How long should a PC last?

*** June 10, 2011 Note: A server crash this week took this site offline for about a day and a half. Everything should be running properly now, but if you see any errors I’d appreciate a heads-up.***

Microsoft showed off Windows 8 publicly for the first time last week, and one of the most important bits of info released is that Windows 8 will have the same system requirements as Windows 7. Of course, Windows 7 had the same system requirements as Windows Vista, and Windows 7 actually runs better than Vista on similar hardware.

So, in theory, when Windows 8 ships in 2012 you should be able to run it on a system originally designed and built five years earlier.

That certainly wasn’t true in previous Windows generations, where system requirements typically doubled between releases.

Has this affected your plans for future PC purchases? How long do you normally keep a computer in service, and what do you do with it when it’s no longer useful to you?

22 thoughts on “How long should a PC last?

  1. Has this affected your plans for future PC purchases?


    How long do you normally keep a computer in service, and what do you do with it when it’s no longer useful to you?

    Until it’s dead, if a computer lives long enough to be replaced it gets to spend it’s retirement years idling away playing Zoo Tycoon or something like that

  2. Has this affected your plans for future PC purchases?


    How long do you normally keep a computer in service, and what do you do with it when it’s no longer useful to you?

    I still have x386 PCs to test ASM/MASM and access old hard disks. Even for spare parts, an old PC is always useful to me 😉
    I own about 10 PC.
    I believe that PC are gonna be outweighted by portable machines like smartphones/tablet.


  3. I have an overclocked PC circa 2006 C2D Quad 2.4 overclocked to 3.6. With an SSD it’s a great PC & I’ll upgrade to Win 8 and cross my fingers that it all hangs together. I’ve got a one year old i7 Notebook that I’m fitting an SSD into. I’m looking to get 4-5 years out of that as a Win 8 NB.

    No change to my buying plans except that I will be buying a Windows 7.5/8 phone and a Win 8 multi-touch pad/slate/tablet (ARM or CISC). I’ll end up with two more smart devices than I have now. If my PC burns out I won’t replace it, if my Notebook craps out . . . will the slate do? No. I’ll have to replace the Notebook so that I can run 2 or 3 HD screens for Visual Studio 2010/2012 developments.

  4. Home: Until is not cool device for share his ownership with pepople
    Corporate: Until it explodes or there is not more spare parts. The user inherit the equipment from his boss in 2nd hand or 3rd hand. The budget is very important here.
    IT Enthusiast: Until a new motherboard or processor from Intel (future ARM too). But can reuse his cabinet, video cards, memory, PSU.
    Petit people: until something new is outside. They not use even 10% of the features. Someone else cares, repairs & do the job. Very small part o f the population. His assistant or secretary has a very old equipment & do almost all the job.
    Professionals: Until the programs they need more requirements or the time is so long that they want something more fast.
    Deducibility is a factor in all of them mostly.

  5. It’s true that system requirements no longer drive purchases like they did in, say, 1995.

    But compare a laptop available today to one available five years ago. Island-style keyboards, LED backlighting, multitouch touchpads, capacitive touch on Tablet PCs, eSATA/DisplayPort/DVI connectors, better integrated video cards, better industrial design, slightly lighter weight, longer-lasting batteries. (Batteries only improve linearly, something like 3% a year. But that adds up to 15% over five years, which is very much noticeable.)

    In other words, there’s been enough change in the non-core specs to drive laptop purchases, at least among the digirati. Many of these things cannot be upgraded independently on a laptop, or cost an arm and a leg for a PCMCIA card.

  6. Does’t affect my plans. Usually keep a PC about 4 years (with upgrades along the way for desktops). Have about 5 PCs at home now (desktops, laptops, netbook). When I replace the main one (desktop), the most recently retired normally takes on compute server #2 status and #5 gets recycled.

    W8 taking no more resources than W7 is good. But OS X and Linux, at least in my experience, both require far less resources to run well than W7 does. That seems like a competitive disadvantage that MS should want to address. After all, as momentum moves to mobile devices with more restricted capabilities and in some cases lower price points, an OEM looking to come in at competitive price points has to to factor in both the Windows license charge, and the incremental hardware required to provide a decent experience. When that gap is too large, Linux or other starts to look more attractive.

  7. Won’t affect my plans. However, whenever I buy a new PC, I do my best to get one step below whatever is the latest and greatest out there. This seems to be an economical choice and usually means the hardware specs will keep pace over time.

    Buying the $299 PC from Dell or Bestbuy is never a good purchase if you’re interested in longevity. You get what you pay for. I’ll put a $1500 PC against a $1500 Mac anyday. The trouble is people compare $1500 Mac to the $299 PC their mom got a Bestbuy.

    Also, people need to understand they need to ‘maintain’ their PC if they’d like it to last a while. Whenever I replace a power supply or hard drive for a friend, I’m amazed at the amount of dust inside their machines. Over time, this will increase the buildup of heat and cause things to fail. I try and pop my machines open once a year and vacuum/blow them out.

  8. I still have a Gateway P4 from 1999, so I don’t give up on a computer unless it fails. While the Gateway is not my main computer, it still functions as a backup server and print server. It can be used effectively in a pinch too.

    I always get a new computer every 3 to 4 years or when I need to get something to keep me up to date skill wise.

  9. I generally only use laptops and keep them for 3 to 4 years. I have an old 2002 Dell Inspiron 8200 running Ubuntu, just so I could become more familiar with Linux. Older laptops, I give to friends and family for surfing the web and e-mail. I don’t see myself ever keeping a laptop for more than 5 years. The new SandyBridge processors really smoke however, so possibly I will rethink that strategy.

  10. I’m going to keep my current (2009 Vista x64 preinstalled) home desktop computer until it dies.

    I hope that’s later, rather than sooner. (grin)

    I considered upgrading to Windows 7, but decided against messing with a system that currently works perfectly. If my computer is still around when Windows 8 ships, I will consider upgrading to that.

  11. I’ve always thought 3 years was the perfect replacement cycle for PCs based on cost versus performance. I mean, your 486DX wasn’t really fast enough the day you unboxed it, right?

    But that’s all changed now – I’m just replacing a 4-year old PC, but only because I’m handing the old one off to a family member who needs it. My new i7-2600 isn’t all that much faster than the old Core 2 Duo it replaced, at least in the everyday tasks I do most.

    I’m now thinking 5 years will be about right for the PC I use every day. Longer than that might risk hardware failures or other issues I’d like to avoid for productivity reasons, and shorter seems like a needless indulgence.

  12. I bought a Core 2 Quad HP media center desktop in 2007 for about $1000 that still performs great. It runs Windows 7 better than my 2010 iMac and I suspect it will run Windows 8 just fine. Well I guess I should say it would if I planned to upgrade to that piece of Active Desktop reviving ass mucus.

  13. An Architect friend of mind just bought an i7 based box and it’s fast (runs Win7) . I have an AMD Phenom 9850 Quad core (also Win7) that I though was snappy but my friends PC really flies. Rqmts may not have gone up but if you can get a new PC for work, may you always be happier. I’ve seen people toss decently good stuff not because it was too slow but because things like laptop keys were messed up. For me this is a real boon for all the Ubuntu and Debian stuff i want to try…

  14. The OS is only part of the picture. Application software continues to take advantage of the hardware that it is running on. SO, in order to keep up with the latest software releases, I’d update every 5 years. Longer for home, shorter for business. I’ve replaced so many 10+ year old PCs lately, and it’s amazing how the users of these machine put up with the mess their machine’s have turned into.

    Most folks don’t know how to rebuild an older machine, so I don’t usually recommend that. Though in some cases it is amazing to see Windows 7 run like gang busters on a 5 year old PC. Along with some good cleaning tools, and a decent defrag program, I also attempt to train these folks on how to keep their machine running it’s best for as long as possible.

    Rules like:
    1. DON’T install it if you dont’ need it. And un-install anything you don’t need.
    2. Clean junk and defrag weekly at best, monthly at least.
    3. Surf safely (this is the big one these days)
    4. Install ALL updates, don’t let any just sit there. Install them.
    5. keep all used software updated. Not all software will inform you of updates, so know how to find updates and install them.
    6. Keep backups of all data and software packages.

    It’s just too simple to keep a PC running good. Like changing the oil in your car. Sure it doesn’t appear to be a problem, but it will be given enough time.

  15. As long is doing the job. I’ve a HP, 10 years old running Linux Puppy, a InMove, 7 years old running XP, a Asus, 3 1/2 years old running Vista and another Asus running Win7. What i’m trying to say is: I’m not shure if upgrading a PC in our days it is still a good idea. The PC’s have comming so good, in hardware and software, at a very reasonably price that, maybe, upgrading’t it will not be my first choice.

  16. Bought a new HP DV6 last year for portability but I still have my Presario 6420 NX desktop running XP that I bought in 2001 running at home just for playing games on now. Also have my 1994 Presario CDS 520 Intel 486 @ 66 MHz with 12MB ram updated from Win 3 to Win 95. It still ran the last time I started it a coule of years ago for kicks. I replace my machines as needed. The first comp I replaced to have a faster machine to run newer programs just to run my business. Have to admit my first comp was dreadfully slow compared to the XP. I have never had one die on me yet. Maintenance is the big factor to making them last.

  17. I have a backup computer which is just about 7 years old. It’s a single core 3.2Ghz Pentium 4 with 1 GB of ram and a GeForce 6600. It originally had XP, I upgraded it to Vista, and now it is running 7. I thought it ran Vista fine, and it runs 7 pretty well. It’s not as snappy as my main more modern desktop, but it is definitely faster than the netbooks I’ve worked with. Having the video card is probably the key factor in its longevity.

  18. It really all depends on my workload, as hardware advances over time I’ll generally upgrade components here and there. Obviously newer hardware will always offer benefits to the tasks I perform, but I reckon my primary desktop and laptop machines will last another few years.

    I’m currently running on an i7 920 CPU overclocked to 4GHz with 12GB of DDR3 RAM, an 80GB Intel X25-M G2 SSD and a NVIDIA GTX 570 video card. A very fast machine which could also be overclocked further if I ever felt the need to.

    I also have a Lenovo laptop with an i5 CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 96GB Kingston SSD and a NVIDIA GT310M dedicated video card.

    Both of these machines will certainly run Windows 8 very well indeed, as Windows 7’s performance is very snappy.

    Other systems I have around the home are all currently running Windows 7 x64 with 2GB of RAM or more with the exception of an Asus Eee netbook which only has an Atom CPU with 1.50GB of RAM and runs Windows 7 x86.

  19. I used to upgrade pretty religiously as soon as a new version of MS flight Simulator came out. Hardware specs for the game were so intense it was a necessity. But since MS has halted development (well, actually they are at it again), I have not had a need to upgrade. The current rig, built in 2006, Core 2 duo quad, 8 GB of ram, Nvidia GFORCE 8800 GTX vid card has handled everything including Deadspace 2 with nary an issue.

  20. Has this affected your plans for future PC purchases?
    It just continues the trend of extending desktop PC lifetime at work. A 5 year old machine in 2012 will have 2-4 GB of RAM and C2D which is still great. The only performance increase that seems to make a difference is dropping in an SSD. Still too expensive for everyone though.

    How long do you normally keep a computer in service, and what do you do with it when it’s no longer useful to you?

    We are averaging 5 year old machine right now. If it still works (which is doubtful) we give it to employees. The problem is all our machines 6-8 year old range have bad caps and are dying off.

  21. IMHO hardware ain’t what it use to be. A number of my old PC, laptops at that are still going strong. Pentium 3 and core duo machines are still run great. My most recent Dell died after a few years. I’m beginning to think laptops should just be specked with integrated graphics because the discrete cards get too hot.

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