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Saving old hardware


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If power's a concern, it'd probably be better to get S3 standby (I know Windows XP/Vista supports it, but probably Linux too by now) set up on most computers on a timer so they will go there when not in use. For what I read, power usage on those go to about 5W. Or simply turn it off when you don't use it. I see so many instances where computers are left on and are unused for long periods of time (overnight or weekends!). And really this doesn't matter how old the hardware is, if it's on and you're not using it, it's burning electricity and is not green, etc. Probably worst is the offices I know of that will leave 100's of computers on overnight. The infrequently used server? There's always Wake-On-LAN.

If one is really that concerned about power usage of a computer, it pays more to watch your usage patterns than it does upgrading.

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In our house, have the following:

  • A 2004 P4 HT Prescott desktop (3.0 GHz)
  • A 2006 Core Duo Yonah laptop (1.6 GHz)
  • An upgraded 2000 PIII desktop (? Mhz)
  • An incredibly slow 1999 Compaq with an unremembered Citrix processor

The P4 desktop is our main machine, and is on pretty much all day. It's a Dell Dimension 4700, and it sucks a LOT of power, and is always hot. I may pressure my parents to upgrade to an e7200 or at least an e2200, as the savings in power would be worth it.

The Core Duo is my dell laptop, and is usually pretty cool and doesn't sap too much energy, but I always hibernate or put it to sleep when I'm not using it, so it doesn't take that much power.

The other desktop is also a Dell, an old Optiplex GX110. I got it from a friend, and so far it runs really well, and we only use it on those nights when the computers are in high demand. Other than that, it rarely gets used. It's not exactly what I would call power efficient, but we'll probably be replacing it in not too long.

The Compaq is a horrid machine destined for Free Geek ASAP. It was our only computer until we got the Dell P4, and it was slow, hot, and awful. We see no point in using it, so I'm donating it.

Free Geek, if there is one in your area, is a great resource for old computers. They'll take pretty much anything, and if it can be refurbished, they'll do so and then donate it to non-profits and to volunteers. The closest one to where I live is quite a distance, so I don't get there often, but when I do it's great - the thrift store has lots of used hardware for cheap, and often things you can't find elsewhere. Computers that can't be reused get recycled.

Another good thing that was suggested is donating your computers to a school. My school district has a relatively large IT budget, however the cheapest desktop you can buy through the district contractor costs over $900, so the schools can't usually afford a ton of new machines. As such, when a machine gets replaced, we take all the parts we can out of it and use them to upgrade the remaining machines that haven't been lucky enough to get replaced. We also love donations, as usually what most people are getting rid of is what we need more of. So! Ask your local school district if they want your computers, the answer may well be "yes".

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i agree a lot with Zxian on this, about the upgrade path.

at the same time, i have a question for someone with an old rig and a way to measure power consumption (no killawatt here). how does an old computers power usage differ if it has a new 80+ PSU under the hood?

I'd love to personally see the results of this, as i have quite a few older computers lying around the house (as well as the newest computer in the house).

may be time to get a killawatt and find out sooner!

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Not only he's saving on an individual computer, but when you can replace several old ones by a single modern PC (things like vmware help too), then you get amazing savings (this Core 2 Duo replaced 3 old boxes on its own -- a desktop, a box that was encoding nearly 24/7 and a vmware server). And more often than not, the upgrade pays for itself in power savings.

You missed the point. Upgrading still means getting rid of older parts.

3 years? I see talk about Celeron 633's in here and P166's. Those would be 8 and 12 years old respectively. That's near eternity in the PC world.

Well, duh! The "we" I refer to are exactly the people talking about those!

Besides, even if you upgrade a lot, you don't necessarily throw away every part every 3 years (psu/case/hard drives/dvd-rw/etc are usually kept)

I know, that's why I said "computer parts" and "entire computers".

Much the inverse, especially with all the boards now with all solid caps and all that.

According a friend of mine who's busy with hardware daily and quite the expert on it, this is not the case. In fact, the motherboard of my secondary PC got busted after only a half year, and had to be replaced.

I got the flag right didn't I BenoitRen?

I'm from Belgium, actually.

Chances are, the EEE Box will serve a much longer useful life to most people than a PII did.

Since most people only really need the Internet, I doubt it. Also, I doubt it will last 15 years.

How much more processing power do we all really need?

I used to think the same about 5 years ago. But people always need more power. It's like saying "640k ought to be enough for everyone".

I also want to point out that while newer hardware may consume less energy, it's not necessarily what we want. Motherboards of today come with crappy graphics and sound cards. I'm happy with my Sound Blaster 16 PCI, thank you. Also, I wouldn't be able to run Windows 95 on that hardware with supported drivers.

yet names like ASUS or Gigabyte keep on going strong

By the way, that failed motherboard I mentioned was one from ASUS.

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A couple old AT PSUs crapped out on me few years ago, most likely of age, but one of them probably due to repeated blackouts (5-6 in a 10 minutes' time); replaced them and everything went on smoothly. Those were the times of 486DX2/66MHz (IBM) and PI MMX/200MHz (unknown manufacturer).

This year, there's been a blackout - my neighbor's PSU went down in smoke (3 capacitors literally exploded) and took the mobo with it - Gigabyte GA-7VA.

I've been working in electronics for about 25 years of my life - cross my heart, nowadays' hardware is extremely bad quality. And someone show me mobos built entirely on solid capacitors, coz I'm yet to see any such things over 100µF while on-board multipliers use 1000-1500µF ones typically.

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If power's a concern, it'd probably be better to get S3 standby (I know Windows XP/Vista supports it, but probably Linux too by now) set up on most computers on a timer so they will go there when not in use. For what I read, power usage on those go to about 5W. Or simply turn it off when you don't use it. I see so many instances where computers are left on and are unused for long periods of time (overnight or weekends!). And really this doesn't matter how old the hardware is, if it's on and you're not using it, it's burning electricity and is not green, etc. Probably worst is the offices I know of that will leave 100's of computers on overnight. The infrequently used server? There's always Wake-On-LAN.

If one is really that concerned about power usage of a computer, it pays more to watch your usage patterns than it does upgrading.

You're entirely correct, and and I have to commend you for this (it's the first of the discussion as far as I know). However... Linux and sleep mode don't always agree. Believe me, I've tried on several systems, and it's nowhere near as simple as "click the button to sleep" as you get in XP or Vista. I'll bet that over 95% of the time, you'll have to fiddle with some sort of config file to get sleep working properly.
You missed the point. Upgrading still means getting rid of older parts.
You know, there are places where computer parts can be sent for recycling. I can name several reputable locations in my area where I've gone to recycle old dead computer components. Like I said before - I rarely throw computer equipment into the trash, unless it really is dead and not worth recycling (dud optical drives for example). I always send my dead hard drives to recycling, since the metals can often be used in other applications.
According a friend of mine who's busy with hardware daily and quite the expert on it, this is not the case. In fact, the motherboard of my secondary PC got busted after only a half year, and had to be replaced.
Dead hardware can have many factors. The constant blackouts that Drugwash mentioned are one, and faulty PSUs can kill an entire computer (this is the biggest offender I've seen so far).
Since most people only really need the Internet, I doubt it. Also, I doubt it will last 15 years.
Your doubts are one thing, but the fact of the matter is that the manufacturing process to build that entire computer is more eco-friendly than making just the PII motherboard of back in the day. Roll the clock back 15 years ago, and there was an enormous amount of waste in all manufacturing divisions (computers, electronics, cars, paper, etc etc). It's only in the past 5 years that we've seen concern for the reduction of energy and waste.

That being said... the internet actually consumes a fair bit of processing power today. Sites are being created with more AJAX and flash than they were before, which do chew up a fair amount of CPU power.

I used to think the same about 5 years ago. But people always need more power. It's like saying "640k ought to be enough for everyone".
Like I mentioned in the Linux thread... the majority of the CPU power needed on modern distros is because of the window manager. A five year old computer can run XP's explorer without any hiccups, but they start to bog down with the latest KDE or Gnome desktops.
I also want to point out that while newer hardware may consume less energy, it's not necessarily what we want. Motherboards of today come with crappy graphics and sound cards. I'm happy with my Sound Blaster 16 PCI, thank you. Also, I wouldn't be able to run Windows 95 on that hardware with supported drivers.
You can't really think that this is reasonable. You're expecting a hardware company to support a 10 year old product on the latest OS? It's the same as asking that a modern product be supported on a 10 year old OS, that the OS developer no longer supports... You can dream for the moon all you want, but it's not going to happen.
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I've been working in electronics for about 25 years of my life - cross my heart, nowadays' hardware is extremely bad quality. And someone show me mobos built entirely on solid capacitors, coz I'm yet to see any such things over 100µF while on-board multipliers use 1000-1500µF ones typically.

I'll show you my mobo. Gigabyte P35-DS3. A few big caps can be replaced by a lot of small caps, you know? :D Anyway, i never checked the values on them, will do tomorrow and come back with a photo.

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I have to commend you for this (it's the first of the discussion as far as I know)

I mentioned S3/sleep in post 10 :P

Gigabyte P35-DS3. A few big caps can be replaced by a lot of small caps, you know? :D Anyway, i never checked the values on them, will do tomorrow and come back with a photo.

There's plenty of them indeed. I have the DS3R variant of this myself. I'll save you the hassle of the photo, there's loads of them around the web for example, this pic.

Yep. Not one electrolytic in sight. I've seen a lot of those people who "have a friend who knows computers" before too...

Also, getting rid of a couple parts every few years makes very little difference when you look at the huge amount of garbage most people produce. And that's when you get rid of them even, instead of reusing/selling it/etc, and like Zxian says, you can even recycle a lot of parts now. Seriously, just how much pollution do you create when you swap an older CPU for a newer and more efficient one? I'm tempted to say it's FAR outweighed by the power savings.

Motherboards of today come with crappy graphics and sound cards. I'm happy with my Sound Blaster 16 PCI, thank you.

Not only hoping for the OEMs to support Win95 isn't reasonable like Zxian said, but look at the Win9x market share nowadays, way below 1% (more like 0.01% in Win95's case) and still very rapidly declining. Most people care as much about Win95 compatibility as having drivers for OS/2 2.0 i.e. nobody, except a handful of fanatics or people in the retro computer thing.

But the REAL funny thing here, is what you said about onboard sound/video. You couldn't possibly be more wrong. Even $50 motherboards now comes with something like a decent Realtek codec. I have one of them on my motherboard, and it blows every consumer-level sound card I've have the [dis]pleasure to use (with the exception of a couple M-Audio cards perhaps, but the M-Audio card cost more than the motherboad does, and the motherboard audio was pretty much just as good). It has 7.1+2 channel (yes, it plays a 7.1 movie and a 2 channel mp3 at the same time on different outputs just fine!), it does 192KHz/24bit audio, it has spdif and toslink outputs, it supports every codec out there (AC3, DTS, and even those used by Blu-Ray), it has the SNR of Audigy 2 ZS in case you still use analog outs, etc. Some of them even have advanced features like DTS Connect. I don't know what sucks about that, or what more you could hope for (unless you're a musician and need low-latency multitrack ASIO, or a elitist audiophile who needs a $1000 sound card for his $75000 audio setup). SB16 PCI's are utter trash compared to those (not multichannel, only analog outputs, only 16bit/48KHz -- actually it's probably closer to only 12 bits with the EMI from the case and such, the line in is garbage and the ADC is 12 bit only, low ~90 dB SNR, no spdif nor toslink, etc). Creative are also very well known for very sh*tty drivers, not adhering PCI 2.1 specs and having bad voltages on their spdif ports (notably on the SB live), etc. Any onboard sound nowdays is *miles* ahead of a SB16 PCI. I'll be uncorking the champagne when Creative goes under.

Similarly, onboard video now often comes with DVI and HDMI outputs (and can pass sound in HDMI's case), supports HDCP for when you might need it (e.g. Blu-Ray), often has a half-decent 3D performance (just not enough for the latest games, but plenty for Aero Glass, WPF apps, Compiz Fusion, some games, etc), and in ATI's case will even decode high bitrate high definition MPEG4 AVC video (H.264 @ 1080p) from sources like Blu-Ray entirely in hardware. I completely fail to see what sucks about it, especially when compared to old cards.

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I haven’t purchased a new computer in years.

I didn’t upgrade to a Pentium 4.

I’m running a PIII recycled computer with a 250 watt power supply.

I can turn on my computer only when I need it because Windows ME does this in a blink of the eye.

I’m more environmentally friendly than I thought.

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That being said... the internet actually consumes a fair bit of processing power today. Sites are being created with more AJAX and flash than they were before, which do chew up a fair amount of CPU power.

AJAX isn't always that resource-intensive. Flash, however, is a pain even on systems assembled in the past 5 years. It doesn't belong on the Internet in the first place. I surf without Flash, thank you.

Like I mentioned in the Linux thread... the majority of the CPU power needed on modern distros is because of the window manager.

Yes. And this is because of the catastrophe that is X-Windows.

You can't really think that this is reasonable. You're expecting a hardware company to support a 10 year old product on the latest OS?

Of course I'm not expecting that. But the fact remains that it is what I want to run, and recent hardware doesn't really give me the option to do it well.

It's the same as asking that a modern product be supported on a 10 year old OS, that the OS developer no longer supports... You can dream for the moon all you want, but it's not going to happen.

That's where open source comes in, obviously. Unfortunately Windows 95 is not open source.

Seriously, just how much pollution do you create when you swap an older CPU for a newer and more efficient one? I'm tempted to say it's FAR outweighed by the power savings.

Stop spreading this FUD. I just talked to that hardware friend of mine, and outside of a couple CPU series like the Centrino, generally newer CPUs ask for more power, generate more heat due to getting more complex, and need more power for cooling.

Not only hoping for the OEMs to support Win95 isn't reasonable like Zxian said, but look at the Win9x market share nowadays, way below 1% (more like 0.01% in Win95's case) and still very rapidly declining.

If market share actually meant something, Linux would never have had drivers.

But the REAL funny thing here, is what you said about onboard sound/video. You couldn't possibly be more wrong.

Try talking to people who actually work with the hardware. Like game programmers. Especially Intel chipsets are to blame.

Also, since when do all motherboards come with Realtek audio chipsets?

Edited by BenoitRen
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Stop spreading this FUD. I just talked to that hardware friend of mine, and outside of a couple CPU series like the Centrino, generally newer CPUs ask for more power, generate more heat due to getting more complex, and need more power for cooling.

It's not FUD at all. May I recommend switching friend for advice? He seems to be wrong about a lot of stuff.

Many P4's have a TDP of as high as 115W, and right now you can get high-end quad cores like a Q9650 on a lesser TDP (95W), or plain old Core 2 Duo's that still totally beat the P4 in speed, and have a TDP of 65W (about half of the P4).

There's also some products out there that will still run a LOT faster than most old hardware, which will also run on 20W or so (at full load, for BOTH the CPU + motherboard), like Intel Atom and VIA Nano products. That's less than the lowest-consuming P3 CPU (a LOT less if you also count the P3's motherboard).

But the REAL funny thing here, is what you said about onboard sound/video. You couldn't possibly be more wrong.

Try talking to people who actually work with the hardware. Like game programmers. Especially Intel chipsets are to blame.

I've never seen a game programmer say anything bad about Intel chipsets. Perhaps you meant Intel video (not chipset), but that's not suited for gaming at all, and asking game makers about non-gaming business hardware is silly at best. It's like asking a F1 engineering team if a budget 4 cylinder $15 000 car is "good enough" for them. Also, Intel doen't even make audio chips. Gaming aside (3D performance issues obviously), Intel video works great. I've had exactly 0 problems with their drivers in Windows (hard to say the same about ATI & nVidia), and they're by FAR the best when it comes to having stable/non-buggy Linux drivers...

Also, since when do all motherboards come with Realtek audio chipsets?

Go look at almost any board by Asus (e.g. their very popular P5K series), Gigabyte (e.g. their DS3 series), etc. Lots of large OEMs use them too (e.g. HP). The vast majority of boards use that. Even the 5 year old P4 I sold last month used that.

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Stop spreading this FUD. I just talked to that hardware friend of mine, and outside of a couple CPU series like the Centrino, generally newer CPUs ask for more power, generate more heat due to getting more complex, and need more power for cooling.

Before you call it FUD, do your homework. I'll give you a very basic example of how a modern system can draw equal to, or less power than an old one.

Test Rig:

Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 processor - 2.53Ghz, 3MB L2 cache, 45nm, 65W

Apack ZeroTherm BTF90 heatsink/fan

Asus P5E3 Premium motherboard - 401 BIOS

Corsair XMS3 Dominator TWIN3X memory - 2x1GB, DDR3-1800

Palit Radeon HD3870 graphics card - 512MB, PCI-E 2.0

Western Digital WD6400AAKS hard drive - 640GB, 7200RPM, 16MB cache, 2 platters

Enermax Modu82+ 625W power supply - 625W, ATX12V, 80-Plus

Microsoft Windows Vista operating system - Home Premium, 32-bit

ATI Catalyst 8.4 graphics driver

Now, the X38/X48 chipset from Intel is NOT a power-friendly chipset. It's well known that it eats joules for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and much more so than the P35 or P45 chipsets do. That above system runs at 82W at idle, and 110W at load. Read for yourself.

If you want to see how low-power some people can go, check out the SilentPCReview forums. I've seen people put together fully capable modern computer systems that draw a mere 40W on idle and 60W on load, and they'll run circles around any old low-power computer you put beside them.

Your "computer-savvy" friend is probably thinking of the Prescott-era P4 CPUs, which yes, were complete power hogs. Once of the MAJOR selling points of Core Duo when it was released was that they drew far less power and therefore ran cooler than their older counterparts.

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Why would you need a 625W PSU on that system, then? Don't tell me it came with the case...
Enermax Modu82+ 625W
said to be among the quietest and the most efficient in the world

Quote from here.

mark

Edited by mark
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Why would you need a 625W PSU on that system, then? Don't tell me it came with the case...

If you really worked in electronics for 25 years, you should have known that any power supply only takes as much power from the mains as it is needed to run the circuit it powers. And nobody makes 150W PSUs today, besides, do you think they would throw in the weakest no-name PSU they had?

Agreed, my P1-133, 32MB RAM, onboard ATi Graphics Xpression with 2MB dedicated, 2x 3Com Fast Etherlink XL PCI, uses like what, 20W, if that. But i don't see it doing anything else than what it's been doing in the last 3 years - acting as a router. Older PCs with power consumption lower than today's low-power chips can't serve as PCs anymore.

Edited by Th3_uN1Qu3
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