I have just bought my present with some of that money.
I remember when a really good price for a hard drive was on the order of a dollar per megabyte. I remember watching the advertized prices as they hovered closer to that point, and then occasionally dipped below. Then the barrier was broken, and hard drive prices dropped like a rock.
When I bought the computer I'm using now, it was because I was forced to. The old computer had begun to act flaky, resetting itself without warning or provocation. The computer vet traced the problem to either the processor chip or the motherboard. The chip was not compatible with new motherboards, and the motherboard was not compatible with new chips, so if I was going to replace one, I'd have to replace both. And, because of this, there was no point in tracking the problem down any further.
A new motherboard and chip for the old computer would have cost me a little over $400, and so for one or two hundred more dollars, I got a whole new computer, motherboard, chip, and all. The new computer was faster, more powerful, and had a larger hard drive – 80 vs the original 20. (Since the problem was absolutely not in the hard drive, I pulled it out of the old computer and plugged it into the new one as the E: drive, giving myself a full 100 GB of onboard storage, and doing away with the need to transfer material from backups on CD-ROM to the new disk.)
Since I've discovered the joys of online music, I've accumulated a few gigabytes of music. (Close to 20.) Software has also tended to grow, and I find myself running low on disk space. So today, I plunked down $200 for a hard drive. It's a Western Digital brand external USB hard drive.
It comes with software you're supposed to run before you plug in the drive. I decided to see what would happen if I didn't run it, but just plugged the drive in and powered it up. (I got a digital camera some months ago, and when I connected it without running the software, it showed up as an external storage device. That's all I need it to do.)
REsult: The computer detected the hardware, identified it as an external drive, and after less than a minute, I was ready to go. As a test, I moved some audio files onto it and tried to play them from the new drive. Worked like a charm.
I now have a new, external, removable and portable hard drive with 250% of the storage capacity of my computer. I may still buy an internal drive to replace the 20 GB E: drive, but that can wait. And in the time it took me to type this entry, I transferred 10.5 gigabytes of music files to the new drive.
Next to make the journey will be my gigabytes of Dungeons and Dragons PDF files. My working drive will be greatly relieved at the lightening of its load.