A decent “Free” PC


My mother inlaw has been in an assisted living community for a couple of years. As part of the move in, my brother inlaw got her this service called “Grandcare” that provides a touchscreen PC with a very customized user interface.

The first PC that was sent to her room was a pretty large HP Envy 20 AIO touchscreen system. First manufactured in 2012, it has a HD resolution, 20″ touch screen display, and is licensed for Windows 8/8.1 (there is no sticker on it, the OEM code is in the BIOS ROM.) It has a 3.1 GHz Pentium G870 chip, which is a dual core, 4 thread processor with integrated Intel HD graphics. Just fine for this system.

This ran well, until they (Grandcare) upgraded their video system, and they needed to replace the unit. They shipped a new one, but they didn’t want the original one back (not surprising, it probably wasn’t worth the cost of shipping and refurbishment for resale).

So I grabbed it.

Fortunately, it was trivial to get a clean Windows 8.1 install. Microsoft had a little utility, and an 8GB USB stick, and 30 minutes, I had a bootable installer. I had to wipe and reinstall, as the unit would try to login to Grandcare, and since there was another system using that account, it would have been a bad thing.

Upon installing Win 8.1, I learnt that it had a pathetic 2GB ram. Holy shitballs Batman, that is pathetic. I mean seriously lacking for any real use. Of course for a limited use system, with a narrowly configured UI, it was probably fine, but to be usable, ir needed more memory.

Fortunately, Crucial to the rescue, and for a mere $61 plus tax, free shipping thankyouverymuch, it now has a passable 8GB ram. That made it much more responsive, and usable.


Windows 8.1 isn’t awful. Granted, I skipped this, being mostly a Mac person, but now having to use a Windows 10 machine for work. It does have a touchscreen, and the Metro interface is not awful (contrary to the many reports I heard).

The screen. Wow. It is bright, clear, and the touch interface isn’t too intrusive. For an AIO computer, it isn’t bad. For something pushing 5 years old, it really isn’t too bad.

Apparently, from reading the detailed system information on the HP support site, it has a socketed CPU, and if I was crazy, I could put a pretty souped up Core i5 or even a Core i7 CPU in there. I would worry about thermal dissipation, but it should be compatible. I could also drop in 2 8G SO-DIMMS and give it a healthy 16 G main memory. But that would be overkill.

It also has the “Beats” sound package. I will admit that it sounded like a gimmick, but without any speakers, it is actually pretty good.

While you can use the touch screen for input, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do any real text entry with it, so I currently have a wireless keyboard and mouse connected. That is pretty much a “must have” option. Apparently, built in is the radios for the HP wireless keyboard and mouse. However, it didn’t come with them, and I prefer the Logitech peripherals.

It has a so so 500GB disk that is reasonably quick, and that is plenty of space for its use.

All in all, it is a solid little machine, that for a minimal investment would make a decent all around system.

What to do with it?

Originally, I thought I would spruce this up and pass it on to my stepfather who is using a 2009 era HP mondo sized laptop. This is clearly a HUGE step up.

But, I also do a little tinkering, and Arduino experimentation. I am thinking to pick up a Mojo board to learn about FPGA programming and projects, but alas the environments for that are all Windows or Linux based. Not a good answer either for a Mac person. This will certainly meet that need.

Regardless, for less than $70, this is a pretty good deal.

About the author


Product Manager in Tech. Guitar player. Bicycle Rider. Dog rescuer. Techie.

By gander


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June 2017

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