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Is a cheap computer good enough?
Thread poster: Armorel Young

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:39
German to English
Oct 31, 2006

My current computer is about a year old. It was pretty much from the "economy" price bracket at the local computer superstore, but I am entirely happy with it in every way - in terms of processor speed, memory and hard disk size it is more than adquate for the wordprocessing and internet research I do on it all day long.

What alarms me slightly is two entirely independent conversations I have had recently with people who are planning to get a new computer and have told me that because they will be leaving the computer on all day, they need something with extra good cooling - a cheap computer would just give up on them (so they say). Now my computer is on for about 14 hours a day (not necessarily in use for all that time, because I leave it on when I go out for an hour or two). Should I be worrying about overheating - or about whether my cheap computer will simply conk out one day soon? Or is a cheap computer perfectly adequate for us translators to use?


Vito Smolej
Local time: 21:39
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Let me turn the question around Oct 31, 2006

Would you care if it did cook up some day? As regards me, I would see it as an inconvenience, like a blown fuse, except if I lost data, and that would be a major disaster.

Mean to say:

1.) I give myself this day my daily backup
2.) Let the su*er run 24/7/365

Actually I would let it run like this, except it is not the most silent of them all.


Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:39
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Don't worry! Oct 31, 2006

Dear Armorel,

you really don't have to worry! Cooling usually is a problem only for computers with high clockrates, high-end 3d-graphic accelerators and so on, thus, generally speaking, for expensive computers.
For the normal tasks that a translator has to perform, the cheapest computer available today offers far more than enough.

However - leaving your computer on is a major issue with regard to energy consumption. Which operating system do you use? WinXP (and I believe most other systems as well) have a mode called "hibernation" (or "sleep mode", or similar). This will save the contents of your memory to the hard disk before turning off the computer. When you restart it, no system boot is performed, and all your applications are there again with all files open, in other words: you find your computer in exactly the state you left it in when invoking hibernation mode. All this happens in a considerably shorter period of time than the normal booting procedure.

I find this very convenient and do it always when I leave my computer for a longer period of time.


P.S.: This said, it is of course necessary to perform regular backups!

[Bearbeitet am 2006-10-31 21:14]


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:39
English to French
+ ...
Why not use extra fans? Oct 31, 2006

This is an efficient and cheap means to cool your computer so it doesn't eventually fry.

If you have enough space in your computer to add fans - they cost around $10 each and you can easily install them yourself - this could be the solution to your problem.

Most computers ship with one fan, two at most. However, I've seen computers - their owner fixed them that way - that had three fans or even four. In fact, you can add as many as you want, as long as you have the space for it. Now, for a laptop, it's a whole different storyicon_biggrin.gif


Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
thoughts on that extra fan ... Oct 31, 2006

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

If you have enough space in your computer to add fans - they cost around $10 each and you can easily install them yourself - this could be the solution to your problem.

I live in hot, dusty southeastern Arizona (USA), and I had a tech put an extra fan in the old computer. After living near the cool Pacific breezes in San Diego, it just wasn't coping well in its new home. But, then it was NOISY! It drove me nuts...

In June, I bought a new computer when the old one really was passé. It is quiet and hasn't quit from the heat yet--even when the swamp cooler died and the house temperature was 31C!

So, there in England, I wouldn't worry too much unless you start experiencing failures...


Michael Barnett
Local time: 15:39
+ ...
Yes. Nov 1, 2006

I had this conversation with a computer expert just last week. I have ten computers in my office. He said that even a cheap computer is likely to become obsolete well before a hardware failure, so why not go with the cheap one?

To be on the safe side, I back up my important files automaticially to an external hard drive every hour.


Eva Middleton  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:39
German to English
another yes Nov 1, 2006

We always have cheap, home-made computers in this house (other than my laptop - cheap and shop-bought). My husband is an IT consultant/techie so just assembles the machines himself, and we always have a pretty basic spec as we don't use it for anything 'intense', like gaming etc.

The main one is left on continuously as it downloads things overnight, and whilst we've had the odd fan failure (once a year I'd say, if that), it is not a big problem. Computers are usually set up to switch themselves off if they overheat without any loss of data, so it's always been obvious when a fan has given up because the machine would just turn itself off after 10 minutes.

[Edited at 2006-11-01 06:58]


Piotr Sawiec  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:39
English to Polish
+ ...
overheating is usually not a problem Nov 1, 2006

If you do not overclock your processor and FSB you will not experience overheating in most cases, unless your fan is out of order. Besides, the CPU temperature does not depend on its working time but on the workload. If you leave it overnight without any hard work it will not overheat, even a single fan will take care of it.



Sebastian Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:39
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
roundup of 57 case fans and detailed test of 120 mm fans Nov 1, 2006
The tests were conducted back in 2003, but their results are not outdated.

[Edited at 2006-11-01 10:56]

[Edited at 2006-11-01 13:35]


Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:39
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Right, don't worry Nov 1, 2006

efreitag wrote:
you really don't have to worry! Cooling usually is a problem only for computers with high clockrates, high-end 3d-graphic accelerators and so on, thus, generally speaking, for expensive computers.

Agreed. To some extent, the cheaper the better, as regards overheating problems, and that's precisely because they're slower. There's probably a fan in the power supply unit and one on the CPU (as in mine). Very roughly, each "clock tick" of the CPU consumes a certain amount of energy, so the faster the CPU (ticks per second), the more power it dissipates. A 1.5 GHz processor dissipates less heat than a 2.5 GHz model. If there's a graphics card with its own fan, it's a high-performance type and unnecessary for our kind of work. There may also be a case fan, on a wall of the cabinet.

Important: make sure there is enough clearance all round your PC's cabinet, especially where the vent holes are, for the air to move and take the heat away.

The CPU (processor) probably has a temperature sensor built in and the BIOS may be able to report its reading to you. There also exists software that can tell you the sensed temperature while the computer is in use. This interested me a year or two ago, but not now.

However - leaving your computer on is a major issue with regard to energy consumption.

On the other hand, it's switching on and off that shortens the lifetime because of the temperature cycling that does to the system. Once the system has "warmed up", the best way of maximising its longevity is to leave it on (perhaps in a reduced-power state such as Standby) as long as possible. Again, this is probably less of a problem with cooler-running low-power systems.
The quality of the components used is probably not a significant issue nowadays. Even the most unreliable components, such as hard disk drives and cooling fans, have typical lifetimes of tens of thousands of hours (1 year is 8760 hours).

[Edited at 2006-11-01 10:51]


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:39
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Entry level is sufficient Nov 1, 2006

Armorel Young wrote:
I have had recently with people who are planning to get a new computer and have told me that because they will be leaving the computer on all day, they need something with extra good cooling - a cheap computer would just give up on them (so they say).

Why would anyone leave their computer on all day long? I know that this advice had been given in the past (particularly because switching it on and off all the time can damage the circuitry (and that is true, theoretically speaking)), but how much longer will the computer last if you just leave it on? 20 years instead of 21 years? How long do you plan to keep your current computer???

As for your original question, the cheapest new computer should be sufficient.


Jerzy Czopik  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:39
Member (2003)
Polish to German
+ ...
I´m changing my PCs almost every two years Nov 1, 2006

And I do not buy the chapest, but I pay much attention to pay the smalest amount for the best I can get.
I bought some quite expensive computers from IBM and Fujitsu Siemens some years ago, but both were a dissapointment. So I started to build them on my own and was very satisfied.
But then this year I got an offer from Dell and I was nit able to build a similar system on my own for that price! So I boutght a new Dell.
To return to your original question: A cheap computer is good enoough, if you do not let fool you by the seller, that you do not need computing power. So do not buy the cheapest one.
As for running the PC 24 hrs a day - usually even this should not be the problem, however, the manufacturer sometimes do not warranty that. So happend with a series of Deskstar HDDs from IBM - very good (fast) drives, which went KO when working longer than 8 hrs a day. IBM has replaced the drives for free, but then it was I think, what caused IBM has sold his HDD production to Fujitsu.

So it depends, how fast will you replace your system. If it shall work 3-4 years, the cheapest one will not do. If you plan to replace it in 2 years, the cheapest one is something you might consider. This is so, if you work with Trados or something similar. If you just only want to run office applications, he cheapest one will probably do for at least the next 5 years.
if you have kids at home and they wanna play with your PC, than the most expensive one will not last more than two years, provided you replace the graphics card once in the meantimeicon_smile.gif



Vito Smolej
Local time: 21:39
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Let me turn the question around again Nov 1, 2006

I am not kidding but today my PC just went on the fritz. Morto di kreppo. Finished. Foutu

Must be the fans (g) - seriously I think there's a problem with a spurious contact somewhere that just drops everything like stone. Now, Im not trying to paint it black - after all, I am back online and I have already delivered one or two orders today. Anyhow, I dont give a da*n. One average single order pays for the whole PC. With my tax bracket in the thirties three orders pay for it without any costs to me, sorry, Angie -.

However, I could have lost three or four or more orders - who's talking PCs, it's the orders that count -. But I did not, because:

o I did do all my backups - except the last 24 hours, so for instance for important mails I had to ask for resends.

o I have a notebook (second hand, paid 80 € for it) , and folks, watch this, it's doing everything I ever need to do .

Now, Im not trying to paint it too rosy: my accounting is shot and I dont have my archive available. HOwever, this is nothing I can not solve within 24 hours: I'm buying a USB/firewire enclosure tomorrow for the old disks and that solves it.


o If i did not have a USB hard disk with backups and the most important installations, well, you would not read this right now.

o the same applies to the notebook I had lying around.

It was a very educative experience. Now to the happy end: I went and bought myself a MiniMac. I dont think I would ever get a better excuse to buy what I always wanted to have. Ask my wife.


[Edited at 2006-11-01 21:17]


Alexey Ivanov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:39
English to Russian
Let's return to the original question Nov 2, 2006

I think everyone answers it for himself because everyone has:
a) a different set of software, and
b) his/her own ideas about the level of comfort and security he/she requires for doing his/her work.

I have been using Pentium IV for several years but lately got annoyed with its lack of memory when working in Trados on large files and large TMs. It has 512 Mbytes ROM. But when I use "Translate to Fuzzy" command (alt+Numerical*) to check for any global changes made during the translation it often stops with the error message: "Not enough memory. If you continue, the operation will be irreversible". The other thing which started getting on my nerves is the noise level. It is not too loud but still quite noticeable. I also have a lot of software on my PC (38 different applications including 4 different CAT tools all of which I need for work) and a very large translation archive for all of which the average disk space of 60-80 GBytes is more than enough, but which considerably slows down the scanning of the disk by the antivirus application and disk defrag which you have to do regularly, and of course backing up. So I decided to buy a new CPU and went for the latest (I always do). I bought myself an AMD Athlon dual cell processor 3800+, with 3 HDDs, 2 GBytes of ROM, a removable hard disk on a sledge, a climate control module which automatically switches on/off the fans according to the maximum temperature inside the processor you set yourself and a few other things. It cost me aproximately 20 days of my hard work, but I do not regret it. Now I have the feeling of added security as the processor simultaneously writes onto 2 disks and in case of physical damage of one disk the information is still intact on the other disk, I have installed the OS on a separate hard drive and in case of a major crash or a virus infection can simply delete the OS and reinstall it without loss of information because all the information is on the other hard drive (plus a copy on a removable HDD). (Normally you cannot do it when you have both on the same drive). I do not need to bother with possible overheating (not that it is a major risk in Russia) and the noise is hardly noticeable. And 2 Gbytes of ROM will be enough for the next 3-4 years I hope. So I believe the cheapest computer is enough, especially at the start of your career, if you you are ready to overlook such other important considerations of translation business as speed, security, and comfort.

[Edited at 2006-11-02 20:19]

[Edited at 2006-11-02 20:24]


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:39
German to English
+ ...
Saving money Nov 3, 2006

One way to save money is to buy good hardware and use Linux.

This is not the main reason for using Linux, but it is a nice side-effect.icon_smile.gif


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