It's got enough power for another 12 years: 2.7-GHz Intel Core i5-6400 processor, 8 GBytes RAM, 2-Tbyte hard drive advertised as 1 Tbyte. That's a good type of false advertising.
It's getting hard to find monitors less than 24 in. in size, but the store has a few, so we picked this one from LG (Fig. 2). I had to be careful to make sure that it had the right ports to be compatible with the PC. It has both SVGA and HDMI ports. SVGA seems to still come on every desktop PC and every new monitor — as least that's what I saw. I supplied the HDMI cable, having a spare at home.
Fig. 2: LG 22MP48HQ-P 22-in. monitor
The printer was an easy choice. He wanted low cost and small size, so we chose an HP DeskJet 3755 (Fig. 3). He doesn't need a flatbed scanner because he just makes copies of full pages. The only thing about this printer is that to make copies, you have to remember to put the source in with the side you want printing facing up.
Fig. 3: HP DeskJet 3755 all-in-one printer
So now we had the equipment, but it went to my house first. I wanted to make sure everything worked and then install software for Grandpa. I chose OpenOffice because it's free and its user interface was closer to what he used on the XP box: WordPerfect 11. Fortunately, the PC came with Firefox, saving me a step. I just had to import his bookmarks.
We had some issues converting the Quattro Pro QPW files to Excel because OpenOffice doesn't open QPW files. I had to open them with Quattro Pro on the Dell PC and save them in Excel xls format. I also set OpenOffice to save all documents in Microsoft format for ease in sending them to others.
Grandpa also wanted to change his e-mail from Yahoo to Gmail, so I set up a Gmail account. Unfortunately, I was unable to use POP to get current and all future mail over to Gmail. Yahoo only allows POP connections if you have a premium account. Yahoo will send new mail to the new account, but only for 30 days. I can, however, set up a filter to forward all incoming mail to Gmail when the 30-day period expires.
A few days later, I delivered the setup to Grandpa and spent some time showing him Windows 10. The transition from XP was easier than I expected. Grandpa now calls just about every night with one or two questions, but that won't last much longer. Fortunately, I have the same software on my personal PC, so I can usually duplicate and show him how to solve his problems.
The Acer PC comes with McAfee Antivirus installed with a 30-day trial. I tried installing Avast, but I'll have to make another visit to remove McAfee before installing Avast. If Avast doesn't work, I'll try AVG.
With the new PC now past its 15-day return period, I took away the Dell XP box and monitor (the old printer went to Grandpa's friend). I wanted to remove the hard drive from the Dell and install it in an external drive enclosure (I have two) so that if there's anything we missed, files on the drive are still accessible. On the next page, you'll see the inside of the Dell computer and what can happen after 12 years of use.
To Page 2: The teardown and its dusty trail