Maybe this is the sales tactic computer stores use these days

So, Dr. A’s computer is going to get the full Farquhar treatment. I told him I’m pretty confident I can get it running better than it ever has.

He said one of the salesmen told him it’s overdue for a crash, because it’s a Dell.

I really don’t like that kind of a generalization. I told him yes, all other things being equal, I think HP has better engineers than Dell. But would I discard an old machine just because it’s a Dell? Well, I ran this web site on an old Dell computer from about 2003 until October 2010. Actions speak louder than words. But there are a lot more problems with that argument. So I think it’s a sales tactic. I think if he’d come in and said he had an HP and he thinks it’s due, the salesman would have said, “Oh, it’s overdue for a crash because it’s an HP. Here, let me show you this Dell….”

Here’s why.

The most failure-prone component in the computer is the hard drive. And, once Hitachi and Samsung finish selling out, there will be two major hard drive vendors left: Seagate and Western Digital. Guess what HP and Dell do? If they need 2,000 hard drives, they call both companies. Whoever can get them 2,000 hard drives fastest and cheapest gets the order. Period. So one week either manufacturer can be shipping with one type of drive, and the next, with the other.

Guess what? I’ve had bad experiences with both Seagate and Western Digital drives. I prefer Seagate, but I can find you a guy whose opinion you should respect just as much as mine who prefers Western Digital. Both companies have had streaks where they made drives that ran forever, and both have had streaks where their drives couldn’t survive their warranty period. I used to be a Seagate guy because every Western Digital drive I ever bought died young. I’m sure my colleague who likes Western Digital had one too many Seagate drives die young.

Yeah, I used to be a Seagate guy. I’m an SSD guy now. Intel, if you care.

As for the rest of the computer, if it’s survived a year or two, it’s probably going to last a few more. Junk motherboards tend to fail quickly; good motherboards tend to outlive their usefulness. Like the Asus motherboard (HP surplus) that I bought in 2001. I have it in a computer in the basement that I fire up once or twice a month or so. It’s good enough for emergency web browsing. I can’t bear to get rid of it, though it’s just about time. Another example is that ancient Dell, which, well, is a 450 MHz Pentium II. That’s all you need to know.

Back when I sold computers at retail, the store I worked at had a policy about not talking badly about any make of computer, even the ones that were terrible. But I haven’t sold computers at retail since 1995, and that’s ancient history now. Maybe the policies are different today. If the chains have found they can make money by playing one brand off another, I suppose they probably are. It’s all about making money and staying in business.

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