Clients regularly ask me when they should upgrade their computers. Most businesses upgrade desktop computers every 4-6 years and laptops every 2-4 years. But how often should you upgrade? Here are some factors to consider:
- Computer Release Cycles. It is typically best to buy a new computer model early after it is released. This can give you the latest technology and a longer product life. If a new model is just around the corner and you aren’t in dire need, consider waiting.
- CPUs. The Central Processing Unit is a key component and is usually made by Intel. A new model will often be released to coincide with the latest intel CPUs (and associated motherboard, RAM, etc). Buying the latest CPUs can mean that the computer will typically allow operating system updates for a longer period.
- Hard Drive (HD) versus Solid State Drive (SSD). I strongly recommend SSDs over traditional hard drives. SSDs do not have a spinning platter. They’re more energy efficient and super fast. Many people will find this gives the greatest perceptible difference in speed. Most new computers and all new Macs have an option for an SSD or a hybrid option that uses both an SSD and HD for improved performance (Apple refers to this hybrid option as a Fusion drive).
- Usage. Heavy computer users such as graphics designers and developers will find it more useful to upgrade quickly than people who mainly edit documents and use a web browser. Consider if the efficiency of your work would improve enough to warrant an upgrade.
- Hassle. Upgrading, especially on PCs can be annoying and take a great deal of time to configure the computer as you like. Macs are easier to upgrade, especially if you have an Apple store nearby. They will upgrade you for free and move over all your files.
- PC or Mac. A sad situation that I regularly see is a PC user upgrading after their computer has been infected by a virus. This makes some sense. If the computer has been compromised and is already a few years old, it could be considered “totaled” if the money and time spent on wiping the computer and reinstalling the operating system would be better spent on a new machine. Because of this, I often recommend that people consider Apple computers (Macs) if their needs don’t include Windows specific software. Macs in my experience don’t get viruses, don’t need additional antivirus software, and tend to have higher quality parts that last longer than the typical PC. Because of these factors, Macs have a lower total cost of ownership in my experience, despite having a higher initial cost.
- Security. If you have a Windows 95/98/XP PC or a Mac that is around 8 years old, you should consider an upgrade for security reasons. If your computer can’t upgrade to the latest operating system or latest web browser, then it won’t have the latest security patches and could be vulnerable to attacks.
- Deals. PC deals come and go all the time from Dell and others. Apple has one sale a year on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. Apple does offer Education and Refurbished deals. Some Apple resellers offer minor deals, especially on older products.
Another great tool for people who don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10:
Never 10 by Steve Gibson
If you like running Windows 7 or 8, you unfortunately need a utility like this to stop Microsoft from nagging you or automatically upgrading without your permission.
Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 hard. If you don’t upgrade, you get barraged with notifications and some people even report that Windows 10 is being installed without their permission.
If you don’t want Windows 10, there’s a neat Github project that stops the Windows 10 reminders, aptly called “I Don’t Want Windows 10”:
Windows 10 offers some improvements, but it’s not necessary for many folks. If you’re happy enough with Windows 7 or 8 on an old computer, you shouldn’t feel pressured to upgrade. Try “I Don’t Want Windows 10” to stop the pestering messages.
Recently I helped someone with a computer that had out-of-control pop-ups appearing in the web browser. This typically happens when malicious software is installed or automatically added to a computer with other software.
To fix this problem, you need to set up your web browser and computer so that it’s settings don’t allow for these ads to show up. Here are some steps to follow:
- If you are on a PC, go to Add or Remove Programs (go to Start and type Add or) and remove anything that was installed when this activity started. Typically this is software that sounds like Adware. It might have the word “Click” in it or it might be labeled as a download accelerator.
- If you are on a PC, turn on your Firewall (go to Start and type Firewall).
- In your browser, go into settings or options and change the homepage to something safe. Typically a hijacked browser will be sent to an ad page or search page where they make money on your searches. Instead, set your homepage to your favorite search engine (google, yahoo, etc) or a new page that you frequent.
- In your browser, go into Extensions and disable and remove any extensions that you do not use. This is where malicious programs will often operate to load up lots of ads.
- Run anti-virus software if you are on a PC. I like the free but very good Microsoft Security Essentials in you have Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. Windows 8 should have built-in protection, as do Macs.
There are paid anti-virus programs such as Kapersky which will look for malware or adware that can cause this issue. Consider this only if you can’t control the issue on your own. Typically, this isn’t necessary if you take the above steps.
If your browser does not have these problems and the sites you visit just have a lot of pop-ups, consider adding an anti-pop-up extension to your browser. There are several good options.
If you are still having problems within your browser, you can also install another browser. On a PC today, I think Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox are pretty good. In the past, IE was terrible, but they’ve improved a lot with some competition.
Given that Microsoft is no longer providing security patches to Windows XP, many users have a choice on what to do with these old computers:
1) Upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8. Download the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft to see if your computer can run Windows 7. If it does, you can consider this option.
2) Get a new computer. Most companies upgrade computers every 4-5 years. If you’re running Windows XP, your computer is at least this old. Therefore, money spent on upgrading the computer might be better spent on a new computer that will have all new and improved components. Hard drives eventually die so it is possible that there may not be much life left in the computer.
3) Just keep running XP. While some security analysts are afraid of unknown future attacks that could be coming to XP, other security experts say that this is vastly overblown. The majority of attacks lately have been against applications (Java, Flash, Acrobat) that run on the operating system, not the operating system itself. Take some precautions with this approach. Make sure Windows Firewall is enabled. Run anti-virus software. Because Microsoft isn’t patching Internet Explorer on XP, use a non-IE browser such as Firefox or Chrome. Think about what you use the computer for. If your job depends on the computer, continuing to use XP is more risky than if you are just using it as a kids play computer.