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Laptop issues - any help appreciated

by tjrudebeck / April 14, 2008 12:28 AM PDT

Oh hai.

I'm currently in possession of a Dell Inspiron 9300 laptop, running Windows XP SP2, which I've had from new - I bought it in August 2005, so it's pushing 3 years old; 3 years of fairly rugged, college-style use. (Think everything short of me dropping it.)

Despite having really high specs even for today (it's got 1 GB RAM, a combination DVD/CD writer, discrete graphics, a 2 GHz processor), it's never been a particularly robust system, even with regular (okay, fairly sporadic) virus cleaning and spyware scanning. It's had its motherboard replaced once to correct a loosened headphone jack that caused sound to stop working, and which has since worked itself loose again. The DVD part of the combo-drive stopped working long ago. Burning CDs, once iffy, is now such a hit-or-miss proposition that it isn't worth it to try anymore. Attempting to use more than two or three programs at once is asking for some sort of fatal system crash.

But, up until this past week, all of this was tolerable or at least workaroundable.

One day, while I was surfing the internets, everything slowed way down and a loud fan, which I had never heard before, kicked up a high-pitched whine. Freaked out, I restarted the computer - which took even longer than usual, and usual is a LONG time - and the noise and performance detriment went away. For about an hour.

The upshot of this is that whenever I use the computer for a length of time, something similar to this problem happens. If I'm really careful and don't use any sort of internet functions (websurfing, AIM, e-mail), sometimes I can get an hour and a half out of it, so so far taking notes in class hasn't become a problem, though I'm just waiting for that to happen.

I guess my questions are threefold:

1. What's causing this, and is it worth fixing given that school finishes for the year in mid-June and I intend to get a new laptop come September?
2. If the computer should stop working altogether, what recommendations can you make for a cheap temporary replacement?
3. When I buy the new good computer, I'm going to get a Macbook Pro. Is it worth it to wait until September for the planned Montevina refresh, or should I think about trying to get one when this one conks out?

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Let's tackle one thing.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 14, 2008 1:40 AM PDT

Given the age, have you done this -> http://reviews.cnet.com/Clean_up_your_laptop/4660-10165_7-6648292.html

As to cheap, I have a few of those under 599 laptops from Staples in the office which are just fine. No games or such but cheep.

As to Mac, I may pass on the Pro and go with the black Macbook. So far it looks like that and a copy of VmFusion to host XP Pro SP2.
Bob

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Some good suggestions...
by tjrudebeck / April 14, 2008 2:25 AM PDT

I'll do the cleaning thing when I get the chance - can't hurt, anyway.

This is something of a separate discussion, but what the hey. I basically need a Macbook Pro because I do a lot of power-heavy application using - music creation, video editing and the like - and because I need the screen real estate for opening two documents side by side. And I'll only get VMFusion if I need it - so far it looks like I can probably operate completely without Windows.

Cheap laptops: I did a quick search and found a laptop called an Everex, which runs an implementation of Linux called gOS 2. It's got a tiny hard-drive and I've always been afraid that some of my applications won't work on Linux, but for a computer that I'd use for two months you can't beat the price ($398 from Wal-Mart). Heard anything?

And could it be anything besides the dirt causing my original problem?

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Share why?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 14, 2008 3:31 AM PDT

"music creation, video editing" for that where is the dedicated video in that model helping? As to screen size, there is never enough for video editing and why I setup dual screens.

Sorry, I can't use that 398 model but could use this -> http://s175.photobucket.com/albums/w146/rproffitt2000/?action=view&current=299laptop.jpg (only it's cheaper...)

"And could it be anything besides the dirt causing my original problem?"

I've seen your issue and remove the dirt, lint, cooling issues first. Of course I do see those that scan forever, test ram, test hard disks, reload the OS and by the time I see the laptop it still has the basic issue to resolve.
Bob

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"for that where is the dedicated video..."
by tjrudebeck / April 14, 2008 4:38 AM PDT
In reply to: Share why?

I'm afraid I don't understand your question.

As far as a dual screen - well, I can't take that to class with me.

Thanks for the heads-up on the $300 laptop, though.

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For 1200 bucks you get...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 14, 2008 5:05 AM PDT

The larger LCD and "NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 512MB" which is great for gamers. But the current .1GHz speed bump (correct me if wrong) from there to the Pro has me staying with the black Macbook.

Your bucks, your choice.
Bob

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Gamers.
by tjrudebeck / April 14, 2008 6:07 AM PDT

If I admitted to playing The Sims, would that explain some of it? Happy

I guess between the boost in the processor speed, the larger screen, the graphics, the possibility of a faster hard drive (there's a 7200 RPM option, which at least for me has always resulted in a noticeable improvement in performance), and better sound quality (though I have external speakers), it seems worth it to me. But it will be worth a rethink when they release the redesigned versions of all these computers in August or September. And your advice is definitely valuable to me.

Thanks for all your help, Rob. If anybody else has other ideas/opinions, I'm glad to hear them as well!

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That's the ticket.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 14, 2008 7:17 AM PDT
In reply to: Gamers.

For gamers you want to go with the Pro every time.

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