Mar 102011
Computer junk
Image by neofob via Flickr

FOR months, I had been trying to ignore it. Like an ailing relative, my desktop computer was becoming increasingly frail. With each passing day, it took longer and longer to boot up. It sent endless “connecting” messages as I tried to get on the Internet. It froze in confusion if I clicked away too quickly.

My first assumption was that it was time for a new computer. Ours was about five years old, relatively ancient in technological years.

But then I started thinking — should I be so quick to assume that computers and the other gadgets of modern life, like iPods and game systems, are always ready to retire after two years, or three or four? For economic and environmental reasons (repairing is better than replacing), shouldn’t I look into the possibility that we could salvage our computer?

I decided to call Adam Sanderson, chief executive of Computer Overhauls, based in Manhattan. I interviewed Mr. Sanderson about four years ago for a column and have since hired him occasionally for emergency computer problems.

Mr. Sanderson remotely peeked into my computer and confirmed my worst fears — the hard drive was dying.

We could go out and buy a new one. Or, he suggested, we could ship or bring in the tower that contains the hard drive and he would replace it for about $150 — far less than the cheapest desktop we could buy. Prices can be higher for more powerful hard drives and up to about $200 for laptops.

“We would clean out the whole machine, reinstall everything fresh and it would be like a brand-new computer,” he told me.

But then my software wouldn’t be upgraded, would it?

No, Mr. Sanderson told me, but you may not really need to.

“It depends on what you’re using the computer for,” he said. “If you’re surfing the Internet and doing e-mail, which is what the bulk of people do, then you’re only using 5 to 10 percent of the actual power of your computer anyhow. Most people don’t need upgraded software.”

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