When I talk to customers about the work needed to fix their ailing computer, they often ponder, “Should I just replace it?”
Whether your “old reliable” isn’t so reliable anymore or you have your eye on a shiny new PC for the holidays, here’s how to determine whether you should fix your old PC or ditch it.
For most people, the decision to replace a computer comes down to cost. Since a basic desktop computer starts at about $300 and a laptop about $500, most people consider replacing their system when a repair will cost $300 or more.
But there are a few hidden expenses to keep in mind before you buy a new PC.
If your system needs repair to remove viruses or spyware, moving infected files to your new PC can transfer the malware to your new computer. Nothing ruins the joy of a new PC like finding it runs just as poorly as your old one because you took your problems with you. Ensuring that transferring data to your new computer won’t port over viruses and spyware could entail paying for the repair you’re trying to avoid or ditching your data with your old computer.
Once you get the new PC home, you’re going to have to get it working like your old one. This means installing all the software you use to create and read files so you can access your data on your new PC. If you no longer have activation codes for the programs you use, this might entail purchasing the software programs again, which can get pricey.
Microsoft Office 2013 starts at $99 a year (or buy applications separately for $110 each). Quicken Deluxe will set you back $65; and full programs for photo or video editing, family tree making or creating art can run hundreds of dollars each.
Keep in mind that cheaper computers might not include components you want, such as an optical drive (for watching DVDs or loading data from a disc), touchscreen capability or a fully functional operating system. Be sure to take stock of the features you need before you compare the price of a new system with the cost of repairing your old system.
Transferring data, installing programs, configuring printers and getting a new PC set up on your home network can be a daunting set of tasks. If you’ll want professional assistance to get your new computer set up, factor in this cost before buying a new PC.
In spite of the hidden costs of a new PC, there definitely are times when it makes sense to buy new instead of repairing old. The average lifespan of a desktop computer is five years, and a laptop averages three to four years. After a few years, aging hardware is more likely to fail, software begins to outpace your system’s capabilities, leading to sluggish performance and slow boot-up, and operating-system upgrades likely have cycled through a few generations.
If you have a basic computer system that you haven’t upgraded significantly and it’s more than four years old and needs a major hardware repair such as a new motherboard or processor, it’s best to start shopping for a new computer. The cost to bring your system up to current standards is likely to far exceed the cost to replace it.
You won’t be able to reinstall your existing operating system if you have misplaced the Windows software license key. Purchasing a new OS will add about $100 to $150 to your repair cost, meaning it might cost too much to replace your hard drive or even reformat your drive.
Consider adding RAM or upgrading your hard drive before you ditch an otherwise capable PC.
But if it’s time to say goodbye to your aging computer, enjoy the new computer smell that awaits!