Breaking my hoarding habit: spring cleaning behind the help desk

I'm keeping too much hardware in my workshop. Here's my plan to pare down the stock without sacrificing flexibility.

I have a confession to make.

I'm a bit of a hardware pack rat. When you work computer support and are pulling boxes off of the line regularly, this quality can put you on a slippery slope. Maybe it was my upbringing, but I really hate discarding things that might be useful some day. I've gotten better about recycling periodically and reusing when appropriate but realistically I still hang on to more hardware than I'll ever be able to put to work.

Part of it is due to the opportunities presented by open source projects. You say there's an enterprise-grade gateway application available for free that will run on a four-year-old machine? Yes, please. My network needs one of those. Maybe four of them.

I think part of how you evaluate the hardware life-cycle also depends a lot on your environment. Many enterprises don't keep user hardware in the field for more than 3 years, so the techs in those environments are rolling so many machines that they can't possibly get personally attached. Working in the EDU and not-for-profit sector, though, I have to look for places to economize, and stretching hardware is a great place to do that. We have a lot of student research assistants and part-time employees. There's no reason that these users can't use a Pentium 4 machine for their web browsing and document editing. And the elementary and secondary schools that we work with are always grateful for serviceable machines that can run modern software. The fact that I can get an additional 2+ years of "secondary" use out of a machine that's come off the line is something I'm grateful every budget season.

As I look at my hardware bullpen, though, I realize that I have to start disciplining my urges. Once I have a decent stock of cold spares set aside, it doesn't make sense to store any additional hardware. I'll recycle those things that won't be useful to anyone, and donate the items that have some life in them yet. And as I go through my stock for spring cleaning, here are the rules I'll try and hold to...

Displays: I'll keep 17" or larger LCDs until I have too many to store. The CRTs I've been hiding in the basement and any leftover LCDs will be donated. As far as I'm concerned, a display is serviceable until it's unreadable or broken. Storage Limit - 5 Hard Disks: I'll keep any drive that's larger than 20 Gigs and less than 3 years old. If a drive's going to be reused, I'll run a diagnosis with SpinRite before I trust it with data. Storage Limit - 15 CPU components: I'll keep spare power supplies and motherboards for all the models in my inventory until I have reason to believe they've failed. I'll keep cases to store these spare parts in, too. Storage Limit on these - 5 per type Removable Media: I don't feel the need to keep spare floppy drives or Zip drives any more. I have a couple of USB drives in case some old disks are found under someone's desk. But I'll hang on to writable CD/DVD drives. Storage Limit - 5 RAM? You can never have enough RAM. I'll keep every stick that I can use with my current models. Every darn stick.

Hey, you can't expect me give up my hoarding habit entirely.