When performing our annual IT reviews we work with customers to address their upcoming technology needs and discuss potential budgeting and planning for system replacements for aged/aging equipment. Often we are asked what criteria we use to make those recommendations.
Before we dig into those elements, it is important to note that the pieces we will explore are contributing factors used to guide a decision and that in some cases it is not an exact “if-then” formula, there are certainly exceptions. Most computers leverage electronic and mechanical components in their operation and like everything that is manufactured, the more actively something is used the more the lifespan can be impacted. Alright, let’s dig in.
When should I replace my PC?
- Upgrading hardware is no longer an option as the new components are not compatible
- Desktop computers can be customized easily. Switching out components throughout the life span can increase the total years in use. Generally when software updates come out for memory heavy programs, the performance of a PC will degrade. Adding extra RAM or replacing the processor can alleviate this dilemma without replacing the entire PC, as long as the hardware is compatible. However, technology is always evolving and in some cases new standards are defined to keep pace with increasing performance demands. Think of the number of phone charging cables that have existed, from the wide 32-pin connectors to lightning cables, to USB-C – even connectors are constantly changing and evolving to allow for more rapid transmission of data. A computer purchased in 2019 at the same price as a computer purchased in 1999 has several orders of magnitude greater processing power, storage capacity and memory, and almost none of the physical components of either machine could be placed in the other, just like how old iPhones can’t be charged with new cables and vice versa.
- The software used in everyday work environments are no longer supported by the hardware
- As programs become more robust, it takes a greater number of resources to handle the workload. If a computer is too outdated, the hardware technology simply cannot keep up, and the program will no longer have the capability to receive updates. Wrap your head around this fact; nearly all of us have computing devices in our pockets (cell-phones) that have more than 100,000 times the computing power of the computer systems used in the Apollo 11 missions to put a man on the moon. So, it’s pretty clear that technology is always improving and becoming faster, smaller, and more complex (both in its speed, capacity and how different system elements physically connect and exchange information). Sometimes the physical components of an existing system simply cannot handle the baseline needs for newer software.
- You cannot upgrade to the latest operating system, causing a security risk
- Just like software, the operating system also has a minimum requirement when it comes to hardware specifications. If you are unable to receive updates to your operating system because of hardware restrictions, it is time to upgrade.
- It would be cheaper or comparable to replace the entire PC as opposed to a failed component
- In certain cases when a hard drive fails, or a screen is cracked on a laptop, it can be just as cost-effective to replace the whole unit instead of the individual part. Typically a major malfunction on a PC will result in labor time to diagnose and repair, so ensure if this happens to weigh out the option of a full replacement. When costs are equal or close to equal we almost always recommend replacement. Unlike many other things that have more linear progressions in innovation (cars for instance), a replacement computer system will invariably be faster and more compatible with current and future technology/applications.
- Your computer's performance has significantly decreased even after optimizing the software
- See our tips to improving computer performance: Tips To Improve Computer Performance.
What factors play a part in the lifespan of my PC?
Consumer vs. commercial
Commercial or business-grade machines tend to have more reliable components built into the machine such as a SSD (solid state drive) hardrive vs a HDD (hard disk drive). SSD’s are faster, lighter, more durable and tend to use less energy than HDDs.
Business-grade laptops in particular tend to be built for the road. This means more metal parts instead of plastic to increase durability when traveling. Often times the keyboard is more rugged and can handle the occasional spill of coffee before the big meeting.
Warranties also play a large factor when comparing consumer and commercial grade laptops. Typically a business-grade laptop with feature a 3-year warranty whereas the consumer-grade laptops only feature a 1-year warranty.
Just like any other piece of equipment you find around the workspace, the more you use it, the more wear and tear is placed upon that product. Most commercial-grade machines are meant to run all day during typical working hours, but for those with a consumer PC, some of the cheaper parts could fail if used beyond the capability.
Traveling with a laptop can play a large factor in how long it can last. The more the PC travels outside of a workspace, the more likely it is to damage the machine.
Memory is measured by how much of the computer's resources are being used at one time for a certain duration. A good rule of thumb is the see your PC’s performance over a 5-minute span of performing normal tasks. If the PC utilizing over 95% of its capacity, it is considered heavy - with the average being between 50-60%. Heavy usage can weigh on the hardware components and noticeable performance issues will start to manifest.
Heavy-hitting software affects all aspects of the PC from the CPU to the Memory. Having multiple programs open at once can put a strain on your PC’s performance. If that strain continues daily, the lifespan of the PC is drastically reduced.
For questions regarding if you should replace your current computer – please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.