Ten Downsides of an Aging Computer

by MikeM on May 28, 2009


An increasingly common question is how long to stick with an aging computer? Frequently it becomes a question of continuing to use an older computer that “sort of” meets your needs, or upgrading to a new computer with its many potential benefits. Having the budget to buy a new computer is a key starting point. Transferring documents, data, programs, favorites/bookmarks and settings are other considerations for a computer migration. As part of the keep it or replace it question this post will examine Ten Downsides of an aging computer system. Also be sure to see my tech tip on Why a Five Year Old Computer Is Slower Than a New Computer,

  1. Too Slow — The current computer is too slow, especially with several programs open at the same time. Everything takes longer and you sometimes don’t do certain tasks, including maintenance, because they just take too long.
  2. Too Unreliable — There are too many quirky or weird behaviors that sap your productivity or enjoyment when using the computer.
  3. Too Long — The computer takes longer and longer to boot up and to shut down.
  4. Too Little RAM — The computer does not have enough RAM (memory) and it makes the system run significantly slower than it would with a greater amount of RAM installed.
  5. Upgrading Components Won’t Help – There are various component upgrades that can be done such as adding RAM, upgrading to a faster graphics adapter, or upgrading to a faster network adapter, but the CPU and bus speed will still be the same – Slow.
  6. Repairs May Be A Bad Investment – It may be necessary to repair a component (CD-ROM drive, graphics card, hard disk drive, or network adapter), but is it worthwhile to pour money for components and labor into an aging computer that may crash completely in six months?
  7. Software Confusion – There is uncertainty about all the programs and processes that are loading every time the computer boots up. Which ones are necessary, which ones just bog the system down and which ones are safe to deactivate or turn off?
  8. More Software Confusion – Over the years you have installed numerous programs, utilities, add-ons, plug-ins, and widgets. This creates lots of software clutter and more uncertainty about what can be uninstalled cleanly.
  9. Version Confusion — Not sure what programs, drivers, upgrades, add-ins, plug-ins or widgets are up to date or if they can all work together without causing strange behavior or intermittent problems.
  10. Tune Up Needed — The computer hasn’t been tuned up or cleaned up effectively in years. For desktop computers in particular this can lead to accumulations of dust, cobwebs or possibly pet hair in the vents, filters or interior of the computer.

Aging Computer – Ten Downsides Versus A Budget

There are always good reasons for sticking with the computer you currently own and use. And if you don’t have a budget for a new computer then replacement becomes a non-issue. However, sometimes the decision to replace a computer becomes more urgent when a serious problem with an aging computer doesn’t leave much choice but to replace it. In the meantime be sure to keep your computer tuned up and your data backed up because there are a whole set of Murphy’s Laws that apply to computers.



gmanwizard June 11, 2009 at 12:07 am

1. If taken care of shouldn’t slow down too much. I’ve had my pc for five years now and its still faster than the new pcs my family buys because they don’t know how to take care of them.

2. I would like to point out that my old desktop with xp has far fewer weird quirks than my new laptop with vista.

3. Again it depends what you do with your computer. You install junk and get spyware, your computer will slow down, you keep it clean, it won’t be a problem.

4. RAM is cheap and the easiest component to upgrade, you could easily find 2 gigs for under 20 bucks.

5. CPU’s are usually upgradeable, but true once u’ve reached the limitations of your motherboard your kinda sunk. Also It’s more worthwhile to spend a little extra on a new computer, than a bunch for just upgrades.

6. I agree with this one to an extent. If it’s crashed and you can’t easily find a solution, you may be better off starting off fresh. But if it’s just a cd-rom or RAM, again those are cheap and easy components to fix.

7. I havn’t found this to be an issue, but it’s possible.

8. I really only have my main 15 or so programs for music, web browsing, videos, powerpoint, etc. Anything else, with the exception of games, would be garbage. Don’t install things carelessly.

9. Havn’t found this to be a problem either.

10. Yep, and is it that difficult to blow some air on it and clean’er up?

While for most computer users these would be problems, in most cases aging computers, if used carefully can last until their parts die. My only quirk is that I can’t play new games, but that’s to be expected.

Mike McEvoy June 14, 2009 at 11:14 pm

gmanwizard, you make some excellent points. Yes, with the right care and feeding you can keep a computer running fine for a number of years. An important point of consideration in the repair vs. replace question is whether you will do the work yourself or if you have to pay to have it done. Kind of the time vs. money debate. If you have the knowledge, time and inclination you can copy your data from your system, do a clean re-install of Windows, install only the software you want and then restore your data. To pay someone to do that could cost you between 50% and 100% of the cost of a new computer.

Now, with regular tune ups, cleaning out Temp directories, running Disk Cleanup, Running DEFRAG, and a few other items you can definitely keep a system running much more effectively. However there are plenty of people who believe their computer is like their refrigerator and that they can just ignore it for twenty years.

No arguing about the Vista performance issues. Vista is a real albatross for Microsoft, but that should change dramatically once Windows 7 begins shipping in October.

Regarding RAM, an interesting thing happens with older RAM modules. As memory manufacturers shift their production lines to newer, denser modules the costs for older RAM modules actually increases, or decreases less, than the newer modules. An example: many older computers use DDR PC2700 whereas newer systems use DDR2 PC5300 or PC6400. 2GB of DDR PC2700 is more expensive than 2GB of DDR2 PC5300. At some vendors it’s a difference of 2:1 or more. So RAM for older systems actually is more expensive.

Another point of differentiation is whether you are using the computer for personal stuff or business. Business downtime costs real money along with lost opportunity costs. Personal downtime generally doesn’t have any dollar amount attached to it.

Thanks for your comments. There are many shades of gray in the upgrade/repair/replace discussion. Many times it comes down to personal knowledge, time, and of course budget.

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