Two Years Running On The Original Factory Image?

I’m sure there are others out there who have run on the same image for longer periods of time, but for me, two years is a very long time. You see, my “workhorse” PC is an HP Pavilion m7250n PC running Windows XP Media Center 2005. I purchased this machine almost two years ago to the day. I am still literally running on the same image load since the day I first unboxed it. Why is this such a big deal to me? Well — if you knew how much of a workload I place on the machine, you’d understand. I’ve installed (and uninstalled) countless programs on it, recorded hundreds of hours of TV on the MCE interface, and have worked on this machine nearly every single day since I’ve had it. But I’ve reached a point where the machine is starting to display some unwanted behavior that has been driving me nuts. So I think its time to consider re-imaging it. I may also purchase a larger SATA HDD for it before I do that.

One program I use heavily that has been malfunctioning for over a month now is AVS Video Tools. I use Video Converter portion of this suite of video tools to convert files to and from various video formats. For example, when I download MPEGs from my ReplayTV DVR, they are encoded in a variable bit-rate MPEG format. While this isn’t a big deal for playing back on my PC with Windows Media Player, the format is not accepted by either of my portable media players (Creative Zen Vision 30gb and iPod Touch). The resulting file is also massive. So I typically convert to a high-quality Windows Media Video (WMV) format, which keeps the video quality pretty high while shrinking the overall file size dramatically. I’ve done this for a long time, and never had a problem. But lately, the resulting file has no sound. The video playback is flawless, there’s just no sound whatsoever. I’ve gone back and forth with AVS Media’s support folks, and I’ve done their clean uninstall and re-install routine, with no results.

Fortunately, when I covert MCE files (.dvr-ms), the resulting files do have sound. I’ve also discovered Videora Converter, which is a nice little program for converting various video formats into iTunes and iPod friendly video formats. This program does a great job of converting MPEGs from my ReplayTV to MP4 format for my iPod Touch. But when I convert the .dvr-ms files, the audio comes out slightly behind the video frames (think like the audio from the old Godzilla movies). I hate having to use two tools for essentially the same function. I really want to get AVS Video Converted working 100% again because, at one time, it did everything I neeed it to.

Of course, the big problem when facing a rebuild is the time it takes to get everything loaded back on, configured the way you had it, etc. And it won’t do me any good to use an imaging program like True Image… the whole point of doing this is to bring up the machine in a pristine state, and not to bring over any of the hob-goblins currently residing in the current image. So it is a very manual and time consuming process. It’s low risk from the standpoint of data loss — I have a very robust backup routine. But the prospect is still not very appealing. I have a ton of customer data, e-mail info, etc that I’ll need to access during the process of rebuilding the machine. I do have a couple laptops that I can bring to bear to give me a functioning machine with the most essential data on it.

One thing I am considering is just breaking down and getting a new PC altogether. It’s certainly a buyers market, especially during the holiday season. I’ve seen a HP Pavilion Elite M9040n PC that seems to be a good fit. While I’m not in a huge hurry to get onto Vista, in a way, I really should. I still have plenty of XP machines to work with, and more and more of my customers are getting onto Vista as they purchase new hardware, so it’s high time I have Vista myself to get to know it better. That would allow me to migrate data off of the old machine, get everything tuned on the Vista machine, and then have the luxury of having more time to rebuild the old HP.

So it kind of boils down to time vs. money. Do I want to drop a grand on a new desktop workhorse just to save some time – or do pull an all-nighter methodically rebuilding my old desktop? I haven’t decided yet, but I am leaning towards the former since it would also put me on a new machine with a little more horsepower and storage. Once I were to completely wean myself off of the old desktop, I could either re-task it or nuke the drive, restore the factory image, and put it up for sale.