As I typically do this time of year its is time for “Winter PC Cleaning”. This is the time of year when I often end up looking at which machines around the house I need to upgrade, which to replace with new machines, and which machines to reinstall Windows to get rid of the cruft that tends to build up over time.
On that last point, its unfortunate that its necessary but it really does seem like a good thing to do. It isn’t as bad as it was in the old days when your system really got slower and slower and progressively less stable if you didn’t clean it up. But as improved as it has been the last couple of years, there is still plenty stuff you install that makes various hooks into the Windows Explorer, into your codec list, and all over the place and without starting from scratch now and then. In the past I’ve felt like I had do to this every year with my main machines, but I guess its a mark of progress that I’ve survived for a whole 2 years without worrying about it.
Two years ago I built my new workstation using top of the line parts of the day. At the time a 3ghz (overclocked to 3.66-4ghz) quad-core CPU with 4GB RAM was pretty much top of the line (unless you went to the server-class Xeon chips in which case you could use two quad-core CPUs for 8…) It is an interesting benchmark of the state of progress in the industry that while the shiny new Core i7 machines are indeed faster, they aren’t enough so that I’m really eager to build out a whole new system right away.
Still there have been a couple of things that have been annoying me. My home workstation was still running Windows Vista and while I’ve been increasingly using a Win7 VM on it, having used Windows 7 at work for a long time now I’ve been eager to upgrade it. The other biggest concerns were that the main disk has been feeling really slow. Its one of the expensive faster “Raptor” drives, but its not that much faster and combined with the fact that I’ve been running 32-bit Vista which sure seems to page a ton, and that the drive is so noisy you really hear it when its seeking all over the place, it has felt like a real dog.
So given that I’m moving up to Windows 7, I bought myself two key upgrades- more RAM to take the system to 8GB (which with the 64-bit install of Windows 7 I plan should work nicely) and a SSD for my boot drive. NewEgg was nice enough to have a screaming black-friday deal on the 80GB X25Mg2 drive for $219 (down from the usual $279 or so) which was enough for me to pick one of those up right away. I kind of wish I’d bought two so I had one for my laptop, but I’m not quite going there yet.
The other big plan is to install Windows 7 in a VHD so that I’ve got more flexibility to backup my OS image. I found some instructions here although I’m not worried about the dual-boot thing. I know some friends who are using dual-boot to have separate partitions for non-released stuff (beta versions of Office and other stuff) but I just run those in VMs and don’t mess with different base OS images.
There was one big trick missing from the instructions for VHD install. When I went to setup Windows and selected the VHD disk it told me that the given partition was not supported for boot. Turns out that the “Next” button was enabled after all and the install worked just fine, so that warning just needed to be ignored.
So hopefully that should do it for now. I suspect it will be time to upgrade my video card (currently an ATI 3870) in a few months, although I’m really hoping that they will come out with some that support 4-6 outputs on a single card (which is the rumor). Those of course might need new connectors (DisplayPort) so the scary part might be waiting on a new generation of displays. Since large multi-touch displays should also become practical sometime in the next year, I’ll be waiting on those for sure before I upgrade anything.