Buy a Hard Drive Each Year

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-06-26 Print this article Print

Opinion: Hardware is cheap, but your data is priceless. ExtremeTech's Loyd Case lays out the argument for buying a new hard drive every year.

Not long ago, I wrote a piece about ATA RAID ("RAID Goes Mainstream"), where I discussed some of my experiences with Intels recent release of ICH5R. I also outlined a few tips as to how to set up motherboard-down RAID. That spawned a very interesting discussion about reliability and backup. A couple of readers rightfully took me to task for suggesting that a RAID 1 setup could substitute for a good backup regimen. It cant, of course, because good backups are archives that allow you to retrieve old or deleted files.
But this isnt about backup strategies. Its about the commoditization of PC hardware components.
The Sub-$2000 PC
That headline above seems odd in todays environment. As weve seen, you can build a killer PC for $1200, and a pretty damned good one for $800 -- including monitor. It was only a couple of years ago, though, that you needed to spend close to $2,000 to buy or build a high performance PC. Sub $1,000 systems existed, but their performance in demanding multimedia and game applications were seriously lacking. So when you bought a PC a few years ago, youd buy it with the idea that it would have to last you three to five years. After all, $1,500 - $2,500 was essentially a capital expense. Of course, you could upgrade individual components over the years, but for the most part, youd stick with the system you had until there were compelling reasons to upgrade. Even PC game players -- who tend to upgrade more frequently -- would stick with a system for two to three years. If they upgraded at all, they would drop in the latest and greatest graphics card. For the full story click here
Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel