Sunday, September 12, 2004

Cleaning out the closet

Computers are one of those hobbies that if you do not watch yourself, you can acquire a vast amount of junk. You will find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time organizing, maintaining, and moving it around. When I first got into computers I kept everything. If someone was getting rid of computer equipment, I would take it. In addition, when I would upgrade something I would keep the old one. What follows is my account of how I purged my computer collection.

The first thing to go was a 500 MHz computer that I really did not use. By using spare parts and including some accesories, I upgraded the computer and sold it for $100. Some things I added were a 10/100 network card, TNT2 video card, 32X CD drive, CD-R drive, and some memory. Installing a legal copy of Microsoft Windows98 onto it and combining it with a mouse, keyboard, and scanner made it a decent computer to sell. I was also able to put together two more (less powerfull) complete computers which I gave away for free. A 486 that had too many problems to have been kept in the first place was tossed out.

I had several hundred computer CD's that was mostly windows software. On the first pass of my purge I was able to toss out many of them that I knew I would never use again like Microsoft FrontPage 97 and many games that I never really played. I went through the games to see if they would work on Microsoft Windows XP. Out of the hundred or so original games that I had, I ended up with seventeen that worked and I would still play. I then tackled CD's that I call "Just Cool Stuff". These dozen CD's contained things that I had found amusing over the years. Coping them onto my computer I started deleting junk like the 320x240 trailer for "The Matrix" from 1999. In the end I was left with a single cd of things that I had created. I had seven CD's of Windows utilities so when the time came for re-installs I had them all in one place. Upon investigation I found them to be filled with wonderful things like Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0, Netscape 4.5, AIM 1.0 and plenty of other utilities that I will never use again. Consolidating these, I got it back down to one CD and tossed the rest away.

From time to time I buy new computers books and have several shelves worth of them. I also had many manuals from software and hardware. I had simple stuff like, how to install a cdrom drive, to the book sized "Understanding Office97". Who would have thought that having computer parts would end up causing you to use shelf space? I quickly recovered a whole shelf from tossing out stuff like "Learn JavaScript", Java books, "Learn SoftImage", windows manuals/intro books, game manuals/cards and countless hardware leaflets.

Looking around my room I found myself with three printers, none of which worked very well. I got rid of both inkjet printers and kept the laser printer saving a lot room.

With the age of cable modems and USB drives, all of my floppies were in a box under the bed. One afternoon I went through them looking for anything I wanted to keep and then tossing the rest out. I did keep a dozen that were still in shrink wrapped packaging for the day I would need a boot floppy.

After getting rid of so much, I found I could toss out tons of other stuff that was piling up in my house. What follows is some of the stuff, if I couldn't find anyone who wanted them I tossed out.

  • IDE and floppy cables.
  • Two power supplies (AT and ATX).
  • A dozen 10MB network cards (both ISA and PCI) and network cable out the wazoo.
  • ISA and PCI Audio cards all of which are inferior to the cheap ones built on motherboards these days.
  • Video cards from defunct manufacturers or cards that had gone bad (but I still kept for some reason).
  • Video capture cards, FM tuners and everything related.
  • 500MB-2GB hard drives that were slow, noisy, or bad.
  • 386, 486, Pentium, AMD CPUs, old ram, and CPU fans.
  • Two old cdrom drives that you could not boot off of.
  • Three 5 1/4 Floppy drives.
  • Several 10MB hubs and switches.
  • A dozen different mice and keyboards and adaptors.
  • Random stuff like 486 cpu remover, PCI slot fan, extra cd to audio card connectors, and bags of screws.
  • Eight spare printer cables.


The amazing part about computer parts is just how quickly a dependency tree grows. For example because I had a P133 computer I kept my ISA cards, serial mice, AT keyboards and the PS/2 keyboard adaptors. The ISA cards themselves had floppies (containing the drivers) and manuals. By giving away that computer I was able to toss out everything else. By getting rid of a few key computer parts you might find you can get rid of a whole lot more.

When you acquire enough of something you have to store it somewhere or in something. I had several boxes in the closet filled with stuff, another container under the bed, a shelf for manuals, and a CD rack for drivers. In life if you have to go out and buy a container think twice about why you need that container. If you get that container it means a commitment both in physical space and in time to maintain all the stuff you wish it to contain.

Giving away stuff is harder then you might think. I know someone could use the books that I tossed out, but keeping stuff around just to give to people who might want it, starts becoming a full time job! From remembering to bring stuff over to your friends house, to just inquiring to other people if they want your junk takes a lot of time. Unless you really know someone who wants what you are going to toss out, do not keep it just get rid of it.

I am very happy with where I am today compared to two years ago and am not going to let myself fall back to where I was. It is much easier to keep stuff then to get rid of it and that is the trap.

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