How to Know When It’s Time to Replace or Upgrade Your Computer

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Whether you use your computer to crush the opposing team on Rocket League, to edit websites in your digital marketing business, or to schedule out the thousands of appointments your family seems to need in a week, having a functional, high-performing computer is an essential part of life in 2022. 

 On average, laptop computers have a lifespan of between three and five years while their desktop counterparts are good for five to eight years. However, time is not the only factor to consider in determining the ultimate trajectory of your computer. Read on for a list of potential signs that it may be time to swap out your computer for a newer model, or schedule an appointment at your local Micro Center’s Knowledge Bar for help walking through your options.

The easiest sign to detect: a noisy fan

Oftentimes, the primary sign that your computer is reaching the end of its lifespan is a loud, noisy fan. After all, excessive heat is basically the kiss of death to your operating system. Before panicking, consider an upgrade to your cooling system. For example, a case fan is inexpensive and can be added just about anywhere there is room. 

However, in the event that there is no room left in your case, upgrading may not be the answer–the time and cost you will spend updating the case is essentially the same as you would to update your entire machine. 

While it might be normal to hear your fan come to life if you open a host of programs at once, hearing the fan when you are running a simple program, watching a movie on Netflix, or using built-in features like the calculator, is a surefire sign that it’s time to consider your next computer.

The most frustrating sign: slow, sluggish loading times

If you’ve had your computer for a while, it’s possible that it could be running more slowly due to a higher than average volume of downloads, or to running programs in the background that you may not even be aware of. First, if your computer is running slow, do a quick self-check: are there any applications or programs that you may be ready to delete? Consider whether or not you have restarted your computer recently, to allow it to breathe. Still coming up dry? Micro Center offers software support, which can help diagnose any underlying issues. Otherwise, this is a sign that it is time to replace your computer.

If you are concerned about hearing this, because your computer is on the newer side, or perhaps because you just love your computer as is, and aren’t particularly keen on the idea of searching for another one, consider an SSD upgrade. Using flash-based memory, SSD drives are significantly quicker than hard drives, and upgrading them can come at the fraction of the cost of replacing your entire computer.

The second most common upgrade that users pursue for sluggish loading times is upgrading the RAM. Since RAM is what your computer uses to run applications, it can be a critical fix for programs running more slowly and overall machine sluggishness. 

Not just for gamers: graphics cards

If you’re experiencing a lot of screen glitches or strange artifacts (dots or lines that show up on your screen for seemingly no reason), then your graphics card might be on its way out. In a lot of cases, a caput graphics card is a great reason to replace your computer. 

However, for gamers or designers, who often have more involved, custom-built machines, it may be worth considering a graphics card replacement. In most cases, graphics cards can be replaced relatively simply and efficiently by investing in a more powerful graphics card. Be sure to remember that high-performance graphics cards are often bulkier than their lower-performing counterparts, so it is essential to check both technical and logistical compatibility prior to making a purchase.

Replacing a graphics card is probably one of the easiest upgrades that we’ve listed so far. Simply power off your computer, open the side panel, unscrew your graphics card, and fully detach it from anything else in your system. To install the new one, place the card in the slot and hold it down gently until you feel it click into place. Rescrew the GPU and startup your computer–from there, things should be good as new! 

Another concerning problem: program crashes

Nothing is worse than getting a thousand words deep into a paper (probably due the next morning, if we’re counting on my own experiences), only to have the program you are working in fold on you, with no backup to be found. While one program crashing in and of itself may be an issue with the application you are using, a computer that keeps crashing is frustrating and demands a solution.

Before you go rushing out to the computer parts store, try checking the Reliability Monitor in the Control Panel. Look for a history of crashes over time. Further sleuthing may indicate what exactly caused your computer to crash. 

After checking this and running cleanup on your computer, check out some of the solutions offered for a slow-running computer. Oftentimes, these two symptoms share similar solutions and can be remedied with relatively affordable fixes.

The literal blue screen of death

The blue screen of death, otherwise known as a BSOD crash, is a stop error that causes your device to stop and shut down unexpectedly. These can happen for a few common reasons, like you’ve installed a new driver, or encountered a virus, or even run out of memory on your computer. When dealing with this frustrating symptom, look up your exact error code and select the appropriate fix based on that.

Ideally, those steps give you the option you were looking for. However, if they don’t, consider an upgrade based on the type of problem. Insufficient memory space? Explore a new memory card. Insufficient drivers? Begin with uninstalling and installing, but replace if needed. 

But wait… is it time to upgrade or replace my computer?

The first decision you really need to make here is whether or not an upgrade is in order at all. Are the errors you are experiencing due to faulty or outdated equipment, or do you simply need to implement a routine cleanup of your device?

If you are experiencing errors that cannot be simply fixed, then it’s time to decide whether to upgrade or replace. If you built your own computer, then it’s likely that the answer is to upgrade. The vast majority of your custom-selected pieces are meant to be reusable, and unless you are just dying for a change, you can carry a lot of them over to an upgraded computer. 

If you didn’t build your computer, and you do ultimately decide to replace, then building might be a worthwhile investment for you. A self-built desktop with upgrades can last up to fifteen years, which dramatically surpasses anything that you can buy and run straight out of the box. While it may seem like a labor-intensive option upfront, it is truly a labor of love that will pay you dividends throughout the life of your machine. 

The first decision-making step in preparing for your upgrade is determining what pieces, exactly, need updating. Hopefully, the guide above offers you some helpful tips to guide your diagnostics! Determine whether or not the piece you’d like to upgrade is dependent on other components in your machine. It might be, and that’s okay–but know how many pieces you need to change, and the cost associated with all of them before you commit. 

After this, consider the age of your current hardware. If you have a six-year-old computer and are going to have to invest time scouring the web for vintage parts, it may not be worth it. Not only will the process be cumbersome, but you’ll likely spend the money just to have time as your enemy again when the components you purchased continue to present as out of date.

What red flags are out there to tell you that it’s likely time to buy a new computer? Well, first of all, any repair having to do with the motherboard is likely going to cost a pretty penny. At that point, a new computer might be the most humane option. Aside from this, if your computer isn’t aging prettily, consider a new and improved model. If your peripherals are out of date, nix it–nobody needs to worry about an old CD/ROM drive getting in the way. 

Likewise, if adding new hardware to your computer still won’t let you run the programs you need, then the answer here seems to be pretty apparent. Go with Ockham’s Razor here: the simplest answer is often the correct one. With eighteen-minute in-store pickup options and helpful in-store associates, your local Micro Center is invested in helping you make the choice that is ideal for your budget and your use case.

And if you’re concerned about installing your upgrades or even building from scratch, Micro Center offers a wide range of maintenance and installation services, as well as custom PC build services!

More from the Micro Center Community:

Looking for more information about Building a PC? We’ve got PC Build Guides as well as articles on How to Choose Parts for you Custom PC BuildProduct Reviews, Part Comparisons, and even a How To Upgrade your Desktop PC guide! And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to post a new discussion and the Community will be happy to help!

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