Rebuild or replace my laptop
November 13, 2016 10:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm running a refurbished Fujitsu LifeBook PC Tablet T5010 (originally released in 2008, purchased mine in fall 2012). As you can guess, it's showing its age, but I really like (the idea of) the pen interface/ surface. I've built PC towers and an HTPC in the (distant) past, so I'm not a novice, but I feel like my skills and knowledge are rusty. More details and thoughts inside.

This laptop has served me well as a daily use computer, but it's running Windows Vista on an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHZ chip with 4 GB ram, and a mere 150 GB HDD, which I've augmented with a 3 TB external USB HDD (making it none-too portable).

My issues: battery life sucks, it often throws warnings when I'm running Chrome with 5 to 15 tabs, where I've crashed tabs of Tumblr when I'm trying to upload more than 3 or 4 images. Plus I usually keep a moderately active uTorrent client open, and I've received system warnings of low memory with Chrome and uTorrent, or Chrome and XnView when browsing images to upload.

I'd like to make my laptop portable again, which would at least require a replacement battery, as this one lasts a couple hours, tops. If I'm doing that, I figure I should look at other upgrades (more RAM, bigger HDD, possibly solid state), which then gets me looking at total cost vs the cost of a new laptop.

I'd also like to do more photo editing and causal illustrations, which is why I got this in the first place. I've wanted a Wacom-type tablet for a long time, and when I saw this laptop, it seemed like something even better. But now touch screens are pretty common, including a range of similar convertible and even detachable devices.

So I'm looking for input from people who have upgraded older laptops and people who have newer ones with screens that are capable of direct input: will upgrading this to decent photo editing and illustrating specs cost as much as a decent replacement? Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
My immediate reaction is to say 'no', because laptops aren't really designed for upgradeability, that's one of their tradeoffs.

I'd guess that a core 2 duo would mean the mobo was severely limited in how much it could be bumped. I'm surprised you're getting memory warnings, as 4gb should be plenty for your modest needs - but if you're on 32 bit Vista, your usable memory is limited to 4 gb anyway. Putting in an SSD is likely to be a very noticeable upgrade, mind, so that is an option.

Personally i'd do a full backup then try putting windows 7/10 on it and see if that made it zippier (and cleared away some of the cruft that long running systems accumulate), and if not look into new options.

If you do end up getting a new one, Surface Pros are very good and would seem to meet your needs.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:21 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try reinstalling windows, or at the very least reinstalling chrome. That computer shouldn't be running out of memory in the cases you describe. Are you running a memory-heavy antivirus program or other intensive background processes?

At the same time, as you say, touch screens have become incredibly common. You could get a windows tablet (the price would vary a lot depending on how casual vs. how serious your work is going to be) or you could also get something like a secondhand or refurbished thinkpad x-series tablet pc, if price is a consideration.

Still, I'd first try running your current computer with a fresh system, because those specs should be more than fine for what you describe.
posted by trig at 2:04 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I got a Mytrix 11t tablet this summer for something like $330. It has a 1080p 10.6" screen with built in touch sensitive Wacom digitizer, a couple pens, an attachable keyboard, and a CPU that's significantly faster than an Atom but not quite an i3 in performance. It'll run rings around your Fujitsu while being significantly lighter. Having used a similar laptop to yours back in the day, I can't imagine happily going back to an almost 9 year old system at this point.
posted by Candleman at 4:51 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, keep in mind that Windows Vista enters end of life in April of 2017, and running out-of-date software is not a generally safe idea.
posted by Candleman at 5:35 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pretty much agreeing with the above. The laptop tradeoff is that upgrade paths are limited, both in what you can do, and the time frame it's viable/worth it.
I think the story with Vista (might be wrong) is that it was the last of the memory-hog OS's; Microsoft stopped assuming users would just 'upgrade their RAM' as mobile platforms grew, so 7 and beyond have much better memory management. But Vista sucks at it. The free Win10 upgrade might have been good for you here. (IDK if that was offered to Vista users?) But if you're on a 32bit system, no point bumping the RAM. (short version: 2^32 = 4GB) Or, upgrading the RAM means replacing the OS.

With Vista, I was reinstalling every 6-12 months because it just kept getting too kerchlunky, so if it's never had a fresh reinstall, I'd do that. (Except I'd never choose to install Vista again). But if you're going to reinstall the OS, aren't too invested in Windows, and like drawing stuff, you might be interested in Ubuntu Studio. It's free, and you can stick it on a USB stick and test drive it on your laptop. If you get the 64 bit version, then you can upgrade your RAM.

An SSD upgrade will definitely be a good thing, but you won't get any huge storage at a price that's budget-consious - a very, very, rough ballpark of 1$/GB at the moment I think?
Replacing the HDD would also be the time to do whatever you choose to do OS-wise. Rather than cloning Vista to the new drive, just swap them out and do the fresh install. Then you can swap the old drive back in if something goes wrong/ forgotten files or whatever.

To summarise:
SSD - on list. $$$
OS refresh - Vista (free) Ubuntu (free) WindowsX ($$)
RAM - dependent on OS choice. $
(And just realised none of that solves the external drive, sorry.)
posted by quinndexter at 5:35 AM on November 14, 2016

Dump it and buy another laptop. The CPU is slow, your battery life is bad, the drive is terribly, terribly slow.

If you are going to keep the laptop:
* New install with Windows 7 or Windows 10
* Replace the HDD with an SSD
* Use a browser other than Chrome. Chrome is a terrible resource hog (CPU and memory) on slower or lower RAM machines. Try Firefox, IE or Edge instead. Maybe Opera. Google says they're going to lower Chrome memory usage next year, but that's not the case today.
posted by cnc at 11:16 AM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're really keen to try the opgrade, then getting the ssd could be transferable should you then choose to get a new laptop, and there really is nothing better for making computers feel nice to use. Samsung EVOs are good.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:37 PM on November 14, 2016

The free Win10 upgrade might have been good for you here. (IDK if that was offered to Vista users?)

Yes, but not officially, and it was a temporary work-around that I might try to capitalize upon retroactively. Probably too late (but another work-around is still live, so you never know). Otherwise, Ubuntu sounds good.

Dump it and buy another laptop. The CPU is slow, your battery life is bad, the drive is terribly, terribly slow.

Done and done. Well, done to the second, pausing on the first. I got a HP Pavilion 15z Touch 15.6” Laptop on sale via NewEgg, and I'm really enjoying it so far. SSD and quad core, neither of which have really been stressed so far.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:44 PM on December 14, 2016

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