Computer Lifecycles
March 11, 2004 6:26 PM   Subscribe

In your personal experience, how long do you use a computer before buying a new one? What do you do with the old one?
posted by jjg to Computers & Internet (25 answers total)
Generally, I keep mine around 2 years. Usually a family member or friend passes me a few bucks for them to put in the pool on my new computer.

I actually just ordered a new Windows machine to play counter-ego with my PowerMac G4. I will probably keep in a couple of years, I hope.

I think computers will last longer as processor speeds don't need to be astronomical improvements to the previous generation any longer, unless you play games.
posted by benjh at 6:33 PM on March 11, 2004

About 4 years. I'm suffering - time for a new computer! I'm actually only on my second machine. I've always thought games drive the PC hardware market, since they create obsolesence. I guess MS Office does that just as well, though.
posted by crunchburger at 6:39 PM on March 11, 2004

My home network is still running a Pentium 200MMX, two AMD K6-350s and one K7-750. Not a lot of horsepower required to surf and IRC. Now and then we'll put in a bigger hard drive or a faster burner, but that's about it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:40 PM on March 11, 2004

Don't buy a new one. Upgrade what you have every 6 months and you can stay with the curve, and save (you not only get decent new hardware, but the old hardware isn't so old as to be unsaleable itself).

Let it go out of date to the point of obsolecense and your entire investment goes down the crapper.

Hey wait... what the hell am I saying? BUY A NEW MACHINE SO MY STORE CAN MAKE MONEY. NOW. YOU HEARD ME.
posted by shepd at 6:41 PM on March 11, 2004

1) About four years.
2) I keep using it.

My first slowly transformed into a server running Linux used for all sorts of things; the second was a laptop and it's useful to have a laptop around; and the third is about a year old, built with parts that were a year old at the time, still proving to me that benjh's future scenario is the present, for me.

(I guess I'm just not too demanding... and older games that I didn't play when they were new are now much cheaper and run quite nicely on two-year-old equipment, but they're still just as fun.)
posted by whatnotever at 6:42 PM on March 11, 2004

do what shepd says! : >

I have mine for 3-5 years usually, and keep the old ones around for no real reason (except if the newest one dies). My old ones are usually too old to donate anyway, so eventually i'll have a museum of ancient macs.
posted by amberglow at 6:44 PM on March 11, 2004

It depends. The one I'm typing on I've had for a couple years. The previous one I had for a year, my only reason for ditching it was that my brother-in-law needed a computer but didn't have the cash so I donated it to him. My previous one I had for 5 years.

I never consider them a waste, I've only thrown out 1 computer in my life (old 486 from high school).

I've donated all of them except for one which I sold.
posted by substrate at 6:47 PM on March 11, 2004

Response by poster: Is it different for laptops?

What if you didn't have a use for the old machine?
posted by jjg at 7:27 PM on March 11, 2004

you can always sell it, jjg, especially if it's newish.
posted by amberglow at 7:29 PM on March 11, 2004

I usually have one desktop box and one laptop at a time. I keep them for five years, on average. I'm on my third laptop and my fourth desktop box, lifetime. The old boxen I tend to give away to some friend of mine who could use them. I have one friend who is the recipient of many of my old computers. The old laptops go in a drawer where they are the topics of our weird techie haxxor dreams where one of them will grow up to be a dedicated mailserver and another will one day be a multimedia fileserver and maybe the other one will someday run BeOS. I have a hard time getting rid of laptops because they're so easy to store. Greg just pushes all his computers into corners and hopes I don't notice them. When I moved from Seattle to Vermont I took all my old "parts" computers and gave them to RE-PC who will sell the salable stuff and dispose of the rest of it. Actually, some of it I put on craigslist in a "free, take it" sort of way and gave the rest to RE-PC. Once I started using OSX, I fell a little more out of love with Linux and so I don't keep as many x86 parts around anymore.
posted by jessamyn at 7:48 PM on March 11, 2004

If the old computer is running well, you may find a non-profit who will accept it. Cristina (above) looks interesting. I upgrade about every 5 years, and tend to accumulate pcs and parts. Most of my old equipment finds a home with someone who will use it. Old pcs are becoming a recycling issue, and there isn't a great answer at this point, depending somewhat on where you live. Monitors are full of lead, so don't just dumpster them. Laptops tend to keep value, and are easy to sell on Ebay.
posted by theora55 at 8:00 PM on March 11, 2004

About three years, mainly because there always seems to be some family member or other who has no cash and needs a computer for the kids to do homework or whatever. Obviously, I am too selfish to give them a new machine, so I build a new one and pass on the old one, maybe with an upgrade. Other than that, I keep them "for parts". If anyone needs anything for an IBM PS/2 (286 processor with a whopping 4MB RAM and a 10GB HDD), drop me a line, because I still have one in the garage.
posted by dg at 8:10 PM on March 11, 2004

When I have old machines, I try to give them away to where they'd get the most use. Group homes (so kids can do homework), coffee shops (to rip cds and play mp3s over the stereo), etc.
posted by Jairus at 8:35 PM on March 11, 2004

I part out as much of the old stuff as possible, to friends and family and charities and whoever will take the stuff.

Which doesn't happen often 'cause I use 'em until they're so obsolete no one wants 'em. Heh.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:51 PM on March 11, 2004

I'm on 5 years and two months with my old Gateway. It was a stonkin' machine when I bought it in Jan '99, with all the best components, and a PII 400 cpu (when I think the top speed was around 600Mhz). I've since changed video cards twice, and CD-R/W's twice, added loads of RAM and a new monitor, but it's still pretty much all I need (although some of the newer games stress it to the limit).

My upgrade trigger will be the releases of DoomIII/HalfLife 2 this year (hopefully). I'm definitely going to need more stonk to do justice to the next generation of games, and though I'm far from a h4rdc0re g4m3r, d00d, I still like to relax by killing stuff once in a while. Virtually speaking.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:20 PM on March 11, 2004

My cycle is around 4 years as well. I also like to have 1 desktop and 1 laptop for variety, portability, and redundancy. I replaced both last year after moving to Tokyo.

Currently I have a 15" Mac Powerbook (love it!) and a Shuttle XP (small-form-factor) desktop running XP (very nice.)

My old Sony VAIO desktop (PII 450?) was upgraded with more ram and a new install of XP and given to a friend. My old Sony VAIO laptop (PIII 350?) is used as a bookend on my bookshelf.

I am really pleased with the Powerbook purchase. Every week I find some new feature or software which just amazes me. This week, I found Postfix Enabler, which allows me to be my own SMTP server with a nice GUI. Imagine running Exchange Server 2003 on a laptop only to use the SMTP service. Not likely!
posted by gen at 1:07 AM on March 12, 2004

I bought my PC in around 1996. Since then, I've upgraded the case, the processor (twice), the motherboard (twice), the memory (twice), the hard disk, the sound card, the graphics card (3 times), the monitor, the speakers and the mouse (twice). Oh, and the floppy drive hasn't worked in years.

But it's still the same PC!
posted by salmacis at 2:53 AM on March 12, 2004

the processor (twice), the motherboard (twice)

I'd argue that this is the bifurcate soul of the machine, and if it's changed, the machine is now a new machine. FWIW.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:03 AM on March 12, 2004

PC of Theseus
posted by crunchburger at 3:45 AM on March 12, 2004

It's difficult to say what use they are to different people, but I've made some great use out of my old PCs. My Pentium 166 was running my weblog's web server up untill 6 months ago (running Linux Mandrake 7.2 - I turned it off and on once a year to celebrate it's "birthday"). My Pentium 120 was (until this morning) sitting in my lab as a Linux shell I could telnet into and try to learn C and run ecological models on from my Windows box. I've got a Pentium 200 sitting on the floor next to me to access #mefi when my fiancee's sequestered the main PC for her MSNing. I've found loads of uses for them. But if you're not obsessed with squeezing the last ounce of life out of them like I am, I reckon donating them to charity is a good idea.

As for how long between upgrades, has anyone else found that it's increased in recent years? We just don't seem to have the constant need for MORE RAM, MORE MHZ as we once had. Programmers aren't putting as much effort into their bloatware as once they did...
posted by Jimbob at 3:53 AM on March 12, 2004

As it happens, last weekend I bought my first new PC in four years. I'm still trying to get over how much PC $1K will buy you these days. I'm feeling very spoiled by the huge improvements in... well, everything. I'm trying to decide what to do with the old box. If I ever get my arse in gear it might end up as a Linux development/test box for Java fun and games. More realistically, it'll probably sit in a corner until I get fed up looking at it and it'll take a trip to the dump, unless I can find someone else who might have a use for it.

I thought it was cute that the new machine still came with a floppy drive. Does anyone still use them, or am I a storage snob?
posted by normy at 4:36 AM on March 12, 2004

This actually prompted me to remember when I had made my computer purchases and what I did with them. Turns out I'm on a 4-5 year cycle, with an upgrade somewhere in the middle.

I'm due in about a year, which feels right. I may get a cheap laptop to use as a beater before then.
posted by adamrice at 7:51 AM on March 12, 2004

Just curious, is there a reason for your question, or some thought that prompted it, jjg?
posted by normy at 10:36 AM on March 12, 2004

I'm still using the same P800 I bought second hand about three years ago. I just replace components when they fail. Having said that, I am a skinflint and I don't play computer games. One thing I will say about an old pc is don't leave it outside the front of your house for the council to collect, even if you think the hard drive is screwed. My previous pc got picked up by someone before the council could get to it and I ended up with someone impersonating me on MSN and being abusive to my friends. I am a very stupid man.
posted by squealy at 12:21 PM on March 12, 2004

Response by poster: My own cycle has been about once every 3 years, and I was curious how that compared to others. I never know what to do with old machines -- I don't want to keep something I won't use, and yet by the time I upgrade the resale value is barely worth the trouble of finding a buyer.
posted by jjg at 1:33 PM on March 12, 2004

« Older Recommend a Windows-based web server for my...   |   Why won't my system correctly recognize its... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.