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New Computer - best initial set-up?

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by Ragin Cajun, Jan 4, 2007.

  1. Ragin Cajun

    Ragin Cajun

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    I run a one man engineering consulting business. AutoCAD is my lifeblood.

    My present (bought in 4/2004, Dell Dimension) computer is fast, RAID 1, external drive back-ups, 256M video, 2 Gig Ram, etc. - but the OS (XP Pro) is progressively getting more and more corrupted. Yes, I know it can be "fixed", reinstalled, etc. etc. But I simply can't afford to be down completely for the days and RISK involved!!!

    The potential loss of revenue, ticked off clients, delayed projects, work lost to competition, etc. resulting from an extended down time is worse than the cost of a new computer. And my blood pressure just doesn't need another hit!

    I have just about decided to bite the bullet and get another computer similar to the existing. That way I can carefully and as time allows load up ALL! of my engineering software to the new computer, copy ACAD files, etc.

    Question? Any general suggestions for the initial set-up? Second partition for data, or any other tweaks.

    I hear putting the OS on C: might be good, but what about the "programs"? Is such worth the "trouble?"

    Being paranoid about back-ups has never failed me. I have never lost data! (Yet?)

    I simply need a ROCK SOLID system. Looking at a 310G RAID 1, 4 Gig Ram, Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6600 (4MB L2 Cache, 2.4GHz, 1066 FSB), dual CD/DVD drives, etc.

    Thanks ahead of time for you help!

    Ragin (literally) Cajun
     
  2. Deanster

    Deanster Cheese? CLM Millennium Member

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    OK - here's my recommendation, since you asked.

    Windows XP installations seem to have a 3-year timer on them. At about 2 years, performance starts to decline rapidly, and after 3 years, it's just never right again. I actually started writing 'expiration dates' of 3 years after purchase on the back of my XP cases.

    I haven't found a solution that works, other than either replacing the computer, or doing a complete wipe and replace of the Windows installation, and starting from scratch. Buying a new machine is usually easier.

    IMHO, your idea of getting a new machine, setting it up in parallel for minimum downtime is right on. You'll probably want to network the two machines so that the new one has access to all the files on the old one until you're dead positive the new one is working correctly, and can move everything over.

    After that, you'll still want the old machine to have access to everything on the new one as a backup. Does the older machine have a Gigabit ethernet card?

    Also IMHO, all the 'optimization' of having things on different partitions isn't worth the hassle, and the problems it causes with backups, etc.

    As part of that, I've concluded that the 'correct' setup for a mission-critical machine in a small-business environment is a Raid 1 mirror for the primary drive, with both OS and data, so that when a disk fails, you've got an immediate second disk already running.

    Then a third identical disk in the machine, that gets an incremental BOOTABLE backup at the close of business daily. I use Casper XP for this, and it just copies the files that changed in any given day to yesterday's version, bringing it current - taks about 10 minutes, and it runs automatically at 6:30pm.

    This turns out to be a HUGE win when Something Bad happens to the OS, like a malware infection, or when the software goes 'kablooey'. Finally, I take another copy to an external HD around lunch time, and take that home with me as an off-site backup.

    In theory, I've got a bootable copy from 1 second ago in the RAID mirror, from Noonish that goes home, in case the office is broken into, burned, flooded, etc., and one from Close of Business already in the machine. Any one of those can be plugged into a modern Windows machine, booted, and I'm back up and running in under 10 minutes.

    If you've ever tried to restore from a non-bootable backup, and tried to get back to a fully running state, it's a nightmare. A fully bootable replica of your hard drive is the only way to fly.

    Total time on my part is about one minute to hook up the external drive, and another to disconnect it.

    Long story short, all this is highly dependent on having a single drive with everything I need in one place - having all my stuff spread across multiple partitions or physical drives squares or cubes the complexity of keeping a backup, and it's darn near impossible to have it bootable and ready to rock in another machine.

    The Dell you're describing seems like a fine machine. BTW - the Dell 24" LCD is the biggest productivity enhancer I've found - for an extra $450, if you're doing anything where screen real estate is critical, it's a HUGE win.
     

  3. Toyman

    Toyman

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    I prefer to have them separated.

    I would have the OS on C, Data on D. That way you can do separate backups. Maybe the OS weekly and the data daily.

    I basically have everything that can be re-installed on C, and all my source code and stuff on D.

    I keep all programs to be installed (things I download or get on CD) on my E drive.
     
  4. Rabid Rabbit

    Rabid Rabbit

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    Deanster pretty much sums it up. The only differences I'd contribute is if possible set up a back up drive at home availiable via FTP, if speed is a major concern you may want to look into a RAID 1+0 solution and read up on the gigabit networking stuff. The gigabit network takes more thought to get the most out of it than the typical 100 mbs network.
     
  5. Ragin Cajun

    Ragin Cajun

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    [/B][/QUOTE]

    The Dell you're describing seems like a fine machine. BTW - the Dell 24" LCD is the biggest productivity enhancer I've found - for an extra $450, if you're doing anything where screen real estate is critical, it's a HUGE win. [/B][/QUOTE]


    Thanks.

    I already have a Dell 24" LCd and I love it!

    I will mull over the rest..

    RC
     
  6. Sgt. Schultz

    Sgt. Schultz Annoying Member

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    Instead of RAID 1 why not use a disk imaging program and create an image of your new system? After you get the new system and have it set it up and configured to your requirements create the image. Now if for any reason you have a problem, say the hard drive fails or simply want a “clean” OS you can use the image discs and within 40 minutes you’re back in business.

    My data is not included in the image … I store all of it, and my e-mail, on a second hard drive and I religiously backup all of it. You can save the image to a second hard drive and/or DVD’s ... I use Ghost and do both ... as with any backup be sure that you test the images.
     
  7. NetNinja

    NetNinja Always Faithful

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    Concur.


    GHOST!!