WOOF! Newsletter

August 07, 2018

How Often Should You Replace Your Company PCs?

All company PCs need replacing eventually. But when—after they die? Waiting too long can hamper workers’ productivity, and balloon your support costs. Instead, use a simple replacement strategy and save on TCO.

If your PC keeps freezing up, how can you respond to customer needs quickly?

The older a PC gets, the slower and more problematic it becomes. Just like cars, age & use wear them out. The big question is: When should you replace them?

PC replacement is a balancing act between the replacement cost & a PC's productive use. Today's WOOF! will show you how older PCs harm a business' productivity. We'll also share a replacement strategy you can follow to avoid that.

Productivity Declines as PCs Age

Time for some sobering statistics. Employees are 20.82% less productive on PCs that are 5+ years old. Every 5-year-old computer you have costs you $12,495 per year in lost productivity. You lose an average of 42 productive work hours a year on old computer downtime while being repaired…per computer.

These results came from two surveys conducted by Intel, one in April 2014, one in April 2018 across 5 countries.

20% loss of productivity is huge. In some industries that's cause for termination. How does this happen in only 5 years?

A PC's Average Lifespan

The average lifespan of a PC looks like this.

  • Purchase: Brand new! It's so fast!
  • Year 1: Much more productive than I used to be.
  • Year 2: Humming along…just one or two support issues.
  • Year 3: I'm having problems with this. It's definitely gotten slower.
  • Years 4-5: This computer doesn’t want to work. I can't do anything.

This isn't just our own experience. The Intel surveys cited above back this up. They examined desktop and laptop PCs over a 5-year interval.

Over the past 5 years, laptops & tablets have taken over for desktops in the workplace. Does that increase their productive lifespan? No…it actually decreases.

What Happens as a PC Ages?

Every PC slows down with age. (Yes, even Macs.) The software goes out of date, causing poor performance. The PC freezes more frequently. You may suddenly find corruption eating your files.

What causes this though? It's mostly environmental conditions, accidents, and wear from usage.

Some environmental conditions (dust, moisture, impacts, heat) affect the system inside. Burning out connections, clogging fans, shorting out components.

As organizations become increasingly mobile, workers take their laptops & tablets everywhere they go. Using them as frequently as they would a desktop (since these devices are as powerful, or more so, than a desktop). This robust usage wears the device out just like a plumber's monkey wrench.

Because of usage and environment affecting mobile devices so much, we wind up replacing laptops every 3 years, and tablets every 2 years.

Business Problems Older PCs Cause

You'll run into four main problems the older your PC gets.

  • Hampering Productivity. A few seconds per task isn't much…unless it adds up all day, every day.
  • Increasing Support Costs. Component replacement, software fixes, troubleshooting the "I've never seen that before" issue, and so on.
  • Lost Time. Both in waiting for the PC, and in downtime during repair.
  • Lost Business. Yes, slow PCs also cost you business. How many customers will wait while your employee deals with an unresponsive PC? Almost none!

These are the reasons why we always encourage reliable backups. Especially for any system over 3 years old.

Eventually replacement becomes mandatory. But at that point you've already spent much more than the PC's purchase price in support cost and lost time. Instead, use a replacement interval to avoid all that extra cost.

When to Replace Your Company PCs

We recommend replacing PCs every 3 years.

The Intel survey recommends every 5 years, but there's one big reason not to wait that long: Warranties.

Most PC warranties last for 3 years. After that, you'll foot the bill for all support costs. Now, in our experience, most problems develop AFTER the 3-year mark. Which explains why manufacturers have a 3-year warranty, doesn't it?

Think back to the Average Lifespan section. It's in Years 4-5 that the real productivity-losing issues surface. Replacing the PC before those occur avoids all of them…and the productivity loss they generate.

After 3 years, the warranty has run out, and you're looking at growing support costs. Time to replace the PC.

How to Determine if a PC Needs Replacing

Here's how to figure out the best replacement interval for your company's PCs.

  1. Ask yourself, "When did we buy this PC?" Was it more than 3 years ago?
    • You can also track computing assets with Asset Tags and a quick spreadsheet. New PC comes in, it gets an asset tag and a Purchase Date added to the spreadsheet.
    • Rule of Paw: Add a reminder to your calendar too, for 3 years from purchase date. "3 Years —Time to Replace!"
  2. How many support calls has this PC initiated overall? In general, you should replace any PC with more than 5 serious support issues total.

  3. Have support calls increased in the past 6 months? If yes, time to consider replacement.
    • Your IT department or consultants will track support calls for you; you don't have to do it yourself.

A 3-Year Replacement Schedule Saves on TCO

Can your business afford to lose time and money to old PCs?

When asked why they haven't replaced their old PCs, most businesses tell us it's "Lack of budget." While budget is always a valid concern, PC replacement can actually save you more in terms of TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). 

If you must extend the service lifetime of computing devices – you need to ensure that backups of key individuals are appropriate.

Support costs can quickly outstrip the cost of a replacement PC. Factor in the lost productivity, and you're actually saving money on a 3-year PC replacement cycle.

More resources on lifespans and TCO:

Servers – How Old is Too Old?

Why Business-Grade IT Lowers Your TCO

Standardize Your Environment (and Lower Your TCO)


Do you have PCs in need of replacement? Visit our Hardware Procurement page to get started.


Robert Douglas, IT Consulting Team Lead