Re-setting up my computer

(From Wednesday night): With dozens of tabs open in a browser, dozens of buffers open in Emacs, and a virtual machine or two running in the background, I envied W’s setup downstairs: 12 GB of memory for much awesomeness. My installation of 32-bit Windows 7 could only use 3 GB of the 4 GB I had available, and the memory limits were starting to get in my way. I could use 4 GB if I booted into Linux, but drawing meant I preferred to keep Autodesk Sketchbook Pro handy.

I backed up my files and installed 64-bit Windows 7. I had to restore my old setup in order to retrieve some information from it. Fortunately, the restore process was straightforward. Getting all the Thinkpad drivers working again wasn’t, though. I’ve got the pen working again, but there are still fiddly little bits I have to track down. Total time so far: about four hours spread over two evenings.

I want to fix up my X61 so that the important parts work again, but I don’t want to spend too much time restoring my configuration. After much deliberation, I’ve put in an order for a Lenovo X220 tablet. I’m looking forward to working with even more memory, as the X220 has a maximum capacity of 8GB. I’m also looking forward to a cooler-running laptop with longer battery life. This X61T can get quite hot!

Now that I’ve reinstalled, I’ve finally followed that practice of backing up a clean system. That will make it easier to restore the system to a clean state when I turn it over to J-. When I get the new laptop, I’ll create a system image for that one too.

So far, this fresh install of Windows 7 is doing fine. My memory usage hovers around 3GB, although I’m still seeing some paging. I’m looking forward to editing more photos, which had been frustrating because of all the application crashes. We’ll see how this works out. In a few weeks, things will get even better.

Oops. Just noticed that I hadn’t correctly copied my backup, so my clean-system backup overwrote it. Darn. Fortunately, I had a network backup from 8/22. (I did? Neat. Yay backups.) It’s a large backup, so I’ll need to copy it from my network server to my external hard drive, and then mount the virtual hard drive from there. We’ll see how it works. If I don’t manage to recover, well, I’ll just have to rewrite my foot pedal program. (See, I was just about to post it, but then I decided to reinstall first. D’oh.)

All this tweaking means I haven’t spent time on other interests like building a web app for our daily activities or planning my next Arduino project. That’s okay. It’s good to spend time preparing my tools. =)

Lessons learned (I hope):

  • Back up your backups, and double-check them. Don’t count on Windows correctly copying the folders you thought you copied. Copy the backups to somewhere else, too.
  • Blog things as soon as possible. The Internet is a great way to back up information.
  • External hard disks can be faster than network backups. Take advantage of the space.


  • I doubt you’ll find the X220 running any cooler (or longer) than the X61T. I’ve got an X201 tablet, and if anything it’s worse on both counts than my old X61T, and somehow I doubt that the newer version is that different.

    Having 8GB on a tablet PC (and the x64 OS to use it) is pretty marvelous – just don’t turn on TXT in the BIOS if you plan to use VT-x capabilities in any virtualisation platform.

    For connectivity to external storage then I think Thunderbolt>USB3>eSATA>GigE>USB2>100Base-TX. Since most of us have neither of the first options, and there’s no eSATA on X series, then you need a pretty bad NAS/network for it to be worse than USB2.

  • John

    Depending on whether you got an SSD in your X220 (I hope you did — singlemost performant thing you can do), you might see a world of difference. The X61’s SATA bus is capped at 1.5Gbps which effectively throttles disk IO.

    Also, check out Crashplan, the free version. You and W can back up to each other’s computers automatically.

  • Chris: Good point – I really should walk over and connect an Ethernet cable before I get impatient. =) Anyway, my VHD mounted fine and I managed to retrieve my files from my backup, so I don’t have to rewrite my Arduino footpedal program from scratch. Yay backups!

    John: They’re expensive, though. I’m going to try it with the stock hard drive and additional memory for a while, then look into an SSD if the computer still gets in my way. Probably not – once segfaults are taken care of, my main bottleneck tends to be thinking time. <grin>