If you manage a business you understand the impact computers play in day-to-day operations. Despite their importance, many offices don’t have comprehensive device upgrade plans in place. Upgrades and replacements can be costly, so many businesses believe it to be more cost-effective to keep their old PCs.
However, those who have experienced devices breaking down know how much more costly downtime can be. Office staff lose hours of productivity when their computers freeze. Frustrated customers become more irate if service agents can’t create service tickets or bring up customer records. Medical practices can lose reputation if they aren’t able to access patient records when needed.
As computers get older, they become increasingly expensive to maintain and utilize, and oftentimes replacements can be the more cost-effective option. This keep-versus-replace cost conundrum can be addressed by only replacing computers on or around their end of life. As such, all businesses should understand how long do computers last and when is the right time to replace them.
How long do computers last?
It depends on whether you have personal or business computers
While both types of computers may look similar, they’re built for different functions. In comparison with business computers, personal computers have more affordable components so they’re accessible to mass markets. They tend to have less powerful processors, smaller random access memory, simpler operating systems (OSs), and storage drives that are not built for continuous use. Life expectancy for personal computers is between two and three years.
Business computers, on the other hand, have higher-grade components that can perform more resource-intensive processes for longer periods of time. These computers run OSs that make them network-ready, such as Windows Pro. Network-ready OSs offer great value to businesses by providing the following features:
- Single sign-on (SSO) – This is an authentication process that permits employees to log in to their corporate accounts once and access different services across the corporate network without having to re-enter their credentials. SSO can incorporate multifactor authentication for increased cybersecurity and enable ease of access upon the initial login.
- Remote monitoring and management – This IT administration method permits off-site IT staff or managed IT services providers (MSPs) to keep an eye on on-site workstations, servers, and network systems. Remote IT admins can also take care of network management tasks such as rolling out software updates and vulnerability patches.
- Cloud readiness – Network-ready OSs make leveraging the highly scalable data processing and storage capacities of the cloud more feasible.
- Life span – Business computers are also made to last longer: the average computer life span is around three to five years.
Some business computers are servers powerful enough to administer remote desktop services (RDS) and support multiple users on inexpensive thin clients at once. Servers last five to eight years, whereas thin clients last an average of seven years.
If you’ve issued laptops for your staff to enable them to work remotely, know that their price tags generally correlate with their quality, life span, and hardware. Generally speaking, an entry-level business-class laptop will cost around $700-$900 and last two to four years. Standard grade business-class laptops will cost between $900- $1,200 and last three to five years, and premium business-class laptops will start at $1,200 and last three to five years. The more premium laptops will come with better performance specs as well as additional features.
In short, if you purchased personal computers for your business, you may have saved a bit of money upfront, but you’ll end up having to spend on replacements sooner. You’ll spend more on thick client business computers at the onset, but will have these for much longer. Deploying a fleet of RDS host-powered thin clients would be the most cost-effective in terms of both purchase price and machine longevity, though this option is best for when a company already has 50 or more employees.
Things that affect your computer's life span
The quality of components are the largest factor in how long computers last. Your computer’s processor, graphics card, RAM, and hard drive will all play a role in the longevity of the device. When choosing a business-class desktop or laptop computer, it’s vital to analyze these components and buy for the future — not the present.
Excessive heat can also damage the computer and reduce its life span, so keeping it in a cool and well-ventilated space prevents this from happening. Laptop batteries degrade when exposed to direct heat, so avoid exposing these to sunlight or using laptops too close to heat sources, such as space heaters, heating vents, or even direct sunlight from windows.
Keeping cybersecurity measures up to date and monitoring for cyberthreats also help maximize machines’ life spans. This is because many types of malware can overwork components to the point of damaging them. Fortunately, MSPs like Umbrella can do these things so that you don’t have to.
Are there ways to extend a computer’s useful life?
One way to prolong a machine’s usefulness is to replace worn-down parts with newer and better-performing ones. For example, if your laptop’s battery can’t hold a full charge anymore, you can just replace the battery instead of the whole device.
Proper device management can also increase a PC’s life expectancy. As time passes, software updates and patches are installed, as well as new apps that often require greater computing resources than the ones that came before it. All of these can hamper computer performance and shorten the machine’s life span. However, MSPs like Umbrella can perform disk cleanups, app inventories, and other device management tasks as part of our managed IT services. We’ll ensure the optimal performance of your machines and help you get more mileage out of them.
When is it time to upgrade your computers?
Start by determining the age of your computer. The older a computer is, the less likely it is to meet the system requirements of new software releases, such as Windows 11. You’ll be forced to stick with legacy software. System and app developers may continually push out updates and security patches for legacy software, but a time will come when your machine won’t receive any of these anymore. For instance, Microsoft stopped providing technical support, software updates, and security updates and fixes for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. Beyond missing features, you might also leave some vulnerabilities unpatched, which is risky for your business.
Replacement parts for older computers will become rarer and more expensive. And if you can’t upgrade your OS, you may need to pay the software publisher for support for your old OS. Paying may be cheaper in the beginning, but publishers tend to increase the price of their support, making this option impractical in the long run.
You’ll also know how long a computer will last based on performance. If the machine is too slow, damaged, or shuts down too often to function despite constant repairs, then you must replace your computer in order to avoid unnecessary costs.
How much new computers cost your business
The cost of running outdated tech may be higher than most people think. Relying on old devices can lead to cost time, productivity, and ultimately revenue. As a device ages, you will spend more time waiting for the system to load and dealing with frequent crashes than accomplishing business functions.
Before you start upgrading, sit down and figure out how much it will cost you to upgrade your computers, then come up with an upgrade plan. It will ensure that you get the best hardware to meet your needs while remaining within your budget.
A future-proofing strategy we at Umbrella regularly implement for our clients is upgrading components and replacing computers in phases. This helps to stagger costs and grant you the ability to respond in case a highly innovative new technology comes along, or a disruptive technology problem occurs. We’ll help you buy IT assets to meet your future needs, not just your present ones, which will help you achieve your desired business outcomes.
Partner with us to leverage our expertise and experience in building and maintaining IT infrastructure. Our IT experts can assess your technical requirements to come up with a plan of action to cost-effectively future-proof your IT.
- A Dell Latitude business-class laptop on average costs about $900-$1100 plus setup fees.
- Dell Optiplex business-class desktop on average costs about $700-850 plus setup fees.
A business-grade laptop can last from three to five years. A business-grade laptop will have better components than consumer-grade counterparts and are generally more future-proof. However, the lifetime of any device, business laptops included, largely depends on maintenance and use case. Therefore, make sure yours is well maintained regularly.
Barring irreparable damage, computers need to be replaced once they’ve fully depreciated, which may take three to five years. However, desktop PCs can last longer because components can be replaced and upgraded more readily.
Yes, typically desktops last longer than laptops. Desktops offer a greater ability to customize components than laptops. They are also less likely to be dropped or subjected to other incidents. If well maintained and regularly upgraded, a desktop can serve you for about 5–8 years.