December 2, 2015 by Tris Hussey

When is the right time to refresh your computers?

When is the right time to refresh your computers?

Right before you think you need to replace them.

We know technology changes fast. We know that is seems like yesterday when that laptop was a super fast machine that seemed to make everything effortless. Today that same laptop feels old, clunky, heavy, and slow; far from the productivity tool it once was. So when is the right time to think about updating your machines? How old is too old?

Here is some advice culled from all of us techies at Microserve…

When the warranty is up

One of the best investments in your new technology is buying the extended warranty on your laptops, but then the warranty is up you might want to think about replacements. Once the warranty runs out the price for repair will start to exceed not only the value of the machine, but the cost of buying a new one as well. Running out of warranty isn’t the only factor in when to think about retiring your machines, but it is one that might hit your budget hard when disaster strikes.

By the way, once the extended warranty runs out, you’re also getting to the point when parts of your machine will start wearing out. Everything has a finite lifespan and the three years that cover your laptop is about the time things might start breaking.

When you can’t run the newest version of your OS

Not being able to run the latest versions of Windows or OS X isn’t about being the cool kid on the block or getting a bunch of features you (probably) don’t need, it’s really about security and being able to keep up with all the other updates you’re going to run into. For example, my old Macbook at home isn’t quite up to snuff to run the newest version of OS X (El Capitan), which also means that the photos apps aren’t supported any more. Which means other apps aren’t working like they should.

Not being able to update to Windows 10 or El Capitan isn’t a reason to think about refreshing machines, but it’s a good indicator that the machine might be at the end of its useful life. Updated OSes need certain amount of memory and processors with enough oomph to get things done. When your hardware doesn’t cut it for just running the OS, then it’s going to start running into the same problem running basic applications too.

When using your machine is more not getting things done, than getting things done

Back to the example of my old Macbook Pro, watching my wife struggle to get things done because the machine is just so slow (our iPads are lapping it doing simple tasks) is painful. At seven years old, this machine isn’t the workhorse it used to be. Seven years old is extreme, but the issue is common. When machines have gotten to the point when simple tasks just take long than they should just because of the machine, then that machine needs replacing.

There is a correlation between this point and the point above. As machines get older all the apps and tools get updated too. Sure new software runs okay on older machines, but the reality is that developers also want to take advantage of the power newer machines have under the hood. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, the older machine loses out. Always.

When your needs change

There was a while when I wasn’t without my laptop, but darn it was heavy sometimes. Then the iPad came out and my world changed. Paired with an external keyboard my iPad did nearly everything I needed to do while I was on the go. My laptop stayed at home for heavy photo editing and other stuff (link formatting book chapters). Then I got a new job and…poof…I needed a laptop again. I opted for a (much) lighter Macbook Air so carrying it around wasn’t a big deal.

Now I’m back in the occasional laptop-toting, tablet is okay world. Sure I lug my work laptop home for my work from home days, but most of the time it’s on my desk. Heck even when I’m home, it’s on a desk. I don’t tote a lot.

What am I thinking about for my next machine? Maybe a Surface Pro 4. Why? Same as the iPad decision. I don’t need a big machine to lug around, I really only need something for meetings and writing.

Needs change.

The final reason you might want to look at new machines is when your needs (or your company’s needs) have changed. More people working from home? Do they need laptops or would it be better provide desktops? Would it make more sense to have desktops at home and work or a laptop to carry back and forth? People travelling more and need lighter machines? Maybe you’re moving to virtual desktops and the machine you use matters less than how fast the network is. Lots of reasons for needs to change and don’t just sweep them under the rug.

Look at the big picture

These seem like pretty mundane reasons to upgrade machines, and you’re right. Each on their own don’t make for a compelling case to upgrade machines. Together, however, you will realize there is cost savings and productivity improvements to be had when you keep machines current. Newer machines are lighter, faster, more reliable, and use less energy than machines just a few years older. Machine refreshes are about stepping up and staying productive. Making sure you don’t have down time with broken machines. New machines are about keeping your business running.

What should I do with the old machines?

We recycle a lot of machines here and there are organizations in every city who are more than happy to take old machines and give them new life for people who don’t have computers at all. In Vancouver I’m a fan of Free Geek who take old machines and donate them. They also recycle machines and offer the old parts to people who are looking for spare parts. I’ve recycled several old machines there and am very happy that my old gear didn’t just go into a landfill.

Computer photo from Flickr by Nico Kasler

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