Fun Computer Rebuild with the Kids

"... the only engines I know anything about are search..."I got on a kick this week to upgrade or rebuild the kids computers, but didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a new system just because with all the stuff they are doing we are sort of likely going to break something sooner rather than later.  Better to let them have free reign on a $200 system (or maybe an $84 system . . . ) than worry about them trashing a $1000 computer.

So I headed off to Ebay – thinking that a decent Core 2 Duo was probably a good place to start with a computer rebuild and likely would give them enough juice to play on.  I went about looking at refurbished HPs and Dells – eventually buying two Dell Optiplex 780s. [well I actually got two Dual Cores for the boys and one i5 for me just for fun . . .]

Here are the Duos – got them both for $34 each plus shipping . . .

Refurbished Computers Off Ebay

Quick technical items to point out here:

  • 3.00ghz and 2.93 ghz processors [should be plenty fast for the kids]
  • No hard drives [we will install a 1TB (1000GB) Western Digital HDs – these cost about $50 with Free Shipping on Ebay and Amazon]
  • 2gb of RAM each [we will run with 2gb for now – but will upgrade to 8 or 16 gb as soon as we can tell the systems will actually function]
  • No OS
  • No Software

I had a couple of Windows 7 Pro Licenses – so we booted off those and loaded fresh 7 Pro and we were (surprisingly) off to the races without too much trouble.  And there are a couple of other options you could easily work through to get Windows 7 if you needed it either via Ebay, a “refurbishers” license – or if you were particularly adventurous (and geeky) by using an open source operating system like a Linux based Ubuntu.

I don’t want to bore anyone any more than I probably already have here – BUT . . . . I actually struggled with the decision to load Windows as I am a devout Linux/Ubuntu (and overall open source) user – but since Windows is the system that the kids will most likely be using for the foreseeable future it just seemed to make the most sense – why confuse them with working on Ubuntu when they will typically see mostly Windows (or Google Chrome) at school . . . [I digress . . . ]

So that brings us to the cool “Microsoft” part of this puzzle – which is actually one of the things that got me thinking more about upgrading everything.  Through our school system [Buncombe County] we are able to download FREE versions of Windows Office 2013 and load it on up to 5 personal devices per student.  And this is the FULL blow version of Office 2013 PROFESSIONAL – which includes Word – Excel – Outlook – Powerpoint – Publisher – Access and OneNote.  A quick Google for the current cost of an Office 2013 Pro license looks like it would set you back around $200-$300 . . . .   so this is really a great deal.

Here is a quick quote from the school system’s website:

“This opportunity is part of the district’s Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES) agreement, which is an easy, no-cost offer that provides qualified education customers a simplified way to acquire Microsoft software and services under a single, subscription agreement.”
And for what it is worth this keeps a certain amount of tech waste out of the landfill – now I get that 3 computers saved from the dump isn’t going to make a huge difference, but estimates from the EPA put the US’s 2012 “e-waste” (computers – tvs – dvd players – cell phones etc.) production at 20 BILLION pounds per year with only 20% of that getting recycled.  Just hoping that every little bit helps . . .

Back to the rebuilds ->

Here is the quick math:

Computer off Ebay $34
1 TB Hard Drive off Ebay $50
Windows 7 Pro Free
Office 2013 Pro Free
Total $84

So for less than $100 (per system) and probably an hour of my time (total) with the boys:

  • they each got decent computers – that they really feel like they worked on and “built” themselves
  • they got to see some basic hardware work (pulling the DVD drive and adding the new hard drives – hooking everything back up etc.)
  • they got to see some basic bios settings work and software installs
  • and they got to see what happens when things don’t work (had issues with ethernet drivers – video card ports etc. that we got to work through)

And now they are both running decent computers that have pretty much all the software they could probably ever want to mess with – and if they crush the systems somehow by downloading some crazy Minecraft Mod – then worst case they get to help rebuild it all over again.

So – if you have an older system that needs updating or want to mess with rebuilding a whole new system – and your kids have an interest it is really easy to do.  If anyone has any questions or needs any help just shoot me an email or use the Contact Page here.

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Jamey Grant

My name is Jamey Grant. I am an Asheville, North Carolina native and have worked the last 6+ years as a freelance data analytics programmer specializing in MySQL database management, .php, and Python. I have 7+ years of experience in the WordPress CMS and have authored three different MySQL based plugins designed to track various metrics for various private clients.

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