When I first moved to the Coachella Valley in 2004, Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Mac OS 10.4 were the primary operating systems to be found on most client computers.
Over the course of nearly 13 years here in the desert, I have helped many clients with their computer needs. Laptops, desktops, tablet and phones have been serviced, many due to component failure. In some cases, the screens have been cracked or damaged and the laptop was new enough to justify the cost of the replacement screen.
Three years ago Microsoft ended all consumer support for Windows XP. My office and garage were jam packed with XP class computers and the new Windows 7 computers that I moved their data to. I think it took about 7 days and nights to complete the transfers and setups.
Interestingly, many of those computers were in service for 5-10 years. I had already replaced power supplies and fans and drives in those same computers during their regular and extended lifespan.
Windows 8 came out shortly after that and most of those new computers had enough memory and hard drive space to handle the upgrades to Windows 10 when that was released. Some Windows 7 computers required additional memory to make the most out of Windows 10 as it fixed a number of issues with Windows 8, and created a whole new paradigm for computer support. Some Windows 7 computers and laptops were not powerful enough to handle the move to Windows 10 and clients bought new ones.
So why talk about replacing a working computer? Disaster Avoidance. There are many companies handling disaster recovery, which in the long run, is far more expensive than disaster avoidance.
Over time, hard drives that still have spinning and moving parts can and will fail.
It’s only a matter of time – the internal components in the hard drive degrade and data can be totally lost in some cases. Internal and external drives do fail. Trust me. I have been in the computer industry for 30 years. Disaster prevention is MUCH cheaper than disaster recovery!!!
Laptop motherboards can have failures from high heat and chips can fail. When I clean out laptops, I check for blocked air vents, and I check to make sure the fans are still working, one of the main causes of overheating and subsequent catastrophic failure.
On desktop computers, I check the motherboard for any sign of capacitor failure such as leakage and ensure that the fans in the case and the power supply are spinning freely. Some of the fans stop working after a number of years. The computer will overheat and that starts the chain reaction of failures.
Signs of potential failure are very slow boot up times, long periods waiting for the computer to respond to the mouse and keyboard, and although that could be signs of a virus, I want to stick to the topic of hardware and lifecycles.
Complete failure is a dead computer, which if it’s beyond the lifecycle, is usually replaced wth a new one. (You are backing up to the cloud and a local external hard drive? Right? Even the external backups can fail and I strongly urge clients to purchase new external drives every year. I have had far too many clients in tears when the internal drive fails and the backup drive had failed a long time before that and they had not heeded the warnings. $100 in prevention is worth $3700 in data recovery….)
A desktop computer usually has a lifecycle of 3-6 years. For the home user this is a reasonable amount of time to use it to it’s fullest. For a business that has critical day to day information and needs the computer(s) to generate income such as a retail operation or a medical office, I strongly recommend a shorter lifecycle for replacement.
A laptop has a shorter lifecycle due to the smaller space and the heat buildup that happens. This adds additional stress to the components packed into that tight space. Of course, closing the lid with an object still between the keyboard and the screen will shorten the life of the screen. And then there are these kinds of days…
Back in my Help Desk days, IBM Thinkpads were the laptop of choice for most of the staff who needed one.
One day we got a call from and production assistant. His laptop found it’s way under the tires of a NYC bus.
We got the laptop and the screen was a spider web. We plugged the thing in to an external monitor and believe it or not, it booted right up. How I long for the days of good durable equipment!
Even if the laptop/desktop seems perfectly fine, budgeting and scheduling a replacement is prudent in Disaster Avoidance for business users. This also applies for home users with data that is hard to replace such as family and other photos, legal documents and even family records.
So what fails in most computers?
- Hard drives
- Motherboards (Usually a higher failure rate in laptops)
- Keyboards (laptops mostly – most are from liquid damage)
- Case fans in desktops and laptops
- DIMM memory chips
The latest computers, laptops and desktops, can be purchased with SSDs that have no moving parts and large amounts of memory to run the latest operating system. This is a major advance over the old laptops that weighed a ton and had more chances for failure from deceleration trauma as the laptop was (mis)handled. Yeah I have had clients drop laptops, close the laptop with an object such as a pen or pencil and crack the screen and lots of issues where liquids were unintentionally fed to the laptop. Some have had damage when traveling.
Clients still need to have backup systems even with the latest computers.
Regular checkups ensure that the fans and vents on the laptop or desktop are clear of dust and debris to ensure that it’s operating correctly. I also run virus checks for safety and help with other tech stuff during the service call.
So when should you replace the computer?
- Desktops every 3-5 years to take advantage of the newer processors and increased memory requirements of the latest operating system and especially if a component had failed;
- Laptops every 2-4 years if they still have the older non SSD drives
- There are imminent signs of failure.
Budgeting for avoiding the disaster is easier and cheaper than paying for the recovery after the disaster. Trust me. I have made the calls.
If you need help determining when you should replace the computer as well as having that backup protocol setup, please call me and I can help you with Disaster Avoidance!!