In Defense of Desktops

But sometimes, when all our energy goes into progress, acquisition, and productivity, it leaves a huge emptiness of the heart.  —  John O’Donohue

I work part time for a company that helps businesses or government develop sustainable solutions to business challenges, so I often think for myself about how to act sustainably in my life.  At this time of year electronics are widely advertised and people are often eager to trade a perfectly acceptable device in for the newest version, despite the cost, the lack of a real need, and the hassle of transferring data.  Buying a eSATA card for my desktop, got me thinking about the fact that I have had my desktop since 2007, but it is still perfectly serviceable, despite higher software requirements because it can be upgraded easily and inexpensively.

The popularity of desktops has greatly decreased in the face of cheaper, more powerful laptops, but I hope that manufacturers will continue to make desktops available for three reasons:  (1) it is much cheaper to upgrade a desktop than buy a new laptop, and (2) despite the increased capabilities of laptops, desktops still provide more processing power per dollar, and (3) given the environmental impact of computer technology we should use them as long as practical and then recycle or reuse them.  The money I don’t spend on computer technology I can spend on lenses and travel.

I bought a Dell T3400 workstation in 2007 and it is still going strong, because it provides space and opportunity to inexpensively upgrade and add connections.  I have:

–  Doubled the memory from 4 to 8 GB.
–  Increased the speed and capacity of my C:/ drive by putting in solid state drive or SSD (which is amazingly fast and really worth the cost of about $150 depending on size).
–  Added USB3 ports for faster downloading.
– Added a more effective wireless card.
– Added an eSATA port (just recently, which got me thinking about this).

I did everything myself except for the SSD installation at relatively minimal cost — certainly much less than buying a new laptop to keep up with speed and storage demands.

Planned obsolescence of laptops is certainly advantageous to manufacturers, as is making it expensive or difficult to upgrade, but is it in your interest?  All that said, I do have a laptop and would be hard pressed to get by without it.  Nevertheless, I will likely replace my desktop when it is necessary, rather than getting by solely on a laptop.

Your thoughts are welcome.

1 thought on “In Defense of Desktops

  1. Wow, I am impressed and a little relieved that this form is already filled in since I just sent you another comment.

    This comment is about “in Defense of Desktops”. I could not agree with you more. About a month ago I finally gave up my 5 moth ordeal of trying to save my old (only 5yrs) Dell XPS 8100. The thing that kept me going for so long in this failed attempt was that it had what is Intel’s fastest processing chip (at least for home users), the i7 chip. I will grant you that it is probably slower than the new PCs chip (Dell XPS 8700), but I figured it still had a lot of life in it. I too added memory (8GB to 16GB, the most my system could take), installed USB3 ports, etc. However, my desktop was invaded in December and never really recovered. I spent over $200 more for professional help, but finally gave in and bought the new PC. That is one reason I am behind in all things I wanted to do this spring, and as I wrote earlier tonight, why I am just importing my images into LR. Two more reasons to continue relying upon desktops are: (1) they are less expensive/capacity than a laptop; and (2) I don’t think many users would venture to modify or upgrade a laptop because of their size and higher cost for laptop parts.

    Mr. Eskin, you seem to have a similar outlook and maybe even professional background as me. In 2003 I retired from my position in EPA where I worked on a very wide range of projects during my career, including air pollution enforcement, technical assistance to solve corporate air pollution problems, pollution prevention, webmaster, etc. Having grown up on my father’s dairy farm in Connecticut, it just came naturally to me to be a conservationist, as you describe myself.

    From what you wrote above, regarding your part-time work to help companies upgrade their systems to become more “sustainable”, I am guessing that you too were/are an engineer. If you would like to chat some time, send me an email of when and where and I will respond. My email is Thanks

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