The ever changing IT value proposition or, PC life expectancy - Is it worth fixing?
Computers are better and cheaper than ever.
You may not believe me, especially if you are in the middle of a technology induced crisis, but it is true.
Laptops have an average life of 2 to 3 years and desktops 4 to 5 years. All-in-one computers are somewhere in-between.
The more your computer has moved the more likely it is to fail. Whether laptop or desktop, the more shifting and traveling it has done the more likely it is to die earlier than expected.
NOTE 1: These aren't made up figures. They come from research and 35 years of experience in this game. My wife works for Gartner, the IT research firm, and I have seen, but can't reproduce, the figures (because I'm not actually a Gartner customer).
NOTE 2: I know you may have, or had, a laptop or computer that lasted longer...maybe even much longer. These numbers are averages. That IS how averages work. :-)
So, what does this mean for you and me?
Well, it means that YOU are less LIKELY to spend money for me to fix your computer when buying a shiny new one is a better deal...
...and I encourage that. It isn't good for my business, or the environment, but it is the sensible way to go forward in more and more cases these days.
If you haven't bought a computer in a while, or perhaps paid a lot for your last one (perhaps even too much), you probably won't like hearing me say that.
And, in some ways, I don't like saying it. But I am being honest and seriously considering how you should best spend your money.
Aside from the simple age assessment, there are other factors that feed into the cost of fixing an old machine.
1) The number of parts or "hardware" that are failing will naturally increase the cost and ability to fix an old pc.
2) If the operating system is too old and/or needs completely reloading costs can escalate...especially if you don't have any recovery media or valid license keys. Finding drivers for old machines can be time consuming (read costly) and sometimes fruitless.
3) Point 2 above will increase in cost when you need to add software you use back onto like it was new...but it won't be new will it? Do you have the installation disks, license keys and everything else you got with the machine and the software you bought? I didn't think so ;-)
4) If the operating system was a dud from the start or one that is out of life (Microsoft end of support has been reached) then you should be replacing that anyway for your own security.
Anything older than Windows 7 is a major (MAJOR) liability...and Windows 7 End Of Life has been announced already too. If you have windows Vista I WILL NOT even attempt to fix any problem on it - the argument becomes circular, unsolvable and expensive.
5) Performance degradation is something that can't be fixed cheaply. Some of it can be sorted with a fresh load of the operating system, but not the root causes. If you are a home user this may just be frustrating. If you are using the machine in business then this is costing you money...a lot of money (more studies prove this).
6) And all this may be on top of the original problem that compelled you to consdier fixing the machine in the first place i.e. what is the problem itself and what will fixing that take?
If you really, really want to spend too much money fixing an old computer that is likely to fail again soon, and I mean real soon, then I applaud you wealth and environmental credentials.
If, however, you get a new one, and you WILL eventually have to do that, then please remember me when you need help setting it up and getting from the old one to the new one...
...because it is one of the few remaining jobs left in the PC "fixing" world and I have a strong feeling that will disappear soon too.
NOTE: This article first published in June 2016 and revised incrementally since.
NOTE 2: Don't despair entirely. While it may not be economic to repair your old PC, I do recycle, refurbish and create "Franken-PCs" for charities. Your old hardware, parts of it anyway, may get a new life with a worthy recipient. This work costs me far more than the machine is worth and than you'd be happy to pay, but it keeps them out of landfill and helps people out.