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  • Home computer replacement – Windows, Mac Mini?
  • Premier Icon dmorts
    Full Member

    Our current home computer is slowly being killed by Windows 10. It takes an age to load nowadays.

    Both my wife and I work from home so have our work laptops but we still seem to have a need for a computer for things like family photos and other non-work stuff.

    The existing computer is a refurb’ed Dell Optiplex-type PC from eBay and it’s probably lasted about 5 years which I suppose isn’t bad… it’s been slow for a while though. I could add more RAM and an SSD but I don’t think these will offer great value.

    The replacement would ideally be a mini PC so it doesn’t take up much room and can be easily moved if needed.

    There are many Windows options, but also a refurb’ed Mac Mini could be an option too. I have it in my head that a Mac would keep working better for longer as the hardware and OS are closely coupled. Windows PCs just seem to become unusable after a while. I use a Mac for work now too.

    Linux and Chromebook aren’t options because I use Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop. There is a web based Lightroom app but it doesn’t yet match the installed desktop version (AFAIK).

    Any ideas on what I should go for?

    Premier Icon johnnystorm
    Full Member

    Any PC that costs the same as the Mac equivalent will last as long as a Mac. I say that as someone with Mac, Windows and Chrome OS machines here at home.

    If you aren’t already wedded to the MacOS and Apple devices or don’t need a really small silver box on your desk there are plenty of Windows options out there.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Full Member

    What he said.

    TBH I’d take the SSD route and reinstall. For the price these days it’s at least worth a punt if your considering Apple money for an alternative. Software may change but hardware doesn’t become slower over time whether it’s a PC, a Mac or an Etch-a-Sketch.

    Worst case, you replace it anyway and you’ve got a handy place for backups or a media server.

    The Linux fans will be along soon, also.

    Premier Icon timmys
    Full Member

    (Queue 2 pages of arguing).

    A work computer is a tool. I have a Windows one. It works fine but brings me no pleasure.

    A home computer should be what brings you the most joy, you kinda need to decide which that is, either will get the job done.

    Premier Icon bridges
    Free Member

    Mac Mini.

    Premier Icon rossburton
    Full Member

    I’d definitely recommend a Mac Mini, and obviously you can reuse your existing monitor if its any good.

    If you use macOS at work you know what to expect so won’t have the culture shock. Just be sure to get a M1 model, they’re just so much more capable than the older Intel models.

    Premier Icon thols2
    Free Member

    Our current home computer is slowly being killed by Windows 10. It takes an age to load nowadays.

    Personally, if it has an i3 or i5 processor, I’d bump it to at least 8GB RAM and an SSD and do a fresh install of Windows. An SSD will slash the boot time from minutes to 20 seconds or so. Also, check that the hard disk has plenty of free space. You can run Disk Cleanup to get rid of stuff like old Windows installations, etc. Those can take many GB of space.

    I’d also vacuum any dust out of the case and pull the heatsink off the CPU and replace the thermal paste. I just did that for one of my machines which started making a lot of fan noise, the CPU temp under heavy load dropped from 90 degrees down to 60.

    At home, I use Intel NUCs, which are the Windows equivalent of a Mac Mini. They range in spec and price from cheap Celeron processors to fairly decent, but not cheap. I find the small form factor really convenient. Honestly, if you’re just doing email and watching YouTube, an i3 with 8GB RAM and SSD should do fine.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    Most of the above +1

    My laptop is an i3 (from the old days before they got 4 digit SKU’s) with a whopping 4GB of DDR3.

    At some point, it stopped working and overheating so I took the case apart to clean out the fan. The foam filter had hardened and disintegrated stopping the fan from turning! Removed the filter, stuck an SSD in there (got it free out of an old business laptop).

    It’s useless for games or photo editing, but that was true 10 years ago when it was new. But it boots up in seconds and things like sufferfest (big video files but relatively little actual processing going on) work near instantly.

    So yea, either a clean install of Windows onto an SSD. Or clone your existing drive onto one and go through and deactivate all the junk that’s slowing it down. Windows doesn’t slow down, it’s just the number of things you forget to uncheck “launch program on startup” when youre installing them that grows over time.

    Premier Icon midlifecrashes
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    I have a mini PC and it’s super. I got it new as a bargain eBay auction. Acer Veriton N4660G. It comes with a bracket to mount it on the VESA mount on the back of a monitor. i3 8100T in mine, with 16GB and SSD I wouldn’t want faster unless I went full gamer, and even then it can take a graphics card in an add-on module, but with native graphics it’s fine for casual gaming. I have it running a 32″ 4K monitor and sound through a USB soundbar attached to that, so a clutter and wire free desk so long as you don’t look closely round the back. I basically wanted a good upgradeable all-in-one.

    Certainly try the SSD first, you can move it to the new PC later anyway, or even just send it back to Amazon or whoever if it doesn’t do enough.

    Premier Icon alanf
    Free Member

    SSDs are pretty cheap now and I’m running an Optiplex with SSD and 16GB ram. It’s pretty fast to boot. I basically just run the operating system from the SSD and then have a HDD for storing files on like music, pics etc. It doesn’t do anything intensive so it’s not being stressed.
    you could probably upgrade the ram and add an SSD for way less than £100 and you’re not chucking useable hardware away.

    Premier Icon mrmoofo
    Full Member

    I have a Mac Mini – but now sort of wedded to Apple. Not strictly a fanboi, but my work Windows machines used to be ” challenging”

    Also came about when I was living in CH, and Windows based machines were targeted by just about every virus in the world, every day

    Premier Icon yourguitarhero
    Free Member

    I’ve been using an M1 MacBook air through a big screen since my desktop pc carked it after 16 years!

    MacOS is much nicer than windows 10 and I haven’t found anything I can’t do on it yet compared to Windows. Mostly just use a browser now for 99% of what I do

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Full Member

    I got an SSD for a ten year old work laptop to use for Zwift. It’s pretty quick, and the SSD was something like £20!

    I’m ambivalent about Windows/MacOS – I prefer the former personally in terms of aesthetics and usability, but the main benefit is cost. I bought 3 refurbed PCs for my wife and kids for under £500 and they are great.

    Premier Icon footflaps
    Full Member

    My home PC is a 2010 Mac Book pro, still going on the original battery (down to about 2 hours from over 8)!

    About 3 years ago I stopped being able to upgrade to the latest OS, but still works exceptionally well.

    I’ll just buy another MBP when it finally dies.

    Premier Icon dmorts
    Full Member

    Thanks all.

    If I was going for a Mac, this would almost definitely be second hand or refurbished.

    For a Windows machine, this would likely be new, have an SSD and as much RAM as I can get. Not sure on Intel or AMD for processor. No idea at all about graphics, other than it would likely be HDMI output.

    I’ve built PCs myself before but I’m way out of touch with current tech. I’ve checked and the current PC is maxed out for RAM, so an SSD would be the only option.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Full Member

    Not sure on Intel or AMD for processor

    The last I looked, in terms of price:performance AMD were absolutely killing Intel. I may be out of touch myself however.

    Premier Icon bullshotcrummond
    Free Member

    If you get a refurbished Intel based Mac Mini with a good spec it is easy to switch it to Windows – the supplied Boot Camp utility will just partition your hard drive so you can switch between if needed.

    Premier Icon stumpy01
    Full Member

    How much RAM does your current machine have?

    I’ve got an ~10 year old Acer laptop which has an i5 processor of some description & 6 Gb of RAM.

    Boot times with an HDD were upwards of 2mins; probably more. Definitely into ‘turn it on & make a cuppa’ territory.

    I stuck a Crucial SSD in it & it now is ready to go from cold in under 30 seconds.
    It’s been like this for at least 2 years & seems to have shown no sign of ‘slowing down’.

    I use it for web browsing, Zwift, Fusion360 (3D CAD) and 3D printer slicing software.
    I suspect with a newer machine the load times of the applications would be better, but once in the program itself, they all run absolutely fine.

    Premier Icon Alex
    Full Member

    My home PC is a 2010 Mac Book pro, still going on the original battery (down to about 2 hours from over 8)!

    Slight aside, my daughter has my 2012 MB Air. It’s battery was pretty shot so we had a new one put in at the apple store. £130 is a lot (DIY cheaper but she’s at Uni and needs her laptop) but it’ll keep the machine going for another few years.

    I really don’t like PCs. But then I haven’t used on since W8.

    Premier Icon dannybgoode
    Full Member

    The last I looked, in terms of price:performance AMD were absolutely killing Intel. I may be out of touch myself however.

    You’re not out of touch. There are very very few cases where it makes sense to go Intel at the moment.

    The new Ryzen 5xxx series are particularly immense but even a 4xxx series is superb.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Full Member

    How much RAM does the OP need?

    Premier Icon mrsheen
    Free Member

    GB RAM 256 SSD is the Basic Apple offering.

    Is it worth upgrading either of these?

    Premier Icon stumpy01
    Full Member

    molgrips

    How much RAM does the OP need?

    Dunno. Probably no more than at present. Like I say, my 10 year old laptop has 6Gb of RAM. I didn’t change that, just stuck an SSD in & the performance jump was massive.
    Turned it from something I would only use as a last resort, to something which I will use for even the shortest task, as the boot speed is so short.

    Premier Icon mrsheen
    Free Member

    8 GB RAM 256 SSD is the Basic Apple offering.

    Is it worth upgrading either of these?

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Full Member

    I really don’t like PCs. But then I haven’t used on since W8.

    I really don’t like cars after a poor experience with a Ford Escort.

    Premier Icon kennyp
    Free Member

    After finding Windows increasingly irritating, annoying, overly complicated, slow and buggy, we made a total Apple move (Mac, iPhones, iPads) about five years ago. Small learning curve but now can’t see us ever going back. Far more enjoyable experience.

    Premier Icon dmorts
    Full Member

    Current PC has

    Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-3470 CPU @ 3.20GHz (Intel H61 chipset)
    2 x 4GB Hynix 4GB PC312800 DDR3 1600MHz NonECC Unbuffered CL11 240Pin DIMM RAM
    Seagate BarraCuda 1TB 3.5″ SATA III Desktop HDD/Hard Drive 7200rpm

    I could upgrade to a 1TB SSD for around £80. The case only has space for one drive I think. I could also drop an i7 processor in? No point swapping the RAM?

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Full Member

    More than 8GB and an i7 to store some photos? No.

    All in one drop? Absolutely not.

    The case only has space for one drive I think.

    Check?

    Premier Icon thols2
    Free Member

    If you’re just going to clone the HDD to an SSD, you don’t need a drive bay as long as you can connect the SSD to the motherboard to run the cloning process. You may need to disconnect the optical drive to connect the SSD. Once you have cloned the HDD, you can remove the old one and fit the SSD in the drive bay. Or, remove the optical drive and fit the SSD in there.

    Really obvious thing is to check the motherboard specs and see what you can connect to it. I assume it’ll have some variant of SATA connectors, so you need to buy an SSD that’s compatible. Popping open the case and taking stock of what’s in there and what you can connect is a smart thing to do before you start buying anything.

    Premier Icon dmorts
    Full Member

    I’ve looked inside the case. No space for another hard drive unless it replaces the optical drive. That’s a slimline laptop type. Seems there are case adapters available though if I wanted two drives. Could do with keeping the optical drive for now.

    I will try an SSD then. Are any better than others?

    Premier Icon thols2
    Free Member

    Could do with keeping the optical drive for now.

    You could also use a USB optical drive and fit the SSD into the optical drive bay. I assume there will be adaptors available to do that.

    I’ve used Samsung SSDs in my machines because they seemed to be best at the time. You’d probably need to look at hardware reviews to find what is currently considered best.

    Premier Icon takisawa2
    Full Member

    I did the SSD & more RAM thing on my lads very old i5 last week. If you register the OS with a Microsoft account before starting it will just authorise the new OS without any fuss. It’s in the settings somewhere.
    It is surprisingly easy to do.
    Download the W10 USB install program first. Run it & point it to a spare USB stick.
    Install the SSD & boot up with the USB in place. Change the boot order in the bios if needed but most just work. (Press F12 as it’s coming on).
    The thing runs quicker than it ever did when it was brand new !!!
    I did have to plug the SSD in with a cable first & format it. I did buy the cheapest Amazon SSD though, 128gb, it was about £25 I think.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Full Member

    Samsung Evo.

    You can get a USB caddy for the old one and use it as a backup.

    Premier Icon yourguitarhero
    Free Member

    SSDs are tiny and since no moving parts can be sited anywhere. I gaffa taped mine to the side of the case. Was fine.

    Premier Icon mattyfez
    Free Member

    I’ve used Samsung SSDs in my machines because they seemed to be best at the time. You’d probably need to look at hardware reviews to find what is currently considered best.

    Samsung evo used to be an easy choice to make, but other manufacturers have since caught up and Samsung also make some ‘slower’ budget models too now so you can end up with a Samsung that’s not particularly good value.

    Evos are still a solid choice for system drives though. For storage or external any old SSD is fine.

    Premier Icon b230ftw
    Free Member

    If you go the new computer route I can highly recommend an ASUS PN50 mini PC. I was about to buy a Mac Mini for my wife’s new work set up which HAD to be compact in size. I stumbled on the PN50 and bought it straight away – fast AMD processors with decent graphics on board, and I built it myself. I say built , it was child’s play really, undo a couple of screws and slot in a M.2 SSD and 16gb RAM and install Win10 and it FLIES. Well impressed with it and no moving parts apart from a small cooling fan.
    They are only about 100mm square and 30mm thick IIRC and I have hers bolted to the side of her desk in a custom oak mount I made which holds a keyboard and mouse too.
    Lot cheaper than a Mac too. And you can install 2 HDD in them too.

    However if you don’t want to spend the cash I reckon an SSD with a clean windows install should work wonders! Just back up everything like photos and documents to a separate drive (you do have one to back up your PCs don’t you?) and bob a new drive in and start from scratch. Don’t bother doing a straight copy, there will be loads of cack you don’t need in your current install.

    EDIT pics here https://imgur.com/gallery/kZ3u5Wu

    It has a VESA mount in the box so you can bolt
    It to the back of a monitor too making an “all in one” PC effectively which you can still upgrade.

    Premier Icon dmorts
    Full Member

    Update: I’ve replaced the HDD with an SSD. I got a Crucial MX500 in the end. From what I could make out this is very slightly lower performance than the Samsung Evo but significantly cheaper.

    PC is now running great with a real difference in performance. Thanks for your help!

    Premier Icon i_scoff_cake
    Free Member

    I’m thinking about a used Mac Mini for my next computer assuming I can plug in into non-apple monitors?

    I’ve got an old gaming PC which I rarely use for gaming now (Xbox is preferred) and it won’t upgrade to Windows 11 because it lacks TPM 2.0.

    I only really need it for Microsoft office stuff, the web and sometimes playing Eve (which is a very undemanding game).

    I have a NAS to store all my important stuff.

    Premier Icon thols2
    Free Member

    it won’t upgrade to Windows 11 because it lacks TPM 2.0.

    I only really need it for Microsoft office stuff,

    I think you can upgrade with TPM 1.2. There are workarounds to install on older machines if you search online. If you’re just going to run MS Office, Win10 will be supported for several more years with updates. I doubt that there will be any functional difference in running MS Office on Win10 and Win11.

    Premier Icon ogden
    Free Member

    I’ve got a decent spec desktop PC you could game on and recently picked up a M1 MacBook. If you don’t need to do anything major on it gaming/editing etc I would 100% say go with a base spec M1 Mac mini.

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