How Long Should a Computer Last?

So you want some certainty that the computer you just bought will last as long as possible.  So, how do you try to ensure you get the longest life possible and how long should it last?

Obviously there is the way you treat it; keeping it away from liquids, being cautious of the cables and ports, etc, but, even the best cared for computer isn’t going to last forever.

One way to insure your investment is to buy the longest warranty option you can buy.  You probably noticed when you purchased your last computer that most entry-level and consumer-grade computers come bundled with a 1-year warranty.  If you looked at the higher-end and business-class computers you might have seen that some of them come out of the box with a 3-year warranty (most all of the desktops Fox sells fall into the later class <cough, cough> ;).  So, what if you want a longer warranty?  Well the major PC manufacturers will offer to sell you an extended fourth year of warranty coverage (at generally nearly twice the price of the first three years combine) and even a fifth year (which can easily hit half the original purchase price of the computer).  That is where the story ends.  I don’t know of a single computer manufacturer that will sell you that sixth year of warranty coverage.  Not one.  Even Apple, seated on their pedestal above all other things computer (just ask one of their users, they’ll confirm this fact for you) will only sell you up to 3 years (if you buy their AppleCare+ package for their Mac products).

Why don’t computer manufacturers sell a sixth year of warranty?  Do they think people wouldn’t buy it?  Do they feel they can’t possibly squeeze any more money out of the consumer?  More likely their engineers have gotten together with their warranty people and figured out that computer components (especially the little plastic fans that keep things cool, the optical drives, the hard disk drives and all the other moving parts) last on average for three to five years.

Beyond hardware life-expectancy there is something to be said for obsolesce as well.  Microsoft tends to release their new operating system versions on two-and-a-half to three year release cycles.  That is of course until Windows 10 came along.  Microsoft took an unexpected turn upon releasing Windows 10.  Microsoft gave away free Windows 10 upgrades for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 computers.  We are close to the fourth anniversary of the Windows 10 release date (which released July 29, 2015).  That means that if you bought a new computer with Windows 8.1 on its release date (October 17, 2013) and took advantage of the free upgrade to Windows 10 (while it was available), your computer is five-and-a-half years old now.  Having run the front counter of a computer repair store for nearly 20 years (I started here January 2, 2000) I have seen my fair share of computers come in and out of the shop.  Recently I have started noticing to how many of the machines coming in originally shipped with Windows 10 versus the number that were upgraded from an older version of Windows.  I don’t have exact numbers, but, I can attest to the fact that the lion’s share of the computers coming in at this point shipped with Windows 10 on them.  So, they are less than 4 years old.  I still see the occasional Windows 7 or 8 COA (Certificate of Authenticity) stickers on computers coming into the shop, but, they are much more the exception than the rule.

Looking at all the information out there I think it’s pretty safe to say that the industry expectation is that your new computer will last an average of three to five years.  If your computer lasts longer than the average three to five years, that’s great. I don’t advocate for disposing of a computer that is still doing its job.  But, you should be aware of this life-expectancy and back up your data accordingly.  After all, it is really your data that is the most valuable part of a computer. -Jayson