When Is It Time to Upgrade?
If you’re like us, you’ve watched “the next new thing” being released by tech companies every year since the iPhone was first released, and before that PC makers and Intel would announce new faster computers and processors every 12-18 months, flooding magazines and television with advertisements promising the great benefits of upgrading.
The more computer magazines you read, it seems the more likely you are to be spending money on new gadgets, and if you’re like us, you’ll have a closet or room full of technology that you can’t get rid of or didn’t have time to learn and setup. Some of us learned the hard way to be more patient with all the new items being announced almost every day.
In the early days, PC makers experimented with planned obsolescence on their mission to guarantee a steady stream of revenue into the future. Planned obsolescence meant that they knew in advance how many years your computer would last or be compatible with the software being sold in stores. The goal was engineering a built-in requirement for you to upgrade every couple years, however, with the right information in hand we can help you save money and evaluate the right time to spend your hard-earned cash.
For some people, the process of upgrading is more complicated because it hasn’t always been easy to copy all of your files, bookmarks, email address books, music and photos to a new computer. Apple made it simple with built-in tool that would assist you once you connected your new and old computers together, but Microsoft has taken a while because of their file structure and Registry. Migrating a PC still often requires hiring a consultant or your local computer shop to make sure it’s done right. This is where the costs skyrocket.
Usually one of the most obvious benefits to upgrading your computer is the anticipated performance boost of a faster processor, hard drive or more memory. If your old computer is unbearably slow this is a driving factor for an upgrade, but has your computer always been slow or is their something contributing to the performance decrease?
Usually computers are slowed down because of the amount of content stored, settings that have been changed over time, software installed, spyware or virus infections, or a failing component. In many cases these can be easily diagnosed and corrected by an experienced pc consultant.
Usually we begin by checking the free hard drive space, looking for programs running in the background that aren’t necessary, and cleaning the computer of spyware and outdated system files. In some cases event the tools that are supposed to speed up your computer end up slowing it down. Once we’ve done the basics, if those haven’t worked, we’ll look at the hardware components like driver support, hard drive performance and performing diagnostics like memory checks.
It’s not uncommon for hard drives to slow down after a couple years of usage, but replacing a hard drive is very easy and shouldn’t be a reason for replacing the entire computer. Solid State Drives are a great upgrade to older hard drives because they don’t have any moving parts and can access the entire memory almost instantly. They tend to be more reliable but with purchase prices lowering, these are a great improvement for an older computer. In some cases solid state drives are 10x the speed of their older counterparts.
The reason we would upgrade a hard drive before replacing a computer is easy to understand, we can clone the old hard drive much easier that migrating all your files and settings. We have specialized software and hardware that can perfectly upgrade a hard drive, but there’s no software or hardware that can perfectly migrate you to a new system. Even on Apple computers we’ve encountered issues with incompatible software during the upgrade.
The biggest challenge with migrating a computer is the inevitable change in operating systems. For example, upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 10, there’s no clear path for the settings or software. Often times software has to be reloaded from scratch, and you need the original installation media (CD, DVD, etc.) and the serial numbers for activation. If the software isn’t compatible with the new operating system, which is a frequent problem upgrading from older computers, then you need to purchase the newest version. Learning the newer versions of the software can also be a big challenge for some people.
One of the best arguments for upgrading has been staying current with the latest changes in software, but remember the planned obsolescence and ask yourself if the benefits of the upgrade are worth the cost and hassles involved, or can you just update your existing system?
It seems that the capacity and speed of computers is doubling almost every 18 months. That has been something we can always count on as computer consultants, but what does it mean for our customers? It’s not easily understood because of the software that we use.
Microsoft and Apple have often consumed any speed improvements with newly added features in their operating systems. Rather than asking the customer what they’d like, the systems would be bloated with features that many people didn’t want, and in some cases the speed and capacity increases are negated by these changes.
If you’re running out of space you can easily upgrade the storage and memory on a computer if it’s 2 to 3 years old. You can also free up some hard drive space by utilizing cloud storage services like Dropbox for a small monthly fee if you have a quick internet connection. Apple offers photo streaming technology to store your photos in iCloud and Google Drive offers similar services as well. Although some people don’t want to pay or are concerned with security of these services, they are a great way to offset your storage capacity and extend the life of your computer. Plus, in the case of a hardware failure, your photos and files would be safe.
In terms of protecting your data and privacy, newer computers contain the latest software which should provide better security, however you can have the same security if you are running an Windows 7 or newer.
The most important policy regarding security is keeping your software and firmware updated. Recent surveys over the past year or two indicate that keeping your software updating is more important than relying on state of the art antivirus solutions. I’m not saying you don’t need antivirus software, but if you are diligent with your updates, you could opt for some free solutions like Qihoo 360, Malwarebytes and Ccleaner.
It’s important to follow basic security practices such as avoiding emails from unknown senders, don’t click on suspicious links or attachments, and when in doubt don’t. You can always text or call family and friends to confirm they sent you something if it looks suspect.
Practicing safe browsing habits are just as critical, not clicking on tabloid style advertisements and links on websites, and only visiting sites that you know you can trust. You can install browser plugins to help protect you as well, we find Ad Blocker Plus and No Script to be valuable plugins.
These tips are based on years of servicing customers and saving them thousands of dollars. In some cases older computers are better used for specific roles and can last even longer. For example, if you only use the computer for bookkeeping and you’re running Quickbooks 2015, there’s no reason to upgrade unless you actually need features that are missing. Carefully evaluate your needs and what you expect to use your devices for. In some cases and iPad is better suited and more secure for accessing the internet. Make sure that you are using your devices for what they are best meant for and not trying to make them do something that’s better suited for another device you may already have. With a little bit of attention and maintenance your computers can run for many more years without replacement.