Friday, May 1, 2009

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Being green is seen as increasingly important for companies. Sometimes it's a stretch to find something to trumpet about but you can always find something like using recycled paper in your printers or such. If the new measure actually saves the company some money (not often), all the better.

One place that companies could definitely get more bang for their green buck is with computer hardware. The hardware itself caused a lot of pollution during its manufacture and when it winds up in a landfill it leaches a lot of nasty chemicals. If you can avoid having to buy new computer hardware you can feel better for being green as well as save some money.

Most often the things that will fail on a computer are the parts that move: the hard drive, any fans in the case and the power supply fan. Otherwise, in the absence of a power surge, the rest of the solid state electronics will keep going for years (at least five). It used to be that software always outpaced hardware and you always had to buy new hardware to keep up. Hardware is now ahead of software in most cases (unless you're talking about niche needs like high-demand video games or such). With some more RAM (inexpensive) and maybe some new parts that you interact with (monitor, keyboard and mouse) you will feel like you have a new computer.

If your needs are not directly tied to software available on Macintosh or Windows you can load one of the freely available Linux distributions and get your computing tasks done very handily, while also saving some money and making your computer more secure. If you are not comfortable with such a move you could just back up your data and do a clean re-install of your operating system and again feel the joy of a new space. If you are 100% uncomfortable with either of these suggestions you can go and buy yourself a new computer but keep in mind that the prices are much lower than they used to be and you don't need a lot of power for most things you're going to do.

As always, you need to think about what it is you're trying to do when you are considering a hardware purchase. Do you want what you're getting just because you're "due" for some new hardware, or do you have a specific need for it? Are you tied to a particular software platform? If not, when you get new hardware is an ideal time to take look at alternatives. The computer market is in flux right now and there are lots of new approaches being tried.

Obviously everyone's situation is different, but what I am advocating is not necessarily just going on to the next revision of what you've always done, instead taking a look at alternatives, including keeping your existing hardware and just refurbishing it a bit. You'll save some money and help the earth by being green.

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