What Is the Life Span of the Average PC?

Late in 2019, the United States Air Force made an important decision regarding its nuclear launch sites. It would no longer rely on the 8-inch floppy disks that had been in use since the system’s computers were installed in the 1960s. At long last, it was time for an update.

As the Air Force story makes clear, when properly maintained, a computer life cycle can be a long one. Decades, even, However, in the business world, desktop and portable computers tend to be replaced every three to five years. Some machines are replaced because of a burnt-out circuit or a badly cracked screen that has rendered them less than fully functional. Most computers are replaced as a matter of convenience, to allow employees to take advantage of the latest features and operating systems in newer machines. Regardless of your replacement schedule, make sure the computers you no longer need are handled securely.

Why Computers Age

Personal computers come in a wide variety of types. You have Apple versus Windows versus Chromebook versions, of course, as well as desktops, laptops, tablet PCs, “road warrior” ruggedized systems and numerous other styles and configurations. All these machines are collections of components and software, and it is these individual components that tend to suffer most from the effects of aging.

Hardware takes a physical beating. Interior components are heated to high temperatures as they struggle to keep up with your latest Powerpoint masterpiece. Some components, such as the keyboard, are easily replaced, but a cracked screen or a damaged memory chip are complicated matters.

Even when your computer is cared for correctly, its hardware is left behind as newer computers hit the market. Your state-of-the-art power laptop of a few years ago begins to feel sluggish as newer software demands more memory and higher processor speeds that your system is incapable of delivering. After a few years of diminishing performance, users are ready for a new and up-to-date replacement system.

A system’s software also ages. Although software updates can be routinely handled more simply than hardware updates, a computer’s entire operating system eventually becomes dated. Replacing an entire machine is often a sensible and cost-effective alternative to the complex process of updating operating systems in multiple computers across the office.

The Life Expectancy of the Office Computer

Computers tend to be replaced in the business world every three to five years. In addition to any performance issues that may spur a replacement cycle, original service agreements for computer maintenance may have lapsed. This is further encouragement for buying a new round of computers.

However, there is nothing magic about the 3- to 5-year life span. Computers of all types can last considerably longer than that, and each business must make its own informed decision about when and how to purchase replacements.

Be aware that the combination over time of software glitches and hardware problems can lead to performance issues on individual machines, which have to remedied on an ad hoc basis. Also, your older systems may have difficulty running the latest software programs. You should be alert to that potential problem, so it doesn’t interfere with overall office productivity.

Saying Goodbye to Your Old Machines

The computers you no longer need can find a useful home elsewhere. There are no doubt schools and nonprofit organizations that can make excellent use of your aging but still functional computers. There are programs in many areas that can help place such donations.

However, your systems are home to all your most sensitive business data. Whether you decide to donate your equipment or discard it, make sure to wipe each computer clean before it leaves the safety of your office.