The Right Time to Replace Your Machine

We are often asked how to know when it’s time to replace a computer. Whether considering a new machine for personal use or at work, the answer has to do with what kind of environment you and/or your employees want to work in.

Things to Consider First

You should first make sure:

  • Important data is safely backed up. Make sure you are performing both local and image back ups regularly. You should also test your back ups to make sure you have a current back up. This will make uploading your data to a new computer simple and quick.
  • Operating system is still being regularly updated and patched. When you purchase a new machine, it will have the latest OS and so you should make sure all of your files and applications are also on the latest versions. This will make for an easy transfer of data.
  • System is still compatible with the applications you need to use. If you decide to switch operating systems, from Windows to Mac for example, make sure that your applications are available.

If Howard Tech Advisors are monitoring your computer(s), then your machines are all patched and your network resources are backed up.

If your OS is no longer patched (think Windows XP/Vista or Mac OS X Leopard), or if your applications need new operating systems than your computer can run, or if your data and applications cannot be backed up because of the age of your machine, then YES, it is time to buy a new computer.

Is Now the Right Time?

The next questions to ask: Is your computer is still working without slowing you down? Is it able to do the things you need it to do?

In the modern fast-paced business environment, time spent waiting on your computer is time not working. When your computer feels sluggish, when your mouse cursor often morphs to the “spinning wheel of waiting” for longer than a few seconds, it may be time to upgrade.

The Million Dollar Question

How long should modern desktops and laptops last?

Based on our experience and industry standards, we expect desktops and laptops with good processors, adequate memory, and solid-state drives to provide 3 to 5 years of business productivity. Modern external monitors should be functional for at least 2 computer cycles.

Computers and new cars have a lot in common. You can and should expect a few years without any trouble besides regularly scheduled maintenance. However, the day will come when things start breaking down from regular use. Buying low-end computers, like buying used cars, hastens the arrival of the “service” years of ownership. They can provide years of good service beyond the initial 3 to 5 years for the mechanically- or technologically-inclined, or those constrained by finances. But productivity and reliability diminish. Tow trucks and service calls are rarely fun or convenient, but they are a fact of life with older machines. Most businesses should plan to replace their computers before they frustrate users.

Working Within a Budget

For budgeting purposes, we recommend a planned refresh cycle of 3-5 years based on your business needs. For the vast majority of users, the sweet spot for power, longevity, and price is a machine with the current version of the Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of memory, and a 256GB solid-state drive. Desktops in this configuration, including a basic 24″ class monitor, can be found around $1000. Business class laptops with these specifications usually range from $1200-$1600. Increasing the processor, memory, drive space, and laptop features can add 25-100% to that range.

The fastest computer in the world can’t change a slow internet connection, or speed up congested sites and services. But even in today’s increasingly cloud-based world, a significant portion of your computing experience depends on having a good working computer. Here are some other questions to ask when purchasing a new computer.


At Howard Tech Advisors, we manage your IT infrastructure so that you don’t have to. Whether you need assistance creating a disaster recovery plan or you’d like to outsource your IT needs, we can help! Keep up with our weekly blog to stay up-to-date on the latest tech trends, security information you need to know to stay safe online, and tips and tricks to effectively navigating an increasingly mobile world.

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