image My five-year-old Compaq Presario laptop has had hardware problems and failures since the first year I bought it. Twice I’ve had the motherboard replaced, once on HP’s dime, and once split with them. I think it had a design flaw that allowed it to overheat, which in turn would end up corrupting something in the master boot record. So, ever few months, it would suddenly make a helpless frog chirp sound from somewhere deep in the hardware, freeze up and then could not be rebooted.

Or, almost. I figured out that after letting it cool and then repeatedly cycling the power, once every dozen or so reboots, I’d be able to get in long enough to do some file repairs. The DVD drive was flaky as well, so using the Windows recovery CD was sketchy, but that sometimes worked too. I got to memorizing DOS commands like fixmbr (fix the master boot record) and chkdsk (check disk). I always found that in the end, I could get it back up and running with a few hours’ work, and my hard drive files were always OK. But, this routine was getting old. And I could never leave the computer running for more than a few hours, because of the overheating issue. I was religious about putting it in sleep mode every time I walked away from it.

I’m cheap, I prefer to try to make use of something as long as possible and I hate to just rush out and buy replacement things. But I’m job searching, so having an unreliable computer, and the threat of losing files or being offline for a while, just became too much. So, last weekend, I did some price checking and decided Best Buy had a pretty snazzy deal on the Dell Studio 1550 notebook PC. They had a sale where it was the same price as the Inspiron, which is a lesser machine performance-wise; and the price was better than from Dell’s own website. It was an unadvertised special, and they only had two of the boxes left in the store, and there were none on display.

I talked Kirk into going with me, because he’s been putting up with an old Dell Inspiron 1000 that was very slow. He ended up choosing the same computer as I. We chuckled as we remembered how much we paid for them way back when- mine was over a thousand dollars, and his was the first “cheap” laptop- the bottom of the barrel one for about $500. Now, we paid $600 with tax for each of two very nice machines with Windows 7 installed.

So, for two days, the above picture was my view: sitting on the couch in front of all four laptops, transferring files and getting the new machines all set up. Kirk’s didn’t take me that long since he just needed his photos and email files transferred. Uploading his Outlook Express data into Windows Live Mail was straightforward. Mine took a lot longer, I had a lot of data, and had to install a lot of apps from disk and saved downloaded install files.

It’s mostly done now, and the new computers are zipping fast! Our Clearwire high speed wireless connection performs better with these too, which is interesting. I mean literally- if I go to, I can get faster response speeds than with our old PCs. Here I thought it was Clearwire’s problem all this time, that we were just too distant from the tower. So that was a welcome surprise.

The only glitch I’ve been aware of so far is that my Palm Pilot synch via USB cable will not work with 64 bit Windows 7. Both Palm and Microsoft indicate this is an unresolved problem, there are no drivers for it. Windows 7 has an option to set certain executables  to run in “compatibility mode” simulating XP, but this did not work either. The proposed official solution is to switch to synch the Palm via Bluetooth, but darn, I didn’t buy a Bluetooth-enabled PC, not imagining that I’d need it. So, I had to buy a $30 USB Bluetooth adapter. I’m hoping this will resolve the issue, because I cannot synch my sheep software right now; and I’ll need to soon, when I start lambing.