Thank you for your comments. I always appreciate any response (good or bad) from the readers of these posts. I apologize in advance for not being very quick at responding sometimes but I only work on these in my spare time, which I don't have a whole lot of. Let me see if I can answer some of your questions:
1. Type of initial battery - Is there any way for a consumer to figure out if the battery used in the laptop is good enough before purchasing one? I have had good experience with Dell Studio and Acer Aspire batteries but Toshiba Satellite battery has been pathetic. ANSWER: I do not know of any way to determine if a specific laptop comes with a quality battery or not and since the charging circuit can also contribute to the overall life of the battery, you are really at the mercy of the luck of the draw. Computer models change too quickly and manufactures change battery suppliers making it almost impossible to even review computers for this 2 or 3 years down the road. It would not matter anyway because by the time you decide that one model has a great life, they don't make it anymore.
2. How the battery used and how often - You said, some prefer complete discharge and others don't. How should a user figure out if the battery installed in the laptop prefers complete or partial discharge. Most of the time user manuals are decently pathetic. ANSWER: I wish I had a really good answer to this. All of the batteries in laptops today are Lithium Ion and I have seen so many conflicting reports as to how to prolong their life. I am not a battery expert and maybe someone can join the conversation who is? In my opinion, I think it has more to do with the quality of the battery and the charging circuit. Look at the batteries in hybrid cars now that are guaranteed for 10 years.
3. Getting a new battery - I am definitely not in favor of forking our $100 upwards for a new battery, instead I would just buy a new machine but if I want to put some extra life in the laptop, which other battery manufacturers/websites apart from battdepot do you recommend. Google gives you just tons of results and there is no way to figure out which ones are good and which ones are just from a slum in China. ANSWER: Unfortunately, not only are most of the computers made in China but most of the batteries are made there too. Some have battery cells made in Korea or Japan but assembled elsewhere. I have purchased batteries from dozens of suppliers over the years and have no real preference other than using Amazon to make the purchase.
Also in the post you mentioned, 3 years of laptop life and the HDD could be up for fail. Agreed you are a computer specialist but from a user point of view, I beg to differ. Luckily, I have never had a HDD failing on me. At the same time, I do use laptops with a great care. I do not intend to start argument, who is right. I would like to know, apart from clicking noise, bad sectors etc, is there any utility that will keep an eye on HDD functioning so that before it just crashes one morning, you get a warning. I do back up once a week, still nobody likes their HDD failing on them.
ANSWER PART A: Again using the automobile as an example, you can have a car last 250,000 miles or have one that is ready for the junk yard at 100,000. The same is true of hard drives, I have plenty of drives that are still working away at 10 years, but I see far more that fail after only 2 or 3 years. Hard drive manufacturer have reduced their Warranties to 1, 2 and 3 years depending on the model. How often have you seen an extended warranty on a laptop that is greater than 3 years? This is for a reason? The life of a hard drive is dependent on so many factors:
1. The initial quality of the drive? - There are many different model drives, some are designed to last longer from the start.
2. How much use the computer gets? The hard drive may last a lot longer for someone who only uses their computer for an hour per day vs. someone who uses their computer all day long.
3. The type of use A? - For example: someone who is streaming music or video constantly is working the hard drive a lot harder than someone who is just using the computer to read their emails and write a few word documents.
4. Type of Use B - A hard drive in a laptop that is mobile is a lot more likely to fail than one that just sits on a desk. Real Road warriors that use their laptop while traveling are much more likely to have early drive failures.
5. Accidents - Hard drive are very sensitive to shock and vibration, especially while turned on. Sometimes all it takes is to trip over the power cord bringing the laptop crashing to the floor or slamming the lid down a little too hard. I can't begin to tell you how many kids have crashed the hard drive on their laptop by slamming the lid closed when their parents are yelling at them about spending too much time on the computer.
6. Power Settings - There are a series of power settings for every computer that dictate when the screen saver comes on, when the computer goes into sleep mode and when the hard drive shuts down. If you leave your computer on 24 hours a day and never shut down the hard drive even when you are not using it, this could shorten the life of the drive. However, there has always been controversy over whether a drive will last longer if left on all the time or turned on and off as needed.
7. Excess heat - Heat is a great killer of laptops and hard drives. Using a laptop on the rug, on the bed or even on your lap can block the cooling vents thus overheating the laptop which can shorten the overall life. Users that keep their laptop on the hard surface such as a desk or even use a laptop cooler will often experience longer life from their computer.
8. Did it really fail - Not all reported hard drive failures are actual failed drives. A large number are not failures of the drive at all but rather data corruption of one kind or another. A failed update, sudden power loss or damage due to a virus can corrupt the data on the drive making it look \like the drive has failed.
All I can go by is looking at the average of the more than 1000 service call that I make per year and what I am seeing for failures. Hard drives are being worked harder and harder each year with greater use due to music and video as well as daily virus scans and updates. More and more kids have their own laptops who are not so easy on their equipment and I don't think the hard drives are made as well as they once were. If your computer is an important part of your life and the information is equally important than I would recommend either replacing the computer every 3 years or replacing the hard drive as a part of a routine maintenance program. Do you wait to have a blowout before replacing the tires on your car? Don't forget that backing up your data is just as critical whether your hard drive is a week old or 5 years old because a hard drive can fail at any time.
ANSWER PART B: If there were a single test that would tell you exactly when your hard drive was going to fail, every computer in the world would have that pre installed. Without getting into the newer SSD (Solid State Drives), all traditional hard drives are electromechanical devices and can fail in many ways. It would be similar to predicting when your car is going to break down. You can run all kinds of tests and occasionally you might receive a hint that something is going wrong, but you will not know exactly when it is going to breakdown. The same is true of a traditional hard drive. You might get some early warning signs like increased noise coming from the drive or a general slowing down of your computer, or occasionally you might even get an error message indication that there is a problem reading or writing to the hard drive. But for the most part, there is no single absolute indicator of a pending failure. I have had hard drives that started making all kinds of noise such as a loud whining that have continued to operate for another year or two. Having said that, there are some tests that can warn you of some types of problems, but they only cover 1 or 2 possible modes of failure. Some computers will track the S.M.A.R.T. data and report errors to you which could indicate a pending failure. If your computer does not track this, then you can track this using software such as Active Smart or HDD Health. Again this is only one of many indicators and a drive that is show no problems in this area can still fail tomorrow.