Upgrading or Replacing? The Age-Old Computer Dilemma


A few weeks ago, a client contacted me to get a second opinion on what to do with their old desktop computer. It was purchased new, from HP, around 2004. It originally had Windows XP, but they ‘upgraded’ it to Windows 7 in 2010. Now, however, it was running very slowly. From the moment you pressed the power button, it took almost ten minutes to fully load Windows. Unbearable.

They decided to contact another technician, and they suggested a full parts upgrade, at the cost of about $1000, not counting labour. New hard drive, more memory, even a newer CPU and motherboard. I looked over the quote, and it would have been a very good machine. But did my client really need a $1000 computer? It felt almost as if they were buying a brand new Ferrari to go grab groceries at the corner store.

I decided to sit down with my client, and determine what exactly they’d be using the computer for, and they were pretty standard: they wanted a computer to watch movies, browse the internet and use social media. Maybe stream some music and/or movies to their Apple TV. They had no plans to use the computer for gaming, but speed was of utmost importance. They didn’t want to turn on the computer, make a coffee, then come back and wait a little more for it to finish loading. With those requirements in mind, I went out and found a computer that was perfect for them. Cost? About $500. Even with labour to transfer all their files and set up the new computer, it was still less than just the hardware would cost for the upgrade.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you should just trash your old computers. Another client contacted me this week about upgrading her laptop. It was a high-end machine, purchased in 2010, and had very good specs, but it was running slow after three years. There were no viruses and the hard drive was only 30% full, and the RAM was more than adequate. I suggested upgrading the Hard Drive to a faster model, and she agreed. The results were stunning: the laptop now performed as fast as a brand new $800 machine, with an upgrade cost of less than $400.

What does all of this mean? Upgrading or replacing is not an exact science. If the client with the HP desktop had purchased a very high-end computer in 2004, a hard drive upgrade may have been sufficient to increase performance. Likewise, if the client with the laptop had purchased a low-end one, a replacement would have been advisable.

Contact us if you’re wondering if you should upgrade or replace your computer!

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