Five Warning Signs It’s Time To Replace An Office Desktop or Laptop

There are a variety of reasons organizations keep computers longer than they should. Small businesses–in which resources often are particularly tight–routinely retain systems longer to maximize the corresponding desktop or laptop investment. Statistics collected by Intel, however, confirm keeping computers too long proves more expensive than replacing desktops and laptops more often. 

For example, Intel cites a J. Gold Associates study that found 43 percent of PCs older than five years malfunctioned annually. Even more concerning, the study found using older computers can cost businesses up to $17,000 a year per employee due to downtime, repairs and lost productivity, among other issues. 

While it’s best for businesses to avoid such problems by adopting hardware replacement programs that prevent aging computers from posing such trouble, that’s not always possible. This is especially true when smaller firms are trying to modernize their computers and get back on track maintaining reasonable hardware lifecycles. Regardless of where a small business falls on that continuum, here are five warning signs a desktop or laptop computer has run its course and should be replaced sooner than later. 

1. Age

If the desktop or laptop is five years or older, it’s time to replace the system. Too many age-related disadvantages combine to render such systems a liability. Hardware limitations often prevent enabling more contemporary cybersecurity protections, such as newer full-disk encryption technologies. Incompatibilities with server-based administration tools and solutions are often another drawback making older systems problematic on business networks. Laptop users, meanwhile, typically find old batteries incapable of powering the computer for long when traveling or working within conference rooms and from mobile locations. Old client machines also no longer possess hardware warranties, either, meaning component failures introduce unplanned outages, delays in returning the system to operation and expensive repairs. 

2. Noises

Strange noises, including buzzing, clicking, knocking and similar sounds, are almost always a bad sign for a computer. Power supplies, hard drives, cooling fans and other components typically begin generating strange noises when they begin failing. While troubled components may work for a few weeks, once they fail the system may be unable to even start and data could be lost. Rather than spend resources and time replacing noisy components failing at the end of their service lives, it’s best to purchase a new computer, lest another aging component fail soon after the first failure is corrected. 

3. Power Interruptions

Another tell-tale sign a computer is reaching the end of its reasonable service life is when the desktop or laptop intermittently reboots or turns off. Power supplies fail over time, but motherboards–which connect most every component and are not easily or inexpensively replaced–can suffer issues that cause intermittent issues, too. Operating systems can also become corrupt, over time, and prompt abrupt restarts. All of these issues place active documents, spreadsheets and other work at risk of data loss. Worse, abrupt reboots can corrupt hard disk data and software configurations and even prevent a system from restarting. 

4. Insufficient Resources

Old computers present yet another set of problems for businesses. As new apps are released and updates become available for older software programs, not all computers can properly run the new software. Computers with improperly specified or outdated hardware, aging operating systems and limited CPU, memory or even graphical resources might have worked well a few years ago but may no longer prove capable of running newer software. And, as with age-related problems, compatibility issues commonly arise, too. These problems impede employee efficiency and productivity and become more intrusive the longer a problematic system is kept in production. 

5. Slow Performance

As workstations age, it’s common desktops and laptops begin taking longer to start up. The same is true for powering common activities. Installing patches and operating system updates can seemingly take forever. Programs and apps begin loading more slowly. Typically, these performance degradations occur slowly, but they become more pronounced and remarkable over time. Even simple processes and operations, such as loading financial applications or updating database entries, can begin requiring inordinate amounts of time. In such cases, you may be able to offload a two- or three-year-old computer experiencing such trouble to an intern or part-time employee who doesn’t perform as many computer-intensive responsibilities as, say, the office accountant or a manager, whose productivity will benefit due to receiving a newer and more capable machine. 

If you ask a barber whether you need a haircut…

Seasoned technology professionals know the benefits that come with deploying a new workstation. Hosts of age-, compatibility- and performance-related issues are commonly resolved when replacing a legacy system with a newer model. Just as barbers usually believe you need a haircut, if asked, tech pros are quick to recommend new computers, and this is why. Contrary to what some customers may believe, hardware margins are minimal. The fact is most technology professionals are busy. Anything they can do to minimize end user and client frustration and eliminate fire alarms calls–for which older computers are a common trigger–requires little debate. IT pros know what happens when you repair older systems and they’re familiar with the problems that arise when aging computers are left in production too long. Technology professionals, especially veterans, also know from experience how much more smoothly daily activities progress when contemporary computers are in place. It’s for that reason that you’ll rarely find IT pros themselves using equipment too long; replacing systems before they fail leads to less headaches and less expense over time. But you don’t have to take our word for it; the homework’s been done.