How Long Will My Computer Last?

Dear Mrs. Boston..(aka The Computer Lady):

First of all let me join the thousands of viewers/subscribers that think you are the best !

I am a ‘mature senior’ ( think 8+ decades) and I can’t tell you how many times I have visited
your site for info, help, clarity and just “plain talk” about computers. Am I smarter than a 5th grader? When it comes to computers…”NO WAY !”

Thank you and also thanks to “Gary” for providing such a valuable source.

I am writing about your comments in the Vol 4, Issue 35, Sep.1, 2011 newsletter:

You said that the average computer has a life of 5 years. After which it may have to be replaced.
You did not define ‘average’. I have a Dell XPS, w/os Vista Home Premium which is 4 years
old. And even tho I was able to buy it with a veterans discount, it was still expensive. I would be very unhappy if I had to replace it next year.

Do you think this will be the case?

Best regards, Ed


Dear Ed,

Thank you for your kind comments, and your great question!

Will you have to replace your computer when it turns 5 years old? Probably not. There are a lot of factors built into the average that I mentioned.

First, as with all averages, there are some computers that don’t last anywhere near as long as 5 years, and there are a few that continue to run and meet their users needs for as long as 10 years.

When you will need to replace your computer depends on several factors.

1. How long the hardware continues to run.
2. How long the computer will continue to meet your needs.
3. How long will there be support for your operating system and programs.

The first factor, how long the hardware continues to run is the real wild card. Most of the time, this is longer than 5 years, but occasionally, I see computers that develop hardware issues at two or three years. If it is an easily replaceable part, it is often cost effective to replace the defective hardware and keep on using the computer.

The second factor, how long the computer will be able to meet your needs is usually the bigger issue for most people. After 4 or 5 years, new computers are faster and much more powerful, and current software is written for those new, fast computers. In addition, your computer will slow down as your Windows installation ages (computer techs refer to this as “software rot”).

If you want your computer to last for as long as possible, I would suggest that you do two things when the computer is three or four years old. First, upgrade the RAM to the maximum amount the motherboard will support. This will help it keep up with the new software. Second, when you notice it slowing down, take the computer in to the shop to have a clean install of Windows. This will erase the computer so make sure any files you need (like pictures and documents) are backed up either by you, or the shop. A clean install of Windows will get rid of any software rot problems, speed the computer back up a bit, and give you several extra years of use before the computer slows down too much to use.

When your computer gets closer to the 10 year old mark, then you have to start worrying about support for the aging hardware and operating system. Microsoft rarely provides updates for operating systems that old, and your hardware will not be powerful enough to support upgrading to a newer operating system.

Hopefully this will give you an idea of when you might need to invest in a new computer, and what you can do to get as much life as possible out of your current system.


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