Rebuilding the Shack PC
My ham shack PC is an older Dell desktop PC. It’s not fancy, but it does the job I need it to do. I’m pretty sure this PC and its present Windows installation date back to 2011 or 2012. Initially it was built with Windows 7 and then I applied the free Windows 10 upgrade whenever that came out. With exception to just general sluggishness which one can expect from a machine of this age…the machine still works fine. It’s just slower than molasses on a cold winter day. This slow/sluggishness can be eliminated by reformatting the HDD and reloading the OS and all the software.
Sticking with Windows
While I’ve certainly dabbled in Linux, I’m a Windows guy by profession. Plus my main ham radio software is Ham Radio Deluxe. I’ve been running HRD since I was first licensed back in 2007. It’s what I like, it’s what I’m used to and it does everything I need it to do. I use HRD for all my general logging and use DM-780 for PSK, RTTY etc. and it seamlessly works well with WSJT apps for all things JT/FT. For contesting, I generally stick with either N1MM Logger or the N3FJP logging software. While I realize there are Linux solutions available, I’m just not interested in taking the plunge.
The first order of business for this project is backup. Backup everything. Of course the most important thing to backup is my HRD Logbook. It is automagically backed up each time I exit the logbook to my Dropbox folder. But I wanted to make sure I had a good backup. Done!
Ham Radio Deluxe also has a feature to archive/export all HRD settings. I’ve never actually tried this feature, so this will be the first attempt. Hopefully this works and will help speed up the process of getting HRD running again after the rebuild.
The next important item to backup is my TQSL file. You can easily export your TQSL file by launching the TQSL app and exporting your station data. this makes getting this app set back up a breeze. Again…Dropbox comes to the rescue.
As I’m running a few USB to Serial dongles, I wanted to make sure I had the driver software stored safely somewhere I could find it. Once again Dropbox is the answer. I also verified I had a few other misc. files that I may or may not need readily available and saved on my Dropbox (Just in Case).
Finally, I’ve backed up all the other files/folders of the machine just to make sure I have everything I might need. I don’t anticipate I’ll need anything other than the items I’ve moved over to Dropbox, but you never know.
Windows 10 has option to perform a full reset of the OS which removes all applications, settings, configurations and files/folders on the machine. Essentially this is a fresh install of the OS and is the option I opted to go with. I could have performed a partial reset which keeps the files/folders…but as this machine had 8-9 years of clutter on it…I wanted to completely start over.
The process of resetting Windows 10 took about 30 minutes or so. I was doing a few other things in my office at the time. But in the end, I was left with a fresh install of Windows 10 and a much faster performing PC.
After reconnecting Dropbox, I proceeded to reinstall Ham Radio Deluxe, WSJT etc. The HRD settings saved me a lot of time and by mid-morning, I had the PC connected to both my Yaesu FT-897 which I use for digital modes and my FTDX 1200. I made a few FT-8 QSO’s on 20 meters and tested to make sure I could upload both to ARRL LoTW and eQSL. My callsign lookup is functional with QRZ and my QSO’s get updated to HRDLOG.net so they are visible on my blog site. I still need to reinstall a few additional items such as N1MM Logger and N3FJP Logging Software. I’ll get these done before the next contest.
For now, I feel this old Dell will last me at least another year or perhaps more. I really don’t need it to do anything other than serve as my ham shack PC and it works very well in this function. Even better now.
I certainly hope all who are reading this are safe, healthy and weathering the quarantine as well as can be expected. Of course our hobby is perfect for times like this and I hope you are getting some quality on-air time.
Until next time…
73 de KDØBIK (Jerry)
Great hearing from you and your experiences with amateur radio again. Keeping a PC running effectively is an ongoing challenge, not unlike keeping a lawn in shape, lol!
You might check out, if you ever get the inkling, some of the companies who take the current stock of PCs from a corporate upgrade program. They’re trying to move iron (well, steel). My advice is to stick with brands that have sold a lot of the PC models. For me, the Dell Precision Workstations and the Lenovo Thinkpads have fit this bill well. It’s amazing what you can buy for little if you’re willing to swap out a hard drive, upgrade RAM (also purchased from recycled machine parts).
Again, glad you’re back!
If your Dell still has a hard drive in it, you would probably be very pleased with the improved performance you would see by upgrading to an SSD (solid state drive). They are really affordable these days. In 2015 I upgraded the hard drive in a Dell Dimension 9100 Pentium D built in 2005 with 4GB ram, and it made a very noticeable improvement in the machine performance. That machine even now has the current Windows 10 (32 bit) and a Ubuntu Linux running on it (but it’s no longer my main pc). Just one more way to extend the usable life of old hardware.
73, John / N8FYL
I agree with John/N8FYL on the SSD. Although the typical lifetime of a mechanical hear drive is around 6 years (that’s how long mine lasted) I’ve heard the Solid State Drives last a decade or more. They sure are fast! A boot up that used to take close to 3 minutes happens now in only 19-23 seconds! I still use a old Dell N7010 a.k.a. Dell Inspiron 17R laptop for my shacK PC and it still runs like the day I bought it. I credit a great piece of software I’ve been using the paid version of since 2010 called Advanced System Care. They also have a free version, but the paid version doesn’t cost very much and it takes care of automatically running scans that you must do manually with the freeware version. Also, if you ever need any parts for your Dell they’re readily available on Amazon. I replaced the keyboard in mine a couple of years ago and the seller sent me a French Canadian keyboard! Some of the buttons are in french like the Num Lock key has Bloq Num written on it and the Caps Lock button has Bloq Mayús on it, but I kept it and installed it and once I learned my way around on the differences it still works just fine. I could have returned it and swapped it, but didn’t want to wait for another one.
Very 73 de Cliff/KU4GW