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Glass-casing a laptop?
August 17, 2012 1:15 PM   Subscribe

A certain relatively expensive, recent (2011) but not current computer is for my needs the apotheosis of laptops. I can buy another one, but how long should I think it can be glass-cased before it starts to rot?

The current machines have gone in a direction I don't care for and the idea of buying any is right out. My current computer is the best I have ever used and if it were possible I would keep it for the rest of my life - but "fings break, donn'ey?". I can buy another one which would be the backup. Is it worth doing if I want it to work when booted five years hence? Yes, I'm willing to forego five years' worth of "advances".
posted by jet_silver to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
 
It is very difficult to parse this question. What is it you are asking?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:17 PM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Barring exposure to extreme temperatures (I'd keep it out of super-hot attics and freezing basements, for example), it should boot up like a charm in five years. Buy it, boot it once to make sure the hardware's good, then shut it down, box it back up, and push it under your bed.

Personally, I'd stash the money in the bank and hope/assume that something in the next five years would meet my needs while costing me less - but that's me; the answer to your question is "definitely."
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:18 PM on August 17, 2012


Oh, wait. I might be completely wrong. Because laptops these days have Lithium-Ion batteries that start degrading from the moment of manufacture, even when they aren't used at all.

So in a few years time, it might be, essentially, a desktop. Unless you can buy a new (not "unopened," but actually new) battery.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2012


I assume this is a Windows PC? If you're planning on having any PC/Mac sit dormant for 5 years without using it, you'll definitely want to catch up on critical updates and security patches before doing anything serious. Other than that, the battery will eventually wear down and won't be as efficient as it was brand new...and who knows what current programs will be obsolete/unsupported by then...so mainly you're just looking at the battery possibly not working/charging and a slew of software updates/upgrades to get it up to speed with the future.
posted by samsara at 1:21 PM on August 17, 2012


Depends on your definition of "work." Will it boot up? Yeah, probably, computer parts generally have a better-than-five-year lifespan. Pull the battery out and store it separately for sure. (The battery is definitely the first point of failure in this case.)

Will the software on it be compatible with what you need to do in five years? Maaaaybe, depending on what you're doing. Will the hardware be compatible with new software? Again... maybe, depending on what you use it for. You could use a 486 right now if all you wanted was to create text documents, but you probably wouldn't be able to print them, send them anywhere, or save them to external media that anyone else's computer could read.

It'd be a pretty expensive gamble, to be honest.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:21 PM on August 17, 2012


Along with the concerns about the battery, I'd be skeptical that the hard drive would necessarily work after 5 years of inaction, or that it would be easy to get replacements for the hard disk.

If it's a solid-state drive, knowing what I know about how flash memory degrades, I'd be extra worried.
posted by straw at 1:27 PM on August 17, 2012


This question is extremely difficult to parse out and understand. So I will tell you about my favorite old laptop.

I have a six-year old laptop that I still use. The batteries are shot (do not take or hold a charge) and the display has yellowed somewhat. The battery that keeps the clock alive has died. Dust ruined the DVD burner. Electrolytic capacitors across the entire machine will eventually dry out. Some, in the power supply, already have and I've replaced them. The fluorescent tubes in the backlight take a long time to warm up, so the display is pink at first.

Otherwise, it is fine. There are many copies of it on eBay, and I could buy it again if I wanted.
posted by fake at 1:35 PM on August 17, 2012


My Answer: Yes, it will work, based on the above mentioned concerns about battery life and storage temperature. If you are really serious about storing it safely, you may also consider an antistatic bag. Some people swear by them, but I'm not convinced they do any good for an already assembled laptop. Still, it definitely won't hurt.

My Additional Comment: I say this respectfully, and am sincerely not trying to give offense-- I believe in the attempt to be a clever writer, you may have been more confusing than you intended. Many people have read this question and don't understand it. Users from all over the world participate in metafilter and vague wording, talking around the subject, mock-Cockney slang and so on aren't always the most clear communications techniques for those of us who don't know what you are thinking.

After pondering your question for a few minutes, and studying the evidence-- "relatively expensive", "apotheosis" and "glass cased", I think you are talking about a MacBook, right? Probably the Air series from last year? Is this correct, would you please mind clarifying what you meant?

So then you are asking if you should buy a "new" copy of last year's MacBook Air to keep in storage for five years because you love it so much and you are certain your needs won't change? Was that your question?
posted by seasparrow at 1:57 PM on August 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


My last laptop before this one (circa 2004?) went to the Big Motherboard In The Sky mainly because it couldn't do things I expected a laptop to do by 2010, not because the equipment itself died. Well, aside from the battery. But mostly it just couldn't stream stuff very well, didn't have a big enough hard drive, new software wasn't compatible, etc.

How sure are you that the next 5+ years of computing won't render your NOS laptop obsolete?
posted by Sara C. at 1:58 PM on August 17, 2012


I don't get the mystery over the type of laptop, but if it's what I think it is, then components can be replaced in that model that are soldered in some newer models. So even if the SSD goes bad, say, you could replace it (and at a +5 year price discount, no less).

Support for what would be the current operating system in five years might be iffy, but more likely not. Consumer computers are switching over from 32- to 64-bit systems, so operating system lifetimes should be much longer, now that the switchover is more or less complete. The reason for the mystery OS (if it's what I think it is) having a shorter lifespan is because older systems have 32-bit hardware and it's just easier to drop it than stay backwards-compatible forever.

The only real worry I'd have is the battery — its chemistry will degrade sooner than five years, definitely. So when you unbox it in five years, plan on expecting its replacement, before making heavy use of it. That will be true regardless of who makes that device.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:00 PM on August 17, 2012


A certain relatively expensive, recent (2011) but not current computer is for my needs the apotheosis of laptops. I can buy another one, but how long should I think it can be glass-cased before it starts to rot?

The current machines have gone in a direction I don't care for and the idea of buying any is right out. My current computer is the best I have ever used and if it were possible I would keep it for the rest of my life - but "fings break, donn'ey?". I can buy another one which would be the backup. Is it worth doing if I want it to work when booted five years hence? Yes, I'm willing to forego five years' worth of "advances".

Unlike my 2011 Macbook Air, I don't like the "non-upgradeable, sealed-case" bodies of the new model. If I buy another one of my current (old) model Macbook Air and keep it stashed away until my current one breaks, will it still work when I need it in about 5 years?

FTFY
posted by mkultra at 2:06 PM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Money spent on computers in advance of actually needing them is the worst investment one can make, because: a) that laptop will be near-worthless in five years (resale) and b) will likely be very slow when patched and upgraded to the current secure OS version and compatible apps.

In terms of "will it run" the battery after three to five years of either regular use or storage will be unable to hold much of a charge, if any, and will need to be replaced. Budget $150 for that.

Re "very slow" above, I have a mid-range Mac PowerBook from five ago that was my primary laptop for until last year. Even maxed out with ram, heavy browser use (lots of tabs, JavaScript) would spin the cooling fan up to max. Applications and OSes may be compatible with older hardware, but they are rarely optimal on it due to assumptions about RAM, processor, and to some extent disk speed.

tl;dr - in three to five years there will be a modern laptop you like. Buy it when you need it,not before.
posted by zippy at 2:13 PM on August 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Do you actually want to work in your computer? Or do you like having the option for you (or others) to work inside your computer?

If you really like the aesthetic of your current computer, you can probably keep your laptop going, especially as modern software requirements don't require a brand new computer any more, of if they do, you can probably get by with your old hardware and software longer.

And as others have said, there will be newer, fancier systems in 5 years. There might be some feature you wish you had, but cost a lot to get put into your old system. Or if it's display-related, you'd be better off getting a new system.

Also noted by others, computers change and improve so fast that old systems devalue quite quickly. If you really like the current form factor, there's a good chance you can get the current form you like at a much lower price than a new system, and you can spend whatever money you save on improving the used system to like-new style.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:15 PM on August 17, 2012


It's a Macbook Pro 8,2 with 10.6.8 - the last version of OSX I like. The question is technical, though, and since nearly every manufacturer is making circuitry just about the same way and buying in the same HDDs and displays, it didn't matter much.

Yah, the printers and the router will be dead before that five year term elapses. I'll worry about it then.
posted by jet_silver at 3:31 PM on August 17, 2012


If it's the version of OSX that's important and not the actual physical computer, just hang on to the installation media and make a Virtual Machine on whatever hardware sufficiently floats your boat in the future. This should also have the virtue of giving you a layer of abstraction between the guest OS and any new printers/wifi routers/etc. you have to deal with down the road.
posted by Freon at 10:40 PM on August 17, 2012


Right now would you happily give up your early 2011 MacBook Pro for a glass-cased early 2006 MBP?

You would? Great!

And do you reckon you'll still be happy with it (the very first Mac Book Pro, with its Core Duo processor, 80GB RAM, … ) in 2016, as it nears the end of its five years of useful life?

Yes? Excellent! I think your current plan is going to work out for you just perfectly.
posted by puffmoike at 8:01 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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