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How Long Can This Keep Goin' On?


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#1 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 10:53 AM

My two primary PCs (desktops) are aging. Let's call them Mr. Upstairs and Mr. Downstairs. Mr Upstairs is now 5 years old and Mr. Downstairs is 4. Neither were burners when new nor were they bleeding edge. So if the past is any indication I should be thinking about replacement. I usually had to replace a 5 year old PC for a couple of reasons:
  • Obsolete operating system - I mean what sane person would be using Windows XP or Me nowadays? Especially online.
  • Old or failing hardware - I wouldn't want a 32 bit processor, IDE, no PCIe, SATA 1, Wifi G or USB 1 today. And hard drives can crap out easily enough.
However both Mr. Upstairs and Mr. Downstairs don't qualify under the above criteria.

Mr. Upstairs is a Commercial grade Acer Veriton M with a solid motherboard and quad core Intel i5 Sandy Bridge processor. Not the latest or most energy efficient but OK. I have upgraded RAM, power supply & video card and added an SSD so it's perfectly capable of running my train sims and keeping my wife happy. Its cooling isn't the best but I added a fan to exhaust warm air. It's making a few graunchy noisies on a cold boot but once the fan controllers get working everything quiets down. It runs Windows 10 pretty well off the SSD.

Mr. Downstairs (using it now) is an all Linux, all AMD homebuilt with a Gigabyte high quality mobo and a quad core Trinity APU. It has lots of RAM, an SSD/HDD combo and a low end AMD video card. It runs Linux Mint. It is quite fast and capable of web surfing, videos and any office work I need to do. It has 2.4 GHz wifi N which works just fine.

Both machines have nice displays, capable speakers and wifi mouse/keyboard combos. They can do anything I want today and quite frankly the only reason I would want to replace them would be if they break down and cannot be fixed economically. Neither one having a failure would put me offline because I have lots of other machines here. My wife would be unhappy if Mr. Upstairs failed but she could make do until I got something new(er.)

So it's a matter of how long can this keep goin' on? I have never been in this situation before so I don't know. I do know that some really old desktops are out there running Linux - one I gave away must be 12 years old now.
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#2 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 11:08 AM

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Both machines have nice displays, capable speakers and wifi mouse/keyboard combos. They can do anything I want today and quite frankly the only reason I would want to replace them would be if they break down and cannot be fixed economically. Neither one having a failure would put me offline because I have lots of other machines here. My wife would be unhappy if Mr. Upstairs failed but she could make do until I got something new(er.)

So it's a matter of how long can this keep goin' on?
For another 5+ years, or until tomorrow. Since they seem to be meeting your needs, I go by the old military adage, "Hurry up and wait!"

That is, hurry up and make sure you have current backups of any data you don't want to lose. Then wait for something to fail that is beyond economical to repair. Then shop around for something with near cutting edge technologies that will [hopefully] carry you many years into the future.
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#3 OFFLINE   zlim

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 11:19 AM

Sorry but I have a 2K computer and an XP computer both from 2004. Neither go on the internet. We have no intention of e-cycling either of these units. If the hard drive dies, I'll replace that and use the last Acronis image I made for each and be back in business. I did replace the power unit in the XP computer. Each has something on it that we prefer to use over other computers in the house.

My husband just fired up the XP computer, grabbed a USB stick with a database on it from his Win 7 computer and used the XP computer to print out labels on an HP722 printer (I haven't a clue how old that thing is but it is pre 2003) .

My daily workhorse computer is a cheap Walmart eMachine computer from 2009. If that dies before 2020, I'll use my cheap Acer netbook purchased in 2013. If both die before 2020 then I'll use my andoid tablet to do my email and surf.
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#4 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 01:59 PM

My most important data are digital photos which I have backed up at least 4 ways.
I think for my next Windows computer I'll either build it myself or go for a custom maker like NCIX. I'd really like to have a personal copy of Windows that is not part of a recovery partition on the HDD with all the bloatware. For Linux it doesn't matter as much since the latest hardware is not as important and you don't have to worry about licences or authentication issues.
I don't have any PCs which I use offline.
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#5 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 02:27 PM

NCIX is nice because you have one phone number to call in case of problems - at least while the warranty is still effective. But IMO, building your own is the only way to go. It really is not hard if you know how to use a #2 Phillips screwdriver and a big dining room table with lots of light. Plus, you learn a lot that way.
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#6 OFFLINE   V.T. Eric Layton

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 02:48 PM

Well, umm... The ONLY new computer I ever purchased was a Commodore SX-64 "briefcase" system back in 1985. So, now that I've admitted to this, we can move on...

About 99% of the systems that I've owned and run over the past 17 years were hand-me-downs from family/friends or Frankenputers that I've assembled from parts that I dug out of the computer graveyard in the middle of the night. There was one "bare bones" system that I bought at a computer fair once. The price was right. In either case, they were all highly modified/customized before they found their way to this desk.

Most of the failures I've experienced with these systems were related to PSUs. I did have a processor take a carp on me once. I found the same cpu on ebay for really cheap, though. Of all the hard drives I've used, I only had one really fail on me. It was a very old WD 10,000RPM Velociraptor. I still got two or three years used out of it before it died, though.

I still have a working AMD K-7 Thunderbird system. It's about 15 years old. It has Win98 SE installed on it. ;) My shop system was built from salvaged parts. The motherboard in it is about 7 or 8 years old. The hard drives in that machine are pretty darned old, too (10+ years). I even have a working (needs a bit of maintenance, though) HP LaserJet IV.

One thing that I firmly believe (and many here will argue/debate this) is that ALL electronic and mechanical components in ANY device have lifetimes. My systems are only powered up when I'm USING THEM; otherwise, they're removed completely from AC power (main power strip shutdown). Leaving systems up and running, even in hibernate or standby mode, is a waste of electricity and component life, in my professional (as a career electronics serviceman) and personal opinion.

So, in answer to the question of how long can this last...

I kinda' agree with Bill above; could be a day, could be 5 years. :)

#7 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 06:03 PM

I'm not concerned about building because I've done one already and replaced lots of components in other machines.
I also believe there's no point to leaving a machine on if you're not using it. I do have another old desktop system about 9 years old which I use occasionally to play music in my junkroom but it doesn't get a lot of service time.

Edited by raymac46, 26 October 2017 - 06:06 PM.

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#8 OFFLINE   sunrat

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 07:41 PM

They keep working until they don't.
I dug out my 9 year old Core2Duo E8500 system a couple of weeks ago. It's had upgrades, 4GB RAM, PS, GTX560Ti graphics, SSD since first building but still does daily chores nearly as well as my recent i5 6500 with 16GB RAM, SSD, and GTX970.
I took the newer one out for a live recording project and haven't got around to setting it back up at home yet. :whistling: :rolleyes: :D
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#9 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 08:20 PM

It used to bug me that I had to replace a still well functioning machine after 4 years because it was technically obsolete. Now I'm worried because I might need to replace a perfectly functioning machine that is NOT obsolete. I guess we are never satisfied when it comes to PCs. :w00t:
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#10 OFFLINE   goretsky

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 11:02 PM

Hello,

In my experience, mechanical parts fail first, such as case and CPU fans and hard disk and optical disc drives, followed by power-related parts (power supplies [which, of course, often have fans in them], capacitors and voltage regulation on motherboards, backlighting on LCDs, etc.).  As long as you keep the computers clean and in good repair, you should be able to use them indefinitely, just replacing components as needed.


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#11 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 08:37 AM

My #1 source of failure has been the power supply. I've had to replace that in many desktops. I try to buy a better one when I replace them. A laptop failed once because the video chip desoldered itself from the motherboard (heat issue- another reason to prefer desktops.)
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#12 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 09:48 AM

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One thing that I firmly believe (and many here will argue/debate this) is that ALL electronic and mechanical components in ANY device have lifetimes.
Not sure what there is to debate here. Nothing lasts forever so of course everything has a lifetime. Even electronic devices that have never been used, are years old but still sealed in the original packaging age and "wear out".

Quote

Leaving systems up and running, even in hibernate or standby mode, is a waste of electricity and component life, in my professional (as a career electronics serviceman) and personal opinion.
There are too many undefined variables in this statement to represent a "blanket statement" fact, one way or the other.

There is sound evidence (as taught in tech schools too) that in some scenarios, leaving electronics up and running 24/7 does indeed extend the life of the components. This is for several reasons but the two most common are because (1) the expansion/contraction swings of matter (as defined by the Laws of Physics) as matter heats up and cools down causes "fatigue" which results in micro-fractures and eventual failure. It is also because (2) it is a simple fact in electronics and many mechanical devices, that surges occur in circuits, and excess strain on mechanical parts is imposed when power is first applied - until everything is stabilized. In electronics, extra work is imposed on the regulator circuits in power supplies and connected devices until desired operating voltages are stabilized. In mechanics, using a car as an example, there is much more strain on the drive train (and use of fuel) to accelerate to 60MPH than needed to maintain 60MPH.

So the question is, compared to what? Turning the electronics on once a week? Once a month? 10 times a day? And in what operating environment? A climate controlled room maintained at a constant 50% humidity and 70°F? Or a room where ambient temps vary from 45° to 85°F and humidity swings from 15% to 99%? Is the room full of dust or clean? Is the mains power clean and stable or dirty?

Many things affect the lifespan of electronics - not just run time.

I agree removing power completely saves electricity, but without a defined operating scenario (to include ambient conditions), I do not agree it extends component life. And I say that based on my years as a formally trained, certified electronics technician, and personal experience.

Typically, electronics last long after its usefulness. That is, it is retired due to obsolescence before it fails. Look at CRT TVs and monitors, VCR players, cassette players, old RAM, etc. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally that's how it works.

Edited by Digerati, 27 October 2017 - 09:51 AM.

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#13 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 28 October 2017 - 08:17 AM

I don't know if the wear and tear argument makes sense or not and in fact I have heard it both ways with electronic stuff (keep it on, no turn it off.) I do know that it isn't economically justified to run a 200 watt appliance 24/7 when you are using it half that time.
This will be uncharted territory for me as far as computing goes so it'll be interesting. In the past when I ran into obsolescence problems - need new O/S, poor broadband performance, inadequate storage - I did replace a still functioning system. Now the technology creep seems much reduced to me - a 6-7 year old desktop can still run Windows 10, maybe not as well as a modern one but it will work. And you can always find a version of Linux for older hardware. The other difference this time is that I have multiple systems on which to access the Internet so losing one machine will not be the major inconvenience it was back in 2001. I also know the value of backups.
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#14 OFFLINE   V.T. Eric Layton

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Posted 28 October 2017 - 11:17 AM

View PostDigerati, on 27 October 2017 - 09:48 AM, said:


Typically, electronics last long after its usefulness. That is, it is retired due to obsolescence before it fails. Look at CRT TVs and monitors, VCR players, cassette players, old RAM, etc. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally that's how it works.

I'll agree with you on this point. ;)

#15 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 28 October 2017 - 11:43 AM

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I do know that it isn't economically justified to run a 200 watt appliance 24/7 when you are using it half that time.
That's true but that argument does not apply to modern computers.

A computer is not an "appliance" in the sense a toaster, microwave oven, or a refrigerator are appliances. The loads these "appliances" impose on their power circuits is generally near zero, or totally maxed out. The load a computer imposes on the power supply varies widely depending on what you are doing at the time. This is why the 80 PLUS standard dictates required efficiency values at 10, 20, 50 and 100% loads (depending on certification).

Of course there is always some power consumed when these devices are in stand-by (sleep) mode, but that number drops significantly to low 2-digit numbers. I note on this i5-6600, 16GB DDR4 system with two 24" inch monitors, a mere 18 watts is being drawn from the wall when my computer and monitors are asleep, as per the status display on my UPS (which I have verified before to be very accurate). And I quickly add that my cable modem, wireless router and a 4-port Ethernet switch (none of which "sleep") are connected to that same UPS. Therefore, my computer itself, when in standby mode, is drawing significantly less than that 18W.

It is important to remember the computer (motherboard, RAM, drives, graphics) pulls from the power supply only what the computer needs, not what the power supply is capable of delivering. So if the computer needs 100W, it will pull from the power supply 100W, regardless if the PSU is a 350W supply or an 850W supply. And the supply will draw from the wall just 100W plus another ~20W (based on 80% efficiency rating at that load level) regardless if a 350W or 850W supply.

Computers really are much less power hungry than most people think. When I pause from typing, just starring at the screen right now, this computer, my two monitors and all my network gear are pulling just 103W! I really have to start tasking my system to push it beyond 200W and even then, the demand is not at a sustained level.
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#16 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 09:42 AM

Thanks everyone for weighing in on this thread. I'll keep an eye on things especially with the Windows 10 desktop.
It gives a bit of fan noise on a cold start but after a couple of minutes everything quiets right down. The fan controller is in charge and everything is pretty cool. Right now Speccy is reporting a CPU temp of 35C.
I suppose I could always replace the CPU cooler if needed but right now it seems to be fine for 99% of the run time.
I have a newish PSU and SSD in the machine. MY HDD is older but I have its data backed up. My video card is only about 18 months old.
So we'll see what happens.
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#17 OFFLINE   Digerati

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Posted 30 October 2017 - 10:30 AM

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It gives a bit of fan noise on a cold start but after a couple of minutes everything quiets right down. The fan controller is in charge and everything is pretty cool. Right now Speccy is reporting a CPU temp of 35C.
35°C is great but I recommend replacing that fan sooner rather than waiting. Fan noise on cold starts suggests the bearings are wearing and the lubricant is breaking down. This will lead to seizure - eventually and then you will be without until a replacement comes. Best to replace it on your time, not its.

Note that sounds often reverberate in cavernous case interiors, making their source hard to pinpoint. To ensure you have the right fan making that noise, on the next cold morning, open the side panel. Touch bare metal of the case interior to discharge any static in your body, then start the computer. Quickly but gently touch the center hub of the suspect fan with your finger tip. If you have the right fan, the pitch of the fan noise will change as your finger alters the fan speed. If the fan noise does not change with the speed of the fan, you have the wrong motor - hopefully it is not a drive motor wearing.
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