Myths About Your Hard Drive & Slow Laptop

Don’t sell yourself short. You know way more about computers than you think. You already figured out you have a slow laptop. Still not convinced? Let me show you. RAM is fancy talk for the temporary memory in your laptop. You’re thinking, ‘strike one, genius.’ But hold up. I haven’t finished. Your RAM keeps things humming along because it helps accomplish work without consulting your hard drive at every turn. ‘Strike two, goober.’ Wait! Before you drop the bat and head for first base, riddle me this. Ever had a volunteer, employee, intern, or child who cannot seem to make a move without consulting you? There ya go. Step back in the batter’s box, champ.

Your phone buzzes. ‘Hello?’ “Yeah, it’s me. Do you want the red solo cups or just the styrofoam ones?”. ‘Red is fine.’ “They have 24 or 36. I know you said you need about 20.” ‘Yeah, 24 is fine.’ “The 36 pack is on sale.” ‘Ok. Just do that.’ “Yeah, that’s kinda what I was thinking…because you guys are getting together again next month. So you’ll need them again.” ‘True.’ “So that’s why I was like, ‘wait…think about this.’” ‘Uh, huh.’ “I’ll probably just grab the styrofoam ones too. I think we’re running low on those anyway.” ‘That will work. Ok, I gotta run.’ “Ok. I’ll head to office supply store next. I’ll buzz you if I have any questions.” ‘By all means.’

Boom! See, you do know something about RAM. When your computer does not have sufficient RAM, the experience is akin to the one described above. The only difference is, the exchange occurs between your RAM and your Hard Drive. I hate to say ‘I told you so,’ but you shrugged me off in disbelief.

So why are we talking about this anyway? Two reasons. First, when it comes to technology, there are two kinds of church planters. Let’s tackle that at the end of this article. Second, because total depravity includes your laptop. You have a ton to do and your laptop seems more a tool of the anti-christ than a blessing from above. The slow performance leaves you wondering, “What side of the industrial revolution am I living in…pre or post?” Last time, we looked at one inexpensive way to squeeze more speed and performance out of your laptop. We put our finger on one common cause of the ‘computer crawl’. Insufficient memory (aka RAM). When memory is low, the computer travels back and forth to the hard drive every time we ask it do anything. Kind of like that well-meaning assistant.

Your HD, Another Common Problem Contributing to Your Slow Laptop

slow laptop & church planters

There is another common issue that can make a typical Tuesday look like this…

You tuck yourself away in a favorite corner of the local coffee joint. You’ve already met with two guys as the sun was coming up. The crazy church plant adventure in front of them has not caused them to blink—yet. (If they only knew how much you were actually leaning on their future faithfulness, they might eject now.) You turn your attention to the day’s endless to-do list.

Two americanos later, you have three plates spinning. One, you are tweaking your talk for the next core team gathering tomorrow night. Two, you are surfing the web in search of a doctor who might calm the fears of your wife. (You drug her here and the calendar shows it is time for your little one’s annual check up. She needs your help finding a doctor she is comfortable with…inside your insurance network.) Three, you add another ‘link’ to the email chain strung between you and a supporter trying to figure out his taxes. So you have several applications open. You come back to your Pages document, which holds your thoughts for tomorrow’s core team meeting. Every change to the document causes a three-second pause on the laptop. Why!?!?

Well, you are not the only one in the corner of the coffee shop spinning multiple plates. Your hard drive (permanent memory) is doing the same. There is a dance that occurs between your RAM and your hard drive. So what causes this dance to trip up and affect your computer performance?

No empty hard drive space.

If your hard drive is full or near capacity, there is no room left to store temporary things. Consider that document you have open. Every stroke of the keyboard adds new information that must be stored somewhere in between full ‘saves.’ This also applies to the long email with the two attachments sitting in the background. You forgot about it because Tim stopped by on his mid-morning break and shared a bit more of his broken story. A full HD means there is nowhere to store these temporary items. The result is chaos. Not only will things slow down, things can get wacky.

Hard Drive FAQs (Translated for Non-Techy Church Planters)

I will adopt the same translation philosophy employed by The Message Remix and break this down using language you can understand.

1. What do the numbers and initials mean?

For now, disregard the technical mumbo-jumbo of gigabytes and ‘terodactyls’(…it is spelled ‘pterodactyl’ anyway…and “terabytes” was the word you were searching for). Do not fuss with the initials like GB or TB. Start with the stuff you learned in first grade—numbers. Which one of these numbers is bigger? 500 or 750? (Hopefully, you answered 750). Which one of these numbers is better? 500 or 750? Hint: Convert those numbers to a Sunday gathering or conversions or changed lives. Right…750. Now, when do the numbers come into play on your hard drive? If you have 500 of something available, and you use all 500 of those things, how many do you have left? Zero. If you needed 550 and had 750, that would be better. What if you needed 550…but only for 15-minutes or so? Well, 750 solves that problem too.

Now onto the initials. The one thing you might want to remember is “TB” is greater than “GB” (TB > GB). Again, you do not need to know definitions. These initials are shortcuts to reduce long, trailing numbers. Instead of saying, “this hard drive has a capacity of 1,000,000MB”, we shorten it to 1TB. What triggers a change in initials? Answer, “1,000”. So 1,000 bytes gets shortened to 1MB. 1,000MB becomes 1GB. And you guessed it, 1,000GB is the same as 1TB.

The most common setup for a newer laptop is a hard drive with 250GB up to 1TB.

Still confused? When in doubt, check the price. If it is more expensive, it is probably a “bigger, better” hard drive. (More about this in number four below).

2. How much HD space do I need?

This depends. The reality for most church planters is your laptop is both your personal AND your work computer. You will find home movies of your son’s first basketball goal on the same drive as your first sermon audio. (The one from the Christmas Sunday morning time slot back when you were a naïve youth pastor. Remember your attempt to convince your wife this was a ‘great opportunity’ worthy of killing your Christmas plans that year?) For planters, I recommend spending some money here because 1.) your laptop is for work and home; 2.) you are not a geek who knows how to conserve HD space; 3.) you need your laptop to last more than two years. We will get more specific next week, but that should cover it for now.

3. How can I check my HD space?

Simple. Choose one of the options below to get your answer in a matter of seconds.

4. Are all HDs the same?

Nope. There are two basic families or technologies. If your laptop is two years old or older, you probably have a standard hard drive. The technology used in them has been around for years and they have served us well. But they have “moving parts.” Think of them like the record player in the corner of the hip Nashville coffee bar. Behind the intimidating metal casing is a circular “disk” that spins around and gets read like a record. How fast that happens equates to speed. But the moving parts equate to vulnerability—as in, mechanical failure. I.E. When one of them there parts breaks, that’s bad news.

Newer laptops built within the last year or so can feature a newer technology called a “solid state drive” (or SSD). Think of these like a USB memory stick. No moving parts. Thus, “solid.” No moving parts mean no mechanical failure. It also results in a major boost in speed (nothing to spin and read). For now, they cost a little more and hold a little less. Again, they can be a great choice for church planters because…

5. I bought a Mac for a reason. Will my HD ever fail?

Sure will. Now, before you equate this news to a bowl judgment from Revelation, let me clarify. Macs are fantastic. I own up to being a self-righteous member of the Apple cult. But the hard drive is, in many ways, the great equalizer. Here’s why. If you have a “standard” hard drive with moving parts explained above, your hard drive can fail. Period. I will explore this more in a future article, but here is the bottom line: Apple does not manufacture hard drives. The same standard hard drive on your Mac can be housed inside that hideous plastic Acer across from you. (Easy on the judgment, killer. That corporate soldier has no choice what laptop gets doled out to him. His laptop does not mean he has no personality, any more than you being a pastor means you play golf all week.) Your Mac may have a hard drive manufactured by Toshiba. And so does his. When they fail, the fail. An HD is no respecter of brand.

Slow Laptop Summary

This Remix of hard drive basics sets you up to take action next week on your slow laptop. But before you bolt, consider this…


My heart is hard. I am so geeky that I can get my identity from my geekiness at times. I know. To most, that sounds like a self-compounding black hole of “uncool.” But think about. I know how to make disciples AND fix my own slow laptop. You and I both know the ladies line up for far less charming character qualities than this. (And yes, the arrogance contained in the phrase ‘I know how to make disciples’ was intentional. As misery loves company, so arrogance in one area attracts arrogance in another.) But before you feel immune to my disease of sin, let me ask you this. Are you intimidated by geeks like me? Ever feel less-than? I realize those on my side of the Geek canyon only make matters worse. We lob insulting looks and demeaning tone across the divide. But there are two kinds of planters, those who feel superior because of their technical prowess, and those who feel inferior due to their lack. Let’s admit it. One of these thoughts has crossed your mind. ‘My church plant is better off because of my affinity, experience or expertise in the area of technology.’ Or, ‘My church plant would be better off if I were not so technically inept.

Good News

If you fall into the judgmental geek category like me, Jesus firmly and gently reminds us that whatever we have comes from him and is intended to serve His cause, not ours. The cross has put to death the attachment of our self-worth to our computer knowledge. We are both free to serve others with that knowledge and freed from frustration when they “don’t get it.” We no longer have to look down on others. He who looked upon our poor estate with mercy can upgrade our hearts. He can “Spotlight” our past record showing we are not immune to the virus of sin. We require a Savior just like the rest. Remember, eternity will be filled with saints who never built an app, sent a tweet, or cracked open a MacBook Pro…including heaven’s Hero, Jesus.

However, if you cower at the mention of technology, Jesus brings good news far better than an honorary Apple or Microsoft certification. Your lack of knowledge or gifting in this area is not a disappointment to Jesus. It is often a mercy, reminding you that you need him and the gifts of those he places in your life. Your church plant does hinge upon a better laptop or you possessing a higher technical IQ. Your church plant has a King who overcame sin, death and hell. Instead of self-loathing over your lacking, turn your eyes to his surpassing. You were never intended to be self-sufficient. He is. Boast in him. From concealed bitterness to computer bytes, His grace covers every single area where you lack. He is our all-sufficient Savior.

Next Time

Next time we will look at some common memory hogs and how to deal with them. Even better, I will tailor this list to church planters. We all know you are a rare bread. In fact, if we conducted an anonymous autopsy of your HD, I bet we could identify the HD of a church planter or pastor in a heartbeat.


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