How Long Do Computers Last?

And how often should you place it?

This article explains how long computers generally last and if there are differences in life expectancy between different kinds of computers, and when is a good time to upgrade or replace one.

A computer does not have an expiration date like food, so even if your computer is ancient, if it still works and you can use it to do what you want with it, well, then you have a perfectly fine computer. The following are general guidelines, but if you take care of your computer and even upgrade it once in a while, it can last for quite a time.

How Often Should You Replace Your Computer?

There is no absolute rule of thumb when it comes to replacing a computer. It's due to the fact computers are built very differently and sometimes for certain, specific tasks. Also, how well you take care of your computer can play a role in how long it lasts.

If you find your computer is too slow or its standard features no longer work, and you cannot upgrade your computer to solve the problem, it's likely the end of the line for your computer. That can be in as little as two years if you end up doing more advanced work than when you first bought it or 15 years if it's doing basic bookkeeping in a small store or office.

However, it's more likely that you'll get to a point where the upgrades necessary to get your computer to a state you're happy with will be more expensive or as expensive than simply replacing it.

For example, if you have an old CPU that needs upgrading, but that would also require you to replace your RAM and your motherboard. Since that's already a large portion of the computer, it might cost less to buy a whole new one.

Do Desktops Last Longer Than Laptops?

Most of the time, yes, they will. Laptops are much smaller and denser than a desktop computer, and as a result, there's less space for cooling and heat dissipation. Thus your components will, on average, run hotter than they will on a desktop, which means a shorter lifespan.

Laptops are also more difficult to upgrade than desktop computers. Laptops are often impossible to upgrade because it's challenging to take them apart and put them back together. Also, many laptops have custom parts that you can't replace with ones off the shelf.

It isn't a hard and fast rule. A laptop can last for 20 years, and a desktop can fail after only a couple of years. However, given what we talked about above, the tendency is very much that a laptop will have a shorter life than an equivalent desktop. Though, what you use your laptop for and how well you take care of it can massively change a laptop's lifespan.

What Is Considered an Old Computer?

Most of the time, if a friend or loved says they have an old computer, they most likely mean the computer doesn't work as well as it used to, not that it's a genuinely ancient 20-year-old beast.

Computer parts don't have shelf lives in the sense that after a certain number of years, like smartphone batteries, they will work less efficiently and perform worse.

Outside of genuinely ancient devices that are decades old and can't do many things a modern computer can do, whether your computer is old or not is hardly a technical label. Calling a computer old is only helpful in describing how well a computer works in relation to when you purchased it.

Making sure your drives aren't fragmented, keeping enough free space to install new applications, physically cleaning your computer regularly, replacing parts that break, and upgrading parts will massively extend a computer's life.

Before you toss your computer, consider upcycling your computer. Someone else might be delighted with its performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do gaming computers last? Like general-use desktops, there’s no fixed answer about gaming computer lifespans. It’s possible to optimize your PC for gaming with hardware upgrades that keep it running efficiently for several years or longer. Outdated graphics cards, drivers, and system requirements can limit the longevity of gaming computers. 
  • How long do computer power supplies last? Computer power supplies should last a while. If you need to replace your computer's power supply unit (PSU), choose a model that delivers power supply wattage that your computer can handle. The product warranty is another helpful clue about how long it will last.
Was this page helpful?