/ Technology

Your view: how much effort goes into your home computing?

Man sitting at computer

We published two computing Convos this week, both asking if you go the extra mile to make things work for you. So, whether it’s finding the best printer ink or taking time to back up your files, where do you stand?

Our technology researcher Katie Waller revealed a few truths about printer ink this week. Truths that could leave you feeling confused about whether the cartridges you’re buying are giving you the best – and cheapest – results.

‘The difference in printing costs with third-party inks in our latest tests ranged from a saving of 90% for 10 pages of black text to costing 19% more than with the printer-branded ink,’ she explained. ‘And the cheapest ink overall when printing text wasn’t the cheapest set of inks we bought.’

Which printer cartridges do you use?

The comments ranged from those who stick to branded ink – like Malcolm R, who’s ‘concerned about printer damage,’ to those like rich835 who are happy to use Asda’s £5 cartridges. Louis – our Commenter of the Week – goes for a third option of getting refills:

‘You use the same volume of ink (or toner), but at a lower cost, so you save money. However, it’s best to have refills done professionally. Refilling also has the environmental benefit of reusing the same cartridge over and over again (won’t last forever, but should do for many years).’

MalcolmR also raised an interesting point about photo paper:

‘Photo quality is not just about ink, but the combination with photo paper. Some paper produces poor results with Canon ink, others particularly good – I’ve used Tesco finest successfully.’

Our researcher Katie agreed:

‘You make a very good point. We’ve tested photo paper in the past with some great and other dire results. It’s the printing holy trinity – good printer, ink and paper.’

Hard drive hell?

No sooner than you work out which ink to use, another home computing problem comes along… backing up your files properly. Tech researcher Jessica Moreton explained that we have surveyed almost 2,000 Brits to find out which external hard drive brands are the most dependable.

Apple had some surprising results with nearly half of owners experiencing a hard drive fault, compared with an average of 22% across all hard drive brands. Still, they were less likely to suffer loss of data than with other brands.

How did the results compare to our commenters’ experiences? Wavechange says he has his files in order:

‘I don’t see this as a problem if you have one or more up-to-date backups. The chance of two hard drives failing at one time is negligible.’

But, says IT support worker Nick Davies, many others don’t:

‘All too often people turn up with a failed disk. Where is the backup, the other copy, we ask. Of course it doesn’t exist – they wouldn’t be in our office in a blind panic if it did. [My advice is to] use two external hard disks and set things up so that one incrementally copies the other every day; or use a cloud service.’

Have you had any hard drive problems and how have you coped with them? Do you go the extra mile to work out which printer ink is best for you, or do you prefer to stick to the branded cartridges?


I once had a hard drive failure and I was annoyed at losing two days’ data since my last backup. I back up once per week to a local server using a scheduled Windows Backup. I also back up less frequently to the cloud, for example Google Drive and Mega.co.nz, the latter offering 50GB for free. At least one of your backups should be in a different building.

13 September 2013

I put a lot of effort in to my home computing which is why I have twice been tempted to phone Which on the number displayed in the TV advert offering free guides to computing (particularly laptops) – each time I have refused the “attached” special purchase offer when I have got through because I simply want what was advertised – namely a free laptop guide. Surprise? I have not received anything from Which to date! Own house in order?

Stephen Baxter says:
22 December 2013

I am an ex Computer Engineer experience in working with all the disk drive manufacturers.
I am an expert Apple Mac user and use Western Digital (WD) exclusively for desktop computing.
The drives come with excellent software, are reliable and WD support in top notch.
My new configuration includes my own cloud storage – a new WD product in 2013.

Derek Putley says:
21 February 2014

I put quite a lot of time into my home computing, so I make multiple backup copies of important files. For instance I’ll probably have anything important on two separate PCs and on two separate external USB drives. If I had anything reaaly, really important to back up, I would also consider using diverse media – e.g. CD-ROM and/or DVD-ROM and/or solid state drives as well.

I have experienced two hardrive failures in the last 10 years – both were on exteral USB drives and may have been caused by “user error” – i.e. dropping the drive.

When I used to use Windows as my main operating system, I quite liked my HP Simple Save USB drive as that would automatically backup the common types of user file (docuemnts, photos etc.) in the user areas of any PC it was connected to.