When (and why) do you buy a new PC?

One of the effects of the economy taking a tumble is that PC sales have taken a significant hit. Uncertainty and the tightening up of credit lines has made people delay buying new systems and try to squeeze more life out of their old machines. But what drives people to buy a new PC? And, for people tightening their belts, can the cost of a new system be delayed?

One of the effects of the economy taking a tumble is that PC sales have taken a significant hit. Uncertainty and the tightening up of credit lines has made people delay buying new systems and try to squeeze more life out of their old machines. But what drives people to buy a new PC? And, for people tightening their belts, can the cost of a new system be delayed?

I've been involved (directly and indirectly) in the purchase of many PCs and the reasons that drive people to dig out their wallets fall into four broad categories:

  • Broken or obsolete system
  • Slow system
  • Feel like a change
  • Adding a new system to the existing ecosystem

In my experience around 25% of PCs that are replaced could easily have a few extra years squeezed out of them if the owners took the time to clean up the installed junk (and, quite often, accumulated malware or badware) or just reinstall the OS. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen perfectly workable systems replaced, sometimes with systems not much better than the old one. Unless someone has bought at the absolute bottom of the budget end of the market, most people should be able to get a few years of service out of their PCs (although gamers might find it necessary to upgrade the GPU).

Other people hobble their on systems by trying to squeeze a new OS on the system because they have seen some new "must have" feature or believe that they will get a return on their investment. The fact is that these people would be better off spending the money on upgrading the system's hardware instead of the operating system. Same goes for upgrading software suites - if you do spend on software make sure that you are paying for benefits that will actually be of use of you. I've come across too many people who spend a lot of money on upgrading a major bit of software (OS, Microsoft Office, Photoshop ...) only to get little or no benefit from the upgrade, while at the same time taking a productivity hit.

All PCs die eventually (that said, I own some pretty old systems that are still workable), and spending money on upgrades and new systems is inevitable, but throwing away money unnecessarily in this climate doesn't make sense.

When (and why) do you buy a new PC? What steps do you take to get more life from your hardware?