Desktop v. Laptop
May 18, 2006 4:45 PM   Subscribe

The MacBook calls to me. But I have a desktop (PC). Is there any justification for having a desktop AND a laptop computer? If not, is there any way I can sell a desktop computer without taking a huge loss?
posted by miltoncat to Technology (28 answers total)
So many questions.

A laptop and desktop make sense to some people, but it really depends on what you do. For instance, I have a desktop machine that performs a lot of server-related functions whereas my laptop is strictly a client. I use my laptop to test wireless connectivity at work and other network-related issues (mobility) and when I'm travelling it's a godsend. Sometimes the laptop screen is lacking in real-estate so I hop on my dual-monitor setup with my desktop machine (granted, you can do this with some laptops as well if you have a docking station).

You can definitely sell your desktop machine, but again.. this depends on the age of the computer, make/model/custom built and the specifications. Even if you can't sell it, there are probably a lot of non-profits and/or schools who will gladly take it off your hands and your reward will be a tax receipt.
posted by purephase at 4:53 PM on May 18, 2006

I've had two machines for a couple years--an older iBook and a Dual G4 desktop. The G4 was a workhorse that I used for web dev and the iBook I used for web browsing, email, etc. When the MacBook Pro came out, I decided to sell the G4, give away the iBook, and buy a MacBook Pro. It's been a couple weeks with one machine and... it's a little scary. It's good to have a machine to use if the other goes down. It's good to have a machine to backup to. So now I'm working out either dragging the Linux box I have out of the closet or else getting some external hard drives.

I only sold the G4 because I knew I could get enough to cover over half the MacBook Pro. If you can't do that and can afford the MacBook, I'd keep the PC and enjoy 2 machines for a while.
posted by jdl at 5:02 PM on May 18, 2006

miltoncat posted "If not, is there any way I can sell a desktop computer without taking a huge loss?"

Describe the desktop, and what you paid for it. You'll probably take a significant loss; as for huge, though, that depends....

Personally, I like having at least two computers around. But like everyone else says, it depends what you use them for.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:11 PM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, I should elaborate. I mainly use my 'puter for basics: Word things, school projects, music, internet, AIM. My job (school librarian) doesn't require much take-home work, so that's not much of a necessity. I just like the freedom of a laptop and being able to use it wherever.

My desktop is a Compaq 330 with a Celeron D processor. It gets the job done. Got a flat screen monitor too.
posted by miltoncat at 5:17 PM on May 18, 2006

I have a dual g5 desktop, a macbook pro, an ibook, and a powerbook, and they all get used quite often (in a family of 4). I personally use the desktop and macbook pro all the time. There are plenty of reasons to have both kinds.

I use the desktop for more of the workhorse activities and take advantage of its extra hard drives and larger disply. The laptop is for when I want to work in front of the TV, keep track of email while I'm away from my home office, get jobs done in a pinch if I'm away from the office. I love having both and consider it a necessity.

In your situation especially, it would be kind of nice to have a pc and a mac, although I'd probably eventually sell that PC or give it to a family member or friend who doesn't have one.
posted by visual mechanic at 5:24 PM on May 18, 2006

There's very little justification these days to having two computers unless you require something specifically desktoppy (giant hard disks, the latest 3D graphics card, multiple monitors, etc).

I'd go with just the laptop and maybe keep the monitor to use at home. Having two computers is a nightmare. I was always changing a setting on one computer and then wondering why the other one was using the old setting.
posted by cillit bang at 5:26 PM on May 18, 2006

I have a desktop for games, expandability/repairability and so I don't go insane with the small screen/keyboard/etc. If something goes wrong, I swap it out within a day or two on my own, end of problem.

I have a laptop because they're just that awesome. They serve entirely different purposes, but I really would not like to go back to having just one (although I'd likely ditch the laptop, if it came down to it).
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:28 PM on May 18, 2006

re cillit bang, I run Win on my desktop, unix on my laptop, so similar but different settings is rarely an issue ;)
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:28 PM on May 18, 2006

Good luck selling that desktop off for any decent amount of money... Don't even try on Ebay... I'd recommend taking a look @ craigslist and seeing the prices listed there, then put up a for-sale sign @ your library for $50 more than a similar computer on craigslist (the idea being that the person will know you, and you'll be able to help them if anything goes wrong with the computer after you've sold it... guaranteed no-lemon for whoever buys it)
posted by hatsix at 5:34 PM on May 18, 2006

Actually, I've been pondering this same issue. I have a PC and I think I'd also like to have a Mac notebook (since I've never had a mac or a notebook).

My PC is maybe 2 to 3 years old and I've already raised things to gig of ram and added an extra 300 gig hard drive. I figure that my PC is my workhorse. And I've already invested in some specialized software that's windows based.

But I keep dreaming of a mac. (I don't like hearing about the latest overheating problems, though.)

If you've got the money, go buy the notebook too. As a friend of mine said when she and her husband bought the bigger more expensive canoe, "Hey, what are we working for?" Exactly. Treat yourself!
posted by bim at 5:51 PM on May 18, 2006

With Dell and eMachines selling desktops for around $300 new with warranty it will be hard to get anywhere close to what you paid for it.

Instead, the desktop can become your home server. The desktop will be cheaper to put larger hard drives to store stuff that you'll want as backups from your MacBook as well as stuff that you don't want to have taking up space on your notebook. You can also set up printer sharing so the desktop can act as the print server and so you never have to plug your MacBook into any wires [get a wireless router]

When I got my powerbook I found myself never using my desktop except as mentioned above and found dealing with Windows on it frustrating. I sold it on craigslist for about 150 bucks and put that toward a Mac mini.
posted by birdherder at 5:54 PM on May 18, 2006

I agree with birdherder - keep the desktop, use it as a server / jukebox / archive storage.
posted by omnidrew at 6:52 PM on May 18, 2006

Sad isn't it. A PC only a couple of years old is essentially useless while a Mac that is vintage 1999 can still fetch $300 or so...

IMHO I would keep the PC, and maybe set it up out of the way as some sort of server. Maybe an iTunes jukebox.
posted by Gungho at 8:10 PM on May 18, 2006

I have an upstairs laptop and a downstairs laptop. Don't knock it before you've tried it. ;)

Having two computers is a nightmare. I was always changing a setting on one computer and then wondering why the other one was using the old setting.

Oddly, it doesn't bother me. I think the key is not to go overboard with customization. Install the apps you use, set the critical settings, then just be tolerant of little differences. I don't even sync bookmarks, I just have the critical few on each machine.

Also, Timbuktu helps a LOT as far as keeping things sane. It's always open, and frequently connected to another machine nearby. Instead of having to copy a document over, you can actually edit it remotely on the other machine.
posted by trevyn at 8:27 PM on May 18, 2006

What size is the monitor? I might be interested in taking it off your hands.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:39 PM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: The monitor is 13".

However... a friend suggested keeping the desktop as a music server. I have an iPod that can hold about 7k songs, and I didn't consider how much space this can take up on a hard drive.

::taps fingers together, Montgomery Burns style::
posted by miltoncat at 8:55 PM on May 18, 2006

Celeron? You won't get shit for it. As above, keep it as a server/media machine/whatever.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:03 PM on May 18, 2006

Just to provide a different opinion, I found having two computers to be an absoloute nightmare!

For me, it was all about having the stuff available where I needed it. When I had a desktop AND a laptop, I would frequently find that I wrote a document on the desktop machine and then found that I wanted it on the laptop, but it was sitting on the PC at home! Even if you have them in the same room (or house), it can be a real pain to transfer files between the two.

Having said that, I agree that you'll get nothing at all for your second-hand desktop PC these days, so I'd also suggest you keep it. Just make sure you allocate one of the machines (probably the laptop) as your 'main brain' and use the other for only specialized tasks (like backup, print server etc). This way, all your important stuff is always on the latpop and you can just back up regularly to the desktop.
posted by ranglin at 9:18 PM on May 18, 2006

Ranglin, I suggest you take a look at :) it's open source, and it's aimed towards solving that file nightmare.
posted by a007r at 9:49 PM on May 18, 2006

I also have a laptop and a desktop and use them both for "work" (I'm a student). It's great for multitasking. I can run stuff on one computer while writing on the other. I do find I have hard-drive synch-up problems but my USB key and SecureFX solve a lot of my data transfer needs.

/derail What other type programs are out there? Do people have comments about ifolder?
posted by kechi at 12:30 AM on May 19, 2006

13 inches? Are you sure? That's an odd size for a "flat screen monitor." The Macbook has a 13.3 inch screen, so you'll never miss the desktop if that's true. Yeah, they are damn sexy for $1100. But I'd wait a few months just to see if there are any huge problems.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:12 AM on May 19, 2006

With Dell and eMachines selling desktops for around $300 new with warranty it will be hard to get anywhere close to what you paid for it.

I don't think that is true.. Take that new $300 Dell, say that is the best possible price. That same system sells to a lot of people at $350-$400, and some people may pay as much as $450. Then there are all the other ways Dell gauges customers - shipping, overpriced upgrades, extended warranty, whatever.. If you watch deals sites and buy at the best possible price, you can sometimes actually flip the parts for a profit!

miltoncat, to find the value of your system we will need a more precise model number. Ebay has hardly heard of a compaq 330.

Whether it is worth keeping depends on you. An extra system to serve as a home theatre PC and server is a good plan for lots of people.
posted by Chuckles at 1:40 AM on May 19, 2006

13 inches? Are you sure? That's an odd size for a "flat screen monitor."

13 inches across the top (if that's how it was measured) is more like 15-16 inches diagonally, which is the standard measurement for screens. That seems about average for a small one.
posted by macdara at 2:45 AM on May 19, 2006

I love mac hardware (currently own an iBook and a tower), but I've heard a lot of horror stories about their first releases of 'New'(First time for a new idea) devices. (Ex:The first B&W G3 that had the nasty motherboard problems, the G4 Cubes, the iBook logic boards...) The list goes on and on. They do great stuff, but it usually takes them a few tries to get it right.

Maybe you want to hold off a little while on the MacBook, and let some other pioneers take the arrows?
posted by Orb2069 at 5:03 AM on May 19, 2006

a007r, thanks for the iFolder link. I've been looking for something like this to synch my 12"Powerbook and Wintel desktop for ages -- thusfar, I've been making do by living on a college campus with ubiquitous wifi and emailing myself the docs I think I'll need on any given day in advance.

To answer the op's question, I'll reiterate what everyone said about "it depends on what you do." For me, it works out -- my Mac laptop is my 'go-anywhere' web-browsing, paper-writing, film-editing machine, while my Wintel desktop is my "sit at home and work in Photoshop and/or Eclipse where lots of screen real-estate is helpful" machine. Its also nice for gaming, when I have time to do that.

I also second what Orb2069 said about mac hardware. One of my coworkers purchased a rev 1 MacBook Pro, and he's had a lot of trouble -- mainly the overheating issue and the capacitor whine with the display. Apple's been pretty kind about service, but it might be best to wait for rev2 and skip the hassle entirely.
posted by Alterscape at 6:22 AM on May 19, 2006

I have a newish iMac and an old iBook.

The pros:
1. I have a backup computer. This recently came in handy for me when my iMac was on the fritz.
2. I have a laptop in the living room, so I can check the IMDB while watching movies.

The cons:
1. Switching back and forth. Even with nifty tools like ifolder, you're probably not going to have identical everything on both machines (especially when switching platforms as well), so you'll be trying to find or do something and then realize "oh wait, I can't do that here."
2. Hardware frustration. Having a new machine and an old one will accentuate the many ways in which your old machine suffers by comparison. For me, working on my iBook's crummy 13" screen was torture compared to the vast crystalline plain of my iMac.

If you have the room to keep the old desktop around and nobody who particularly wants it, by all means keep it, but you'll probably want to transition your computing life to the new one and dedicate the old one to a specific task, as others have said.
posted by adamrice at 6:25 AM on May 19, 2006

I wish I had a second PC right now too but since I'm in school and don't have any cash, that isn't an option. I am on the lookout for anybody wanting to get rid of one in my area; I could use it for a LAMP machine and drop my monthly ISP costs after dropping a new HD in it (to negate any malware and just start off on a clean slate). FYI: I already have an exterhal for nightly backups.

IRT the extra machine, a'la laptop, I guess only you know if it is really justified based on your income. Unless I got into the habit of saving links to read while off line (meaning changing my Windows settings to allow me to open that URL offline, and any URL's on that page, which can quickly escalate...), I really couldn't use a notebook except for development (but I would do that at home anyway based on my schedule) since my schedule has me always at school or home. Looks like works fine for me ...
posted by BillyG at 7:27 AM on May 19, 2006

use the desktop to learn linux.
posted by shmegegge at 7:38 AM on May 19, 2006

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