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Trailing edge computing

I found a blog entry today suggesting that you buy 3-year-old computer hardware and software.

I’ve been doing this for years, although I never put that much thought into it.The idea goes like this: Instead of buying cutting-edge computers, which depreciate faster than cars do, buy a machine that’s a few years old, and then run older software on it. He says games, but the trick works fine for other software too. Just make sure the software you run is still getting updates. Microsoft generally continues releasing updates for 10 years, for example.

He suggests scouring the bargain bins at game stores for old software, but you can get used copies of pretty much anything you want online too, such as at Amazon. If the game is rare the price can be high, but the titles you’re likely to want are also likely to be common and cheap.

I haven’t built a new PC since 2002, which might surprise some people since there was a time when I would either build a new PC or do a major upgrade once a year or so.

But it’s telling that when I built that machine I didn’t use cutting edge parts either. I used a surplus Compaq motherboard and the cheapest ATI video card I could find. Is it useful? You bet. My wife uses it every day.

The PC I use most often now is a 2 GHz Compaq, most likely an off-lease business PC. I put a discrete video card in it and filled its memory slots. It probably dates to 2002 or 2003 also, but it’s almost as peppy as the 3 GHz PC I use at work.

Needless to say, I like the idea a lot.

As far as whether you should build a PC from old (or mostly old) parts or buy an entire PC, it really depends. I bought the Compaq because there was no way I could build anything comparable for the price, even if I reused components (and I have a lot of parts I could reuse). I can assemble a PC in less than an hour, so time wasn’t a huge consideration for me, but it would be for some people. A PC built entirely with off-the-shelf components is more upgradable, but this Compaq is tiny, and I really liked that.

If I could have bought a bunch of cheap parts, I might have gone a different direction.

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