Stick or twist

BlackGhost

Novice Member
Firstly, I signed up here some time ago but haven't posted much, and this is the first time visiting the computer forum, so hello all. Also, I apologise in advance because this will be a long post.

I'm fortunate enough to currently have two computers (and access toa third). I have a 2011 Mac Air and an HP Elitebook 8760w. My wife has an HP Elitebook 840 G2, with upgrades being an SSD and 16GB RAM. I have upgraded the Air to a SATA 3 SSD (with adaptor), currently dual boot with kali (needs redoing though as GRUB botloader has screwed things up so I need a USB to load Linux and need to hold Option to get MacOS). The 8760w is standard spec, with a normal HDD, 8GB RAM (2 x 4GB) and a Quadro 4000M graphic board.

My use case is that I want to learn pen-testing (and will possibly be offered an apprenticeship in this area), so essentially want to run Linux and one other of Windows or MacOS.

The 8760w isn't actually mine, it's a loan from work through a couple of mates, but I don't think they will ever ask for it back as for their purposes, it's now obsolete. It's a huge beast of a workstation and plenty of options for upgrading. The question is, am I better off spending money on upgrading or just gettng a new machine? If I spend money on upgrades, it'll be 2x SSDs for RAID 0 (maybe a HDD as well to replace the DVD drive for mass storage / back up). The other option with 2 SSDs is to have a triple boot system (there are many people who have made a successfu Hackingtosh from the 8760w). I'm also tempted to get a new graphics board intended more for gaming, and upgrade the RAM (I already have another 2 x 4GB sticks available). The screen is the lowest spec one (1600 x 900; work needed the power and mobility, not the screen). That appears to be upgradeable as well to the DreamColor 1080p screen as well which while not a priority by any stretch, would be something I'd consider.

The other option is not upgrade it, use it as it is, sell the Air and spend the upgrade money and that raised from the Air on a newer machine. My concern, however, is that new stuff is not usuallly that upgradeable, and my budget would still be fairly small so I wouldn't be able to get anything exceptional anyway. I wouldn't have a problem with second hand either, especially if I decided to get another Mac (although I'd probably go for a Pro).

I also have a Dell 27" 5K monitor that I was given as it's faulty (it is, but I have fixed it on the 8760w, and half on the Air, still working on a complete fix). I have it set up for now as the wife & daughter are away, but it will need to be stored and set up when needed when they get back. I have no space for a desk or permanent set up for it either, (although I do have a wall bracket for it as well but the walls in my house are plasterboard) otherwise I'd probably just buy a desktop with the intent to upgrade it in the future as I have use of wife's laptop if I need mobility.

So what are peoples thoughts? Thanks in advance.
 
OK lots of info there but not much that allows me to give you advice. It sounds like you enjoy hardware and are happy to build etc which is a passion I share, but that is my hobby and not my work enviroment.

So Personally I think you need to work out what is work and what is not as trust me that divsion exists and you cannot be rebuilding a PC mid may though a project.

So without knowing how you will be working its tough to plan what you need so keep it flexable. Personally when you need mulitple systems either have mulitple systems, small cheap ones run linux fine for example or have a very good one an run mulitple OS's as VM's rather than dual boot. I spent a year so as QA tester in my past and needed all windows OS's and the most current and previous Mac OS. my mac was dual boot and I had 2 PC's one of which was XP and Vista dual boot and the other was dual boot win 7 and 8 I think. The Mac was my work computer so when I was running it on the previous OS I lost my email etc it was a right pain and I often needed whatever Windows OS I wasnt current in so had to shutdown and restart. If I had stuck at it longer I would have got more hardware I think as a more powerful PC running VM''s wasnt an option for me.

So in summary have a PC/mac thats for admin, emails, writing stuff etc and more or less stays that way you need that all the time. Have other kit or VM's for everything else as many as you can to avoid the time it take to swtich and if you need to upgrade or rebuild you dont lose as much time/stuff.

All the stuff on what to buy and upgrade etc is all based on what its going to do and why you have it and hence hard to help with. For example - getting an SSD and raiding it - why ? do you really need the small performance gain ? maybe get a single faster SSD would do that rather than raiding two slower ones - personally I see no point in that at all in a work station. How this helps
 

BlackGhost

Novice Member
Thanks for taking the time to reply. Yes, I do enjoy messing around with the hardware side of things.

Although the 8760w laptop has come from work, it's essentially for my own use as I need to. I have a completely separate laptop for actual work, and it's OK but nothing special, but it doesn't need to be in all honesty as I mostly just use the Office suite and a couple of other things.

The use case I have for the 8760w is learning Linux and for pen testing purposes. It doesn't need to be overly powerful for that in terms of Linux runnng on low end spec. However, the RAID set up is more to see how it works, how to set it up, tweak it, what the real world differences are etc, rather than specifically needing it. The laptop has two drive bays, and the possibility of a third, so thought it might be a good chance to have a look and see what it does. I was thinking of getting a couple of fairly cheap 250GB SSDs (I like the Crucial MX500 range) to trial the RAID setup. In the same vein, havng the 8760w as a triple boot is more to see if I can rather than any desire to specifically run MacOS on the machine but was thinking it might allow me to sell the Air if I could get it working and spend the money elsewhere. The graphics card change // upgrade is to use it for playing a few games as my PS3 is on it's way out (which I didn't mention in my original post).

I have setup and used VMs. I had a Mac Pro 2012 which I stupidly sold (wish I had sold the Air) which ran Linux VMs ok, and I have set some up on my wife's computer as well. If I used the 8760w solely for work purposes, not sure I'd really need the VMs, but wouldn't be averse to using it like that.

I guess the real question was spend money upgrading an 8760w or save money towards something newer. However, as a desktop isn't really an option any time soon (when I have space, I think that will be the route that I go), I think I am leaning towards upgrading the 8760w as I can do so without spendng too much money right now. You do have a good point about not having to reboot machines to change quickly. I think I'll dual boot the HP with Win 10 and Linux and leave the Air as an Air.
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
I wouldn't bother trying to upgrade a 2011 machine for performance reasons like gaming.

Buying extra hardware to experiment with might be worth doing, although as you're on a budget I'd look second hand rather than new.
 

BlackGhost

Novice Member
Yeah I have been thinking about it, and you are right on the upgrade front. I'm just going to use it as is, but source a single SSD. In my experience, it's easier just to get a new one than both scourng the likes of ebay. I have seen a couple of good prices for 1TB Crucial drives, but other than that, they aren't that much cheaper than new, and for the sake of a warranty etc. it's easier just getting a new one. I'll probably go for a 500GB one, maybe 1TB if I find one on ebay. I'll dual boot it, Win 10 and Linux but I'll have some VMs within the Windows side as well for ease. I'll sort the Air out separately and try and get the dual boot working on that as well, although I won't really need the Linux side much on that.

Thanks both for your thoughts.
 

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
The 8750w laptop at the time was classed as a mobile workstation. It came in a lot of different specs so there is no standard specification.

Depending on the processor you could get up to 32gb of ram which is beneficial when running a number of vms.

Also you have to get specific HP laptop parts for some parts and afaik they weren't any consumer gaming gpu parts for it.

I also would not bother with raid either, the only optics would be raid 1 or 0 and there isn't much beyond that to do.

I would be tempted an SSD and a memory upgrade if you are sticking.
 

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