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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heather t
15 years ago

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!

15 years ago

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.

Going Crunchy
15 years ago

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.

Going Crunchy
15 years ago

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 word of mouth, so ask around or check Craigslist for a local person to help you. Shannon

Beth Terry
15 years ago

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.

15 years ago

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

15 years ago

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!

Garrett MacKenzie
15 years ago

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. I felt as though the state was grasping at straws due to a flailing economy. But the more research I have put into this hypothesis, the more I see the validity of its conception. The federal government has set goals to increase the amount of recyclable diversion to 35% nationally. The need for more recycling centers is immense, and it is clear to me that there is a new potential market emerging..recycled plastics. Currently, the profit margin is minimal… largely because of the instability of recycled material pricing and the cost of transportation. Virgin material costs remain stable due to the stability of production facilities, while recycling center production fluctuates. There is also a misconception that exists in the minds of consumers that recycled materials don’t possess the same quality capabilities. A movement towards educating the public as to the potentials of reusing plastic and moving them towards defining our industry’s need to develop an environmental mindset by what they purchase is dire…and the ending impact would make the utilization of recycled plasticsnot only desirable…but cost efficient as well. The technology exists to create efficient and profitable recycling operations of the plastics products we produce. By means of the technical leaders of our industry, we not only have the capability of making the notion of cost-effective recycling operations possible, but we have an industry-wide responsibility to the consumers of this nation to do so. I challenge all of you to see the importance of this for our children…for our children’s children..and ask that you make swift and active movements toward making this a viable and standard manufacturing mindset by using the same engineering capabilities we use in daily product production to develop recycling as an industrial revolution towards supporting the environment around us. I have personally removed myself from plastics production, and intend to focus over 23 years of industry experience on the development of Michigan’s current recycling failure. We as a state are currently near the bottom in regards to our efforts to reduce our production of waste. As a state, we currently only recycle 19% of our waste, in comparison to a 27% national average. We have been at the forefront of automotive manufacturing for decades. I challenge you to consider the potentials of this market, and begin to utilize our technical backgrounds for the “green initiatives” that have been outlined by Jennifer Granholm. We have every available resource needed to place ourselves at the forefront of our country’s effort to reduce waste. Anyone who has information on existing programs related to plastics recycling initiatives, or an interest in being involved…feel free to contact me via the website…

15 years ago

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.

15 years ago

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 assumed would have to happen. Next time I have a computer problem, I’ll post it on the Craig’s List computer forum and a dozen or more geeks will tell me what to do. There was no new plastic involved.

15 years ago

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.

The Green Cat
15 years ago

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 the same time which was also super easy). I thin this is one of the main reasons we (as a society) tend to just dump the old machines and buy new ones.

15 years ago

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 than any earlier Windows, it’s been a very stable platform (and we won’t ever be upgrading to Vista because we need to be able to use the DOS interface).

15 years ago

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.