The Pain of Current Hardware Updates

It’s no longer possible for the average person to install hardware on a system with any assurance of success and a few of us old hands are encountering problems as well! That’s my experience with a recent hardware update for my system. Yes, I got the job done, but it required more work than necessary and included several trips to the store. In one case, the store sold me the wrong part (not the part I requested) and I ended up having to go back to exchange it. One of the few significant advantages in owning a desktop system, the ability to update as needed, is being eroded by a serious deficiency in the quality of upgrade components.

When I first started building my own systems many years ago, the devices that went into the box came with beautifully rendered manuals, all the required software, and any required hardware. Of course, you could get cheaper products that didn’t quite include everything, but even in this case, the device included a getting started book and the required software. However, many people opted for the nicer vendor packages to ensure they wouldn’t have to continuously run to the store for yet another part. It was overkill in a way. For example, few people actually bothered to read the manuals end-to-end and simply used the getting started guide to get the hardware installed as quickly as possible. They’d then use the manual as a quick reference when problems occurred.

A few years ago I noted that even high end products no longer shipped with a paper manual. You received the getting started guide in paper form and could then use the manual that accompanied the DVD once you restarted the system. The devices still shipped with all the required hardware and software. Some storage devices had the software installed right on the device itself, but still, you received the required software. Even so, the new packaging technique achieved a nice balance between protecting the planet and still allowing just about anyone to perform a hardware upgrade.

You might have noted that the Monday post was missing. Well, that’s because I was offline wrestling with a hardware update that should have been quite easy. The replacement of my hard drive and display adapter should have taken only a few minutes, but ended up taking an entire day (starting Sunday afternoon) due to the lack of documentation, incomplete (but required) installation hardware, and lacking software. Today my system is running, mostly configured, and the new parts work beautifully, but the price of getting them installed was way too high.

There are a few new lessons that I’ve learned as part of this experience. The most important is to check the box to ensure you have absolutely everything before you get started. Yes, this has always been good advice, but the products of the past generally included everything needed to get the job done. Given the trend I’m seeing now, you’ll likely need screws, possibly a piece of installation hardware, cabling, and other items that are listed as optional in the documentation (even though the device won’t work without them). Check the installation hardware before you leave to the store to make sure they’re actually selling you the right part. For example, make sure the cable you buy is actually rated to handle the load you’re placing on it (a cable rated for 3 Gb/s may not work well for a device that is designed to transfer data at 6 Gb/s).

It pays to put any DVD that comes with the device into the drive on your working system and explore it before you take your system down to upgrade it. Make sure you print out any information you need for installation before you take your system offline. For example, you should print out any jumper information and cabling instructions. Once you have your system offline for the installation, it’s too late to print that information out. If you don’t have a second system to view the documentation at that point, you’ll find that installation is next to impossible.

Some devices no longer come with an installation DVD. In this case, you must go to the vendor site, download the required manual and software, and ensure you’re familiar with it before you take your system offline. Make sure the software and manual are put on removable media because you may need them before the installation process is complete.

Make sure you perform the upgrade in a manner that allows you to revert back to the pre-upgrade state when necessary. Actually, this has always been good advice, but it’s even more important now that the possibility of success is less. You may find that you have to reverse the upgrade to get a working system so that you can determine why the upgrade didn’t work.

Desktop systems have the advantage of allowing updates, but performing the update has become significantly more difficult because vendors no longer take the care in packaging products that they once did. What sorts of problems have you encountered? Let me know at


Author: John

John Mueller is a freelance author and technical editor. He has writing in his blood, having produced 99 books and over 600 articles to date. The topics range from networking to artificial intelligence and from database management to heads-down programming. Some of his current books include a Web security book, discussions of how to manage big data using data science, a Windows command -line reference, and a book that shows how to build your own custom PC. His technical editing skills have helped over more than 67 authors refine the content of their manuscripts. John has provided technical editing services to both Data Based Advisor and Coast Compute magazines. He has also contributed articles to magazines such as Software Quality Connection, DevSource, InformIT, SQL Server Professional, Visual C++ Developer, Hard Core Visual Basic, asp.netPRO, Software Test and Performance, and Visual Basic Developer. Be sure to read John’s blog at When John isn’t working at the computer, you can find him outside in the garden, cutting wood, or generally enjoying nature. John also likes making wine and knitting. When not occupied with anything else, he makes glycerin soap and candles, which comes in handy for gift baskets. You can reach John on the Internet at John is also setting up a website at Feel free to take a look and make suggestions on how he can improve it.