The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

November 14, 2008

Beth Geeks Out – Reformatting hard drives and installing Windows Upgrades

I’m tired. I was up very late last night doing a job I love: working on the computers at my office. And as an added bonus, I was doing something great for the environment and saving plastic.

We had five old computers running Windows 2000. We bought a new Filemaker Pro upgrade which will not install on Windows 2000. And even Microsoft will not support that version of Windows anymore. In the past, the company would have tossed the old computers and bought new ones. But this is a new, fierce economy, baby. People can’t afford to be wasteful, and I’m freakin’ glad.

So instead of tossing perfectly good machines, we bought 5 Windows XP Pro licenses (actually, they are Windows VISTA licenses that allow us to downgrade to XP because we don’t really want VISTA at this time) and the only plastic involved was the one CD-Rom I used to burn the downloaded software. I needed a bootable disk, otherwise I wouldn’t have burned a CD at all.

Instead of upgrading the operating system, the best thing for everyone is just to wipe out the hard drives and start over from scratch. Oooooh. That feels good! Any crap people might have downloaded on purpose or accidentally goes bye-bye and we start with a fresh, clean slate. In order to do this, you have to boot the machine from the disk. Windows Set Up will ask if you want to delete any partitions already on the hard drive, and you say “Yes.” Then it will ask if you’re really, really sure, and you do a Sarah Palin wink and cry, “Delete, baby, delete!”

It’s fun. Especially after very little sleep and lots and lots of coffee and chocolate cake.

So anyway, these computers are like new. They run faster. The programs on them are upgraded. They have no junk that might have been installed by HP when they were originally purchased. All they contain are few programs that I personally installed on them. It’s an environmentalist control freak’s dream. And my co-workers are thrilled.

So, the next time your computer is acting slow and cranky and like it just doesn’t like you anymore, instead of replacing the physical machine with all its plastic & toxic metals, find out if it can be upgraded first. Reformat the hard drive and start over. Or maybe it just needs memory. Yes, that’s a bit of plastic, but not nearly as much as a whole new computer.

You don’t have to be a geek. There are plenty of people who will do these things for you. The point is making the effort to do it instead of taking the easy route (which might not be as easy now that money is tighter) and replacing. After Sunday’s 60 Minutes episode, it feels good to know I did my bit to keep some of this crap from causing more harm in the world.

Now, I’m off to the SF Green Festival. If any of you other Bay Areans are going this weekend, email me and let me know. I’d love to meet up with you.

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14 Comments on "Beth Geeks Out – Reformatting hard drives and installing Windows Upgrades"

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You might want to double-check this, but I understand that Microsoft will no longer allow the XP downgrade after January 1! So if you have a really old computer that will run XP but not Vista (any of it’s 97,000 versions), you might want to do this soon!

beth can i hire you to do this to my laptop? can this be done with a laptop? mine is horrible. we never use it because it’s sick. it needs a clean start. and boyfriend wants to break down and buy a new one and i just dont want to do it. it just needs a fresh start and needs all it’s old crap deleted from it’s poor pathetic memory me thinks.

Oh, and I didn’t mean “you” necessarily…..but folks that might be reading you that don’t want to DIY on their computer. You obviously have the good computer karma in you.

Hi Beth, I also have to post a ding for using your local “computer person” too. My husband owns a small business that uses a variety of refurbished equipment, and also does work for folks all the time for people and for offices. If you aren’t a “computer” person, check around your local scene and find somebody that does work like this. You get to have your stuff worked on, or buy stuff used and refurbished which reduces waste, and it supports small business owners. An added plus is a big savings to your wallet. Most work actually comes through… Read more »

Anonymous — this is just my point. Think of all the plastic and materials WASTED if we tossed our old computers and switched to Apple as you suggest. Do you see? That was the point of my post. Upgrading the software was no trouble for me. I enjoy working on computers. And the only physical material involved was the one CD-Rom and used to burn the downloaded software. Nearly zero-waste.

Save yourself the trouble…upgrade to a an Apple. Less plastic and and more ethical company.

Hi Beth, I love your articles. You are such an inspiration, and I have now sent your blog to my friend here in Sweden, who has agreed to fom an antiplastics group. Thank you!

I am posting this blog to bring awareness to the plastics industry of the potentials that lie in plastics recycling. Review of national trends toward waste recycling, alternative fuels and and alternate energy sources. I’ve recently jumped fence, so to speak..I have been working for a large Michigan firm as a process/ robotics engineer in the plastic injection industry. My interest was first ebbed by a “town hall meeting” chaired by Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s governor. I must admit, I was pessimistic at first of the notion that Michigan could potentially make the conversion from automotive production to alternative production sources.… Read more »

Mr Chiot’s loves to do this as well. Although now that we converted to all Mac’s it doesn’t really need done as often. We still do it every year or two. It’s like getting a new computer for a few hours work!!!

We always try to give away our old computers or make sure they go to a hazardous waste site where they’ll be properly disposed of.

My Mac Mini was getting slower and slower, enough for me to bring it to an Apple store where I was advised to re-install the hard drive. This I did, by myself and a sheet of instructions to guide me but because I didn’t know what I was doing, I removed all my documents and photos. I will tell you only the good things about this experience: My Mac runs like a race horse. Now I know how, when and why to re-install a hard drive and about backing up. I didn’t buy a new computer, which is what I… Read more »

Beth, I forgot to mention that last night on PBS’ News Hour there was a very good segment on plastic, the Pacific Gyre, and plastic getting into the food chain.

Good going! I wiped my 5 year old laptop a few months ago because ti was running slowly. It felt really good! Plus I was able to get rid of a partition in the HD that I forgot was there. It’s like a new machine now. Sooooo much better (and cheaper) than buying a new laptop. It’s sad that we use computer technology so much and yet so many of us are afraid of it or don’t know enough about it to do a simple upgrade or repair to fix problems like speed and memory (I upgraded my RAM at… Read more »
Yesterday was computer day for me too, but it sure didn’t feel rewarding most of the time. My work computer was having internet issues and then got all hinky after XP service pack three came to visit — but an hour and a half on line chat with me on the downstairs office computer which had internet and my partner (domestic Por that is, who came into the office just to help me) on the upstair computer and us communicating via speaker phone got everything fixed. I will say, fingers crossed, that we’ve had a lot less trouble running XP… Read more »

Good job, Beth! That is a pain in the butt to do. Do you know a place to find good directions for wiping and reinstalling? I know a lot of my coworkers & customers have bought new hardware instead of dealing with software issues.