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Computer Advice.

Yes, well you all know me well enough by now, a computer illiterate like me is hardly offering it now is he? Once again I’m asking the commenters advice.

The laptop has pretty much gone tits up. It is an 18” Toshiba that is about 6 years old and has served us very well. But now you can pop out for a pint in the time it takes to boot up, and when it does you’ve only just got into your emails when it crashes, and you get the “Will start normally in 28…27..26.. etc message. A pain in the arse quite frankly.

It has always been a bit of a clunker. It is big and heavy and the battery life has never been more than 2 hours, but the screen resolution is very good indeed, and the keys are comfortable to type on. The operating system is Vista.

So folks, what would you all recommend as a replacement? I don’t need it to be as big as the old Tosh, because it is a pain to lug around especially for travelling, but I do want it to have very good screen resolution, and a decent battery life and a keyboard that you don’t have to have the fingers of and Elf to type on.

I’m not against Tablets per se, except when I have used a friends iPad typing on it drives me out of my mind, almost as bad as typing on smart phones and sat/navs. And what of the operating system? Our current two computers run on Vista and I’m not wildly happy with it, to be frank I preferred  Windows XP. What is Windows 8 like? And what of RAM and hard drive? The old Tosh is 3g RAM and 250g hard disk. I see some advertised now with 8g RAM and a bleedin Tetrabite of storage. What is that all about? I’d like to play games on it too, but the old Tosh was never very good at coping with them. So if you lovely people could help me out, it will be very much appreciated. I won’t say money is no object cos I is a tight arsed git, but I can afford top end of the range stuff if it is actually worth it.

PS… Oi Kitty Counters, get your fingers out and get some posts up! Yes I know there’s no news out there, and no news is good news, and good news is no news at all… But momentum momentum momentum chums Winking smile


  1. Paul Marks says:

    There are at a lot of decent laptops (and a laptop is actually best used on a table) on sale for around 270 Pounds.

    If you pay any more RAB you are being robbed.

  2. Paul Marks says:

    By the way – Windows 8 (rather than Vista) seems to be the standard now. You should find it not much of a transition.

  3. Being a budget IT kind of a guy, I would recommend keeping the one you have.
    Wipe it clean and install a copy of Windows 7. It’s not too much of a change from Vista, whereas 8 is very different and a lot of people, particularly those who like XP, find it’s not for them. 8 is better for touch screens.
    You could also bung in some more RAM. A laptop can usually double what comes as standard very easily.
    The fresh install will make it faster and the extra RAM will also help. The new install should also solve the crashing problem. If not, whip out the chip and put some new thermal grease on it. It may be overheating.

  4. Fred Z says:

    Does your home area have discount or bulk stores like BestBuy, Wal-Mart or Costco? Buy a mid to lower end laptop from them running whatever Windows comes with it. Or, buy it online from Amazon.

  5. Paul Marks says:

    Yes I am still using Windows 7 on this little Samsung – and I have got XP on the computer upstairs.

    Interesting that Windows 8 is very different.

    When this machine gives up the ghost I will (being ignorant) just buy a new machine – which means I will have to get used to Windows 8.

  6. dioclese says:

    About 18 months ago, I had an Acer running XP on a 120Gb hard drive. XP was fine but the boot time just got longer and longer, the disk kept filling up and as software got updated it just ran slower and slower.

    I decided to buy a Tosh. Knew the one I liked. Cost about £600. Loadsa grunt for the money.

    I went to John Lewis. Their price was competitive and their guarantee better than most. I walked out having spent £1,200 on an Apple MacBook Pro with a 13″ screen, 8Gb of Ram and a 1Tb hard drive.

    It boots like lightening (because unlike windows it doesn’t load a heap of stuff you ain’t gonna use), it eats music and video editing, it has the best damn display you are ever going to find on a computer anywhere, battery lasts forever, it never crashes, and is half the size of a Windows machine (about the size of a sheet of A4 and an inch or so thick). I recommend a polycarb case for it – which means you don’t need a laptop bag and the beautiful brushed ally case doesn’t get scratched.

    I resisted Apple for years. I was a confirmed Windows man. Once you get your head round the fact that this is basically a Unix laptop and that vastly superior to Windows, you’ll never look back

    Was it expensive? Yes. Was it worth the money? Definitely. Would I buy another one? In a second – but I’m unlikely to need to for many years ‘cos they last a damn site longer too.

    I’m an ex-IT-pro now retired and spent 25 years testing software. IMHO Windows is not a good operating system – it doesn’t clean up after itself which is why it keeps getting slower – and I wouldn’t touch Windows 8 with a bargepole.

    For what it’s worth, spend the extra money. You won’t regret it.

  7. Sam Duncan says:

    Heh. I’m typing this on a six-year-old Acer netbook running Arch Linux. 512Mb RAM (should probably do something about that, but honestly it’s not much of an issue), first generation Atom processor. Boots in 20 seconds flat, battery lasts 6 hours or so, cost me £180 new.

    Would I recomend something like this to a self-confessed computer illiterate? Oh hell, no. Arch takes maintenance and geekery. And yes, RAB, if you have the cash you’ll never regret buying a MacBook. But £1,200… ouch. It is, in every concievable sense of the expression, the Rolls-Royce of laptops. (Mine’s more like a rusty old Vauxhall Nova with different coloured doors.)

  8. John Galt says:

    Sorry RAB, but for what you use the laptop for, your existing one still seems perfectly adequate to me, just need to get it fixed.

    Your “Will start normally in 28…27..26.. etc message” means that the laptop itself has crashed, so either the operating system has gone kablooey or you’ve encountered a hardware problem.

    Operating problems can be fixed by doing a backup of your data and then reinstalling the operating system from scratch, but you’ll need the manufacturers install disks to do this because of drivers and other such stuff, this is true even if you take the laptop to a professional IT shop to get it fixed.

    In terms of hardware failure, is the bottom of the laptop getting very hot? This is a common problem with laptops when either the external fan fails or the CPU fan fails. The CPU has a temperature gauge on it and it will shut down to save the CPU if overheating occurs.

    Another problem is physical disk failure, disks are the most common things to fail on a laptop and since you’ve been running yours for 6-years its probably long passed its mean-time-between-failures.

  9. CountingCats says:

    What is the model number of your current tosh? I will look up the best factory reset method.

  10. Dioclese says:

    the only additional comment I would make is that, yes, it is a Rolls Royce of laptops, but it will last 2-3 times as long. So do you pay £400 three times or £1,200 once? Hobson’s choice really. You get what you pay for.

  11. VftS says:

    I’m with Bucko. Don’t touch win8 (or 8.1), it’s for touch-screen devices. Go for win7. You might want to take a look at ClassicShell. That will make win7 look very much like good ole XP. CS was the route I took when moving from my old XP box to win7. Switching back and forth between the two was a pain in the arse because of their different behaviours; CS probably saved me from destroying both machines with a lump hammer.
    And buy as much RAM as the new machine can handle.

  12. NickM says:

    Well, I’m typing this on a similar aged Toshiba. Similar spec but 15″. Now if your machine is like mine it probs comes with a drive partition to reset to factory fresh. If you keep this is the best option. So this is what you do… Take your personal items – photos, letters, stuff like that off the machine – I guess it’s got a DVD drive or you could USB it to the desktop. Then hit reset. Now I would advise doing this with it offline. My Tosh has a physical switch for this. OK, you now got an antideluvian Vista job. Connect by wire to the router and let it update. You mentioned having a pint. You might as well have a few considering that in the words of the movie “300″ this will not be over quickly and you won’t enjoy it.

    Having said that I don’t like Vista. This might be a good time to upgrade. Win 8 is designed for a whole smorgasbord of things. My phone (Motorola RAZRi) was bought because it ran Android and not Win 8. But Win 8 can be got to run OK on a lappy/desktop if you disable the truly shite touch-screen front-end which goes by the name of Metro. Paul is wrong mind. You can buy a cheap laptop but going a bit upmarket is worth it. There is a sort of curve. Basically at the bottom you get pantage and at the top you are paying over the odds but I like the creamy middles. The last computer I bought was a Lenovo Thinkpad E335. I can’t recall what it cost but it shipped with 8Gig of RAM and cost way under 400 notes, a reasonable build quality and lovely 13.3″ screen. It also has something I require: trackpoint. Touchpads leave everyone dead because they don’t work. So you plug in a mouse instead and lose half the functionality of a portable. Which is I think what Paul was getting at with the table ref. Basically it is like a Macbook Air but less than 1/3 the cost and has a tit you can play with. Oh and I’m basically a shill for Thinkpad and have been for years. It probs doesn’t have the battery life of the Air but so what? It is much cheaper – it also boots like the blue blazes. Basically if you are thinking serious moolah you can get better bang for buck than Apple (and looking like a twat who drinks lattes in Starbucks and has an “interesting beard”). The higher end Lenovos such as the R or T series will kick a Macbook for less money. And you are used to Windows. And yeah,it is possible to “convert” but that does matter and is not easy. As does the tit. I love the tit. It really means a laptop lives up to the lap.

    Hope that helps.

    And if, a big “if” you can get Win 7 rather than the bloated Win 8… But you won’t be able to but 8 ain’t to bad if you kill Metro.

    PS. If you really have the quidlings and don’t care for tits and are tab-tempted then consider the Lenovo Yoga.

  13. Paul Marks says:

    Nick am I really wrong?

    You are saying that when this little Samsung notebook gives up the ghost (and I am astonished it has lasted as long as it has) I should spend more than 270 Pounds on a replacement machine.


    Remember I only use the machine for e.mail stuff.

  14. Paul Marks says:

    By the way the touchpad on this machine still works – after years of abuse.

  15. NickM says:

    Well Paul, it is a bit like wine. There are fixed costs so a six quid bottle than a 3.50 bottle. It delivers more bang for buck. And the point about touchpads doesn’t matter. Not to me. As to your question. It will last longer. It is terribly expensive to be buy the cheapest.

  16. Paul Marks says:

    Well this machine has lasted O.K. Nick.

    But what you advice me (and RAB) to buy?

    What model of laptop or notebook?

  17. RAB says:

    My, what a lot of knowledgable and helpful folks we have dropping in here. Thank you all for your comments and suggestions, and keep them coming because we haven’t heard from any Tablet fans yet. I will come to those later, first things first…

    It’s a Toshiba Satellite P300D- 2Ik… Model number- PSPDOE- OOHOO3EN Cats.

    Yes Nick yours and mine sound very similar. I recall that we returned to factory reset once before early in it’s life. The colour resolution would be fine when it started booting up but then fade as if the brightness had been turned up too far or something. That cured it, so we will try that again, but I fear this may not cure it this time. I’m sure overheating is a major part of it. Ze little grill on the bottom looks like it has coffee grounds stuck in it and is all clogged up, and we have been very careful with it too, even down to placing it on a heat absorbent mat when in use.

    I can afford the Macbook, Dioclese and Sam, but am very leery of Apple. Are they really three times as good as all the others for that kind of money? The only Apple product I own is an iPod Classic. It wasn’t a bleedin “Classic” when I bought it however, it was “Top of the range 60g” and cost over £200. It came in a little box like an expensive brand of Belgian chocolates, and I almost walked out of the shop there and then with it, but just to be on the safe side I asked… “Er this seems a very small box, it does have a charger with it doesn’t it?”

    “Oh no sir, one charges it via ones laptop or desktop with a USB connection”

    “But I don’t have a laptop (I didn’t at the time) and I’m going to be on a boat in the middle of the Nile next week, so how do I charge it, it’s supposed to be a portable device after all?”

    “Oh well sir will need to buy a charger seperately. That will be £25 extra…” kaaaching! Bastards!!

    The Lenovo range is sounding good to me Nick. I will investigate, and try factory re-set, but like I say, I’m not sure it will work, as I forgot to say that the DVD drive appears not to be working and we can no longer download Pics onto it either.

    Any Tablet fans out there, your thoughts would be welcomed….

  18. John Galt says:

    Of my 3 currently running laptops, I have a Sony Vaio (Light, but seriously under powered), a Lenovo U410 (Excellent) and a Lenovo ThinkPad T500 (Old, but robust and serviceable).

    I don’t think you could go far wrong if you purchased a Lenovo, as Nick suggests the best power/performance is in the mid-range laptops.

  19. Julie near Chicago says:

    I’m with dioclese and NickM. I’m an Apple girl right to my loins. I have: A G4 PowerBook, from the end of 2003, the last one made with the Motorola G4 chip. And a MacBook Pro, don’t remember the release date, but I got it in 2010 (IIRC). Latterly, another MacBook Pro, released Summer 2011, bought it used this last April. It was not only used, it was all shook up. The seller put 1T of disk space into it, and 16GB of RAM. These are all three 15″ laptops. Full disclosure: The 3rd Mac was the consequence of the HD crash of the second Mac. (All fixed now, but I’m still looking for a salvation expert to retrieve the data off the disk, which The Geniuses at Apple were not able to fix.

    This story shows us two things: that it’s possible to get 1/3 again as disk space as they say (they say, 750 MB). I think.

    And that it’s possible to get a 3rd-party upgrade, and then the sky’s the limit.

    Also: Apple QUIT MAKING the 15″ back at the end of 2011. If you get a new, unused one, your choice will be between a 13″ and a 1.

    But if you’re really serious about nothing but the Internet, you might want to consider a MacBookAir. I haven’t used it myself, but my Acer Aspire One is an 8″ Netbook (I was so happy!) The MacBook Air comes in 11″ and 13″. Specs at MacMall say the 13″ one has a 12-hour battery. Wow! Weighs 2.68 lbs., .68″ thick. The URL for MacMall’s page on one of these is


    Lists for $ 1299; this particular one is probably used. It’s being sold for $ 1099.

    Note: It has a 128 G internal flash drive. An analysis I read that analyzed the question
    “which is preferable” says that since there are so many reads and rides on the flash, it undergoes a lot more wear than does the disk; which, however, is slower. Also the flash is more expensive. If you want to investigate this, ask The Person whether they can make a custom change for you. That would up the weight.

    They have an 800-number, so I (assume) you can have a nice long chat where they answer any questions or worries you may have.

    Do you use a dongle when you’re on the road? I assume so.

    By the way, the Macs currently all run some version of the Intel Quad-Core Duo processor.

    Now, the Competition. I am not very well acquainted with various Windows and their Visions and versions. On the Acer I’m still running XP. Support for which I understand they’re cutting. Seems to me there’s talk that they’ll cut Win7 also. IIRC Vista did not turn out to be the land of Customer Enchantment, though some liked it.

    Paul, do you use a mouse, or the trackpad, or what? Personally I like meese. (I also like mice, but you can’t house-train them, and they don’t distinguish between meum and tuum. A very good cordless mouse is beween $ 30 and $ 40 over here, or (latest conversion factor is £ 0.6 to the dollar,) so the mouse would be between £ 18 and £ 24. Frankly I would think about it a bit. My meese on the MacBooks, both cordless, are a lot slower and a little more likely to act up than the one on the G4 PowerBook, which connects through the USB port.

    One last thing. You probably know, but whenever you’re using any computer you should probably put a small piece of opaque tape over the camera’s eye. ;>)

    Whatever you decide to do, good luck with it!


  20. Julie near Chicago says:

    I seem to have been the victim of a brain f***. My apologies to both RAB and Paul.

    My apologies also to the Readership. I don’t know what happened to MacMall URL, but it din’ work and that’s for sure. Here it is, in longhand:

  21. NickM says:

    You can’t go wrong with a mid-range Lenovo.

  22. John Galt says:

    There seems to be some kind of echo in here… :-)

  23. Julie near Chicago says:

    JG, HOW can you SAY that! LOLOL

    . . .

    I use Yahoo! Mail, and once in awhile I check in to my account. It matters not. The later versions of both are a trial and a torment, as the top of the message is loaded with toolbars and whatnot, in such a way as to leave little space for the messge. On my sweet little Acer (143 G), there’s barely enough room to view ANY message. *grumble*

    If I didn’t make it perfectly clear, I certainly consider the trackpad the Worstest Choice on any machine upon which I ever pointed and clicked. The one on the Acer is the literal pits. I had a corded mouse about the size of your 5-year-old’s fist, so I could still use the computer’s desk as the mousepad, but it gave up the ghost after being hurled at the wall with some enthusiasm. Pity. Logitech had quite making the the Mouse for the Baby, so I got the next-bigger size for the MacB’s. Both cordless, and they do run slightly slower than the corded mouse on the G4, but laptop desk is a great place to work them from.

    And the Acer has 3 USB ports, 2 on the left and one on the right. Something for everyone’s handedness. So does the G4 PowerBook, if you don’t mind backing up 14 or 15 years to get one. (Don’t laugh. One of my tekkie-type friends reminds us that the G4 is still fine; he bought one for his son (I think a pre-teen), not long after I got mine, and he’s been upgrading the OS regularly, up to at least 10.7 and maybe 10.8. Now he mentioned that a couple of years ago, I think, and I don’t know how much the software architecture has changed since 2009 or so, and for all I know it’s now up it’s running 10.8. And some of the later games require at least 10.7, but still–!!!

    Speaking of which, there downloads of Classic (OS 9) games around, some for download, usually with a club membership fee, and also if you’re lucky on disk at one of the Used stores, including Amazon. The point being, that that’s another reason to treat the G4 gently and with great love and kindess and never, ever turn it loose: I have collected some of those games. :>)

    I run 10.6.8 on the MacBooks, and it’s a champ. In my opinion the best after 10.3.3 (Panther), until you get to 10.6.8.

    And many insist Mac is best just because hackers aren’t very interested in it, so it’s still pretty free from vermin. Although I hear that as their market share grows larger (I think I read that the latest is around 15% and continuing to grow) its attractiveness to those who missed learning ethics at their mothers’ knees also is growing. But it’s still small.

    Yes, Nick, I know. You are delighted with your Lenovo. And we are all very happy for you. ;)

  24. RAB says:

    Cripes! I seem to have activated Julie near Chicago’s inner geek :-)

    “I run 10.6.8 on the MacBooks, and it’s a champ.”

    Look I used to run about 11.8.9 for the hundred metres. What are you talking about? You eloquently lost me way back.

  25. Roue le Jour says:

    A similar thing happened to me some years back. First thing you need to do is look at the log. If your disk is failing the log will be full of read errors. In other words, Windows knows your drive is failing but doesn’t see any reason to share that knowledge with you. If that is the case, and you still prefer to upgrade, you can at least fix the one you have and pass it on to someone who needs one.

  26. bloke in spain says:

    If you want a “from personal experience” I’ve been toting a Samsung NC10 around for the past 4 years. I bought it second hand for 120€, Runs XP at 8ooMHz 1Gb memory expandable, 250Gb H/D & currently the battery life’s still over the hour. 10″ screen so fits into a neat little leather shoulder purse I bought along with its power supply, an external disc reader/writer, external hard drive, digital camera, odd leads, flash drives. The car charger lives in the car but the GPS fits in the bag, soif the car’s turned over that’s one thing I wont be replacing.
    It’s a cheap bit of s*1T, but what the heck? Does everything I need to do & I won’t be losing the 400€+ I did each of it’s predecessors valued, when they went walkies in short order.
    When I say “toteing” I mean it goes everywhere with me, all the time. It’s as ubiquitous as my car keys. Bag tends to have whatever else I need lurking in it. Postage stamps, city plan, notebook, phones (6 for 4 countries), earphones for Skype… Whole life package in a bag.

    And a bleg:
    Does anyone know if there’s a “work off-line” option in IE8? Hate the thing but some sites (esp Spanish) aren’t Firefox compatible. Leaving a page open that’s auto-refreshing constantly eats into data allocations on mobile net.

  27. bloke in spain says:

    Sorry.I just checked. IE 11 not 8. Damned thing must have updated itself. Grrr…

  28. Paul Marks. says:

    Julie I have a mouse on the computer upstairs (used once in a Blue Moon – which is why Dell and the other desk top producers are in trouble) and a pad on this little machine.

    I assumed it would go wrong – but it has not (after years of abuse).

  29. Mark Kitson says:

    +1 for Lenovo – this is a w530, battery lasts 4ish hours with constant use. Replaced DVD drive with SSD so boots to Ubuntu desktop in less than 10 seconds. Fairly heavy machine but “robust”.
    Seriously, for just reading emails, surfing web and writing docs, consider anything except Windows of any version! Macs are lovely, Linux is lovely but does have a bit of a learning curve. Windows starts lovely but is actually spawn of the devil after 6 months.

  30. Julie near Chicago says:

    Cheek cheek cheek is the song of the Geek (gives a little hippity-hop to the … Radio Shop?? Hm, don’t sound right. Sorry, Rob. We can discuss 15th cent. musical notation if you like. I promise to leave the floor almost entirely to you. And if I HAVE to be honest (oh,surely not!) my geeky chops have faded, like the leaves and drifted off….

    Dear Mr. Marks, if your trackpad makes you happy you should stick with it. Don’ fix wot ain’t broke. I wish the software mfrs. could surround that thought. :>))

    Mr. Kitson, Concur on the Mac (if you couldn’t tell, *g*). I use the Acer very little nowadays and am fed up with Windows. Although I suppose XP isn’t too bad…but I never did have to try its powers to anywhere near the fullest.

    Paul–interesting, your remark about the desktop mfrs. I’ve often thought the same, even leaving the trackpad aside. And a lot of people are hooking up their laptops, when at home, to their jazzy 9T desktop model, to use as a keyboard for the Big Kahuna.

  31. Julie near Chicago says:

    I forgot. RAB: “Forty fathoms? What is that in God’s feet?” — John Wyndham, The Kraken Wakes.” A footy here, a footy there, and pretty soon you’re talking real millipedes. :>)

    The best I know is, there used to be families with 2.7.0 children per. That doesn’t sound like a lot…. I wonder what they did with the other 3/10 of a child.

  32. Paul Marks says:

    There are advantages with the big computer upstairs – for example it has Skype (thanks to the pair of headphones and microphone I bought for it).

    I think where desktop computers may have gone wrong is the practice of having different boxes for the screen and for the computer itself and for the keyboard.

    The first desktop machines were all in one units – no doubt there were wonderfully good reasons for the multiple box approach. But it just takes up too much space.

    As for a mouse and a mouse mat – well if a mouse goes wrong one simply buys a new one. If this pad goes wrong the whole machine has to be binned.

  33. Wildgoose says:

    If you need the power then you’re best going for a Mac. They are well engineered and the hardware and software are (literally) designed for each other.

    If it’s mainly Internet, e-mail, etc., then take a look at the Samsung Chromebook. I have one, it’s basically looks like a plastic MacBook Air but it has a decent keyboard, excellent trackpad and great battery life. Just the thing for on the move and they’re only around £200.

    For those of us who are more technical, you can also use “Crouton” to make a chroot Ubuntu installation that runs alongside ChromeOS. I run mine with LXDE which is reliable and lightweight on the computing resources.

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