Brian's Blog

…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World

SETI@home, Computers, SSDs, and Windows 10

In this post I will talk a little about the following:

  • SETI@home
  • My computers
  • SSDs
  • Windows 10 Upgrade

I will be gathering some thoughts together about how I use my computers and upgrades to consider – upgrades that you too may be considering and therefore may find my points useful.

SETI@home and other computer uses

I went through a phase of writing about my SETI@home efforts at the end of each month (the last review was back in February), but this year, since the winter ended and I was no longer using my warm, number-crunching computers to keep the chill off my home, I decided to only switch computers on when I had another use for them. But what are my computers used for other than SETI@home?

computer_0615

Out of the eight computers I have set up for SETI@home, only two get used for other things, such as:

  • iccle_beast_paintwatching some TV online
  • watching the occasional DVD
  • listening to and recording internet radio
  • playing/recording music
  • storing all my digital photos
  • hanging out in Second Life
  • getting on with actual work
  • general browsing, and
  • updating my blog (of course)

I used to watch TV on my computer using a TV card, and I’d have to leave it on to record programs, but since I moved house I decided not to watch live television any more and instead I save myself the TV licence fee (the TV licensing agency are still sending me nice letters about this).

Actually, since the winter, a few computers aren’t complete due to me using the parts to upgrade or repair other people’s computers, and there’s one that has decided to not start up – I think the power supply can’t cope any more but I’ve yet to investigate this… I don’t need the computer on at the moment so there is no urgency.

SSDs

computer_fb

I don’t like to meddle with my main computer too much, but I’ve been wanting to switch from a hard drive to an SSD for a while. Doing so would make the computer start up quicker, it would be great for Second Life since waiting for the cache to faff around when I log in is a hindrance in my life, other things would be quicker too, plus there would be no hard drive noises.

The things is, my main computer isn’t my quickest (it’s a dual core compared to a quad core CPU for example), my quickest one was built primarily for SETI@home because it has three graphics card slots and it already has a SSD, but it’s only 30GB. The setup is also rather large and not so quiet and is relegated to its own room. Both computers are modern enough to have USB 3.0 sockets and support SATA III (slower SATA will limit SSD performance but may not be all that perceptible to you).

SSDs work with Windows 7, but you have to avoid defragmenting such drives, whereas Windows 8 and later recognise an SSD for what it is and will optimise such drives accordingly.

Windows 10

The reason I’m saying all this now is that after having installed a few (30) Windows Updates yesterday on my main computer (which runs Windows 7), I switched on today to see a Windows 10 icon in my task bar. Naughty Microsoft slipped something in with one of the Updates, an invitation to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. I’ve not agreed yet.

windows10_free_upgrade

Microsoft want to make this upgrade as simple and painless as possible but this is a big change for your computer so I think it’s wise to prepare for a worse-case scenario, namely that something goes wrong and your computer doesn’t start up again and you loose (access to) all your stuff. Therefore, it would be a very good idea to backup all your files first – but of course you do that already don’t you. 😉 Even if the Upgrade completes successfully there may be some things that don’t work, or don’t work the same, so you should be prepared for this also. As part of my professional work I get employed to install new versions of Windows for clients, my preference is to install such an upgrade over a freshly installed operating system, doing this helps to greatly reduce the chance of complications.

Looking at the list of recently installed Updates I’m not sure which was the culprit. Upgrading to Windows 10 has also been something I’ve been considered – if I’m reinstalling Windows and everything else on my computer onto an SSD then it kind of makes sense to take the opportunity to upgrade the operating system too – I’m still using Windows 7 by the way (which I’m happy with). This computer hasn’t had Windows reinstalled for four years so it might be that long again, or longer, until it gets done again. The thing is, I want to switch to my best computer, I think it makes more sense to do that.

If you’re running Windows 8 or 8.1 you may get a similar offer (I’m not aware if this is the case or not yet), and since the main issue with Windows 8/8.1 is the lack of Start Menu the upgrade to Windows 10 will surely be a blessing because it brings the Start Menu back. If you’re using Windows 7 and happy with it and have no other reason to reinstall the operating system then perhaps it’s best to stay where you are. For me the prospect of upgrading to an SSD is the main consideration.

Upgrading – what’s involved and things to consider

I don’t like upgrading for the sake of upgrading but if I’m getting Windows 10 for free then that’s a good persuader. What I will need to do is:

  • replace the SSD in my fastest computer for a larger one
  • rebuild the whole system in a more practical case, and with only one graphics card
  • install Windows 7 and then wait for the free Windows 10 upgrade to be offered via the Windows Updates
  • If you’re simply upgrading an existing setup to Windows 10 by installing the free upgrade over the top of Windows 7 then it’s highly recommended that you backup all of your stuff first, before clicking ‘Reserve your free upgrade’.

Some concerns I do have about this free upgrade are:

  • a lack of disc to reinstall Windows 10 at a future date (one would have to install 7 again first, and then the updates). I remember when Windows Vista users who had purchased their computer just prior to Windows 7 being released were offered free upgrades to Windows 7, but this was provided on a disc (for a small fee to cover costs) – I suppose since this upgrade to Windows 10 weighs in at around 3GB, and with more people on faster internet connections now, it makes more sense for it to be a download-only offer, plus, not everyone has a DVD drive now.
  • will the free upgrade be offered again?
  • will I be given (or be able to retrieve) the Windows 10 license so I can reinstall using a Windows 10 disc if I have one in the future?
  • software compatibility – I’m using some old software, some of which worked best with Windows XP, some which is a little flaky with Windows 7 and perhaps more so (or worse) with Windows 10. Sometimes Printers work because compatible drivers install automatically, but the software you’re used to does not.
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