When Is It Time To Buy A New PC?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 10/06/20 •  16 min read

PC’s have been around for years, but how do you know when it’s time to let it go and buy a new one? Is there anything you can do to breathe life into your PC to make it feel knew again?

I am going to ask you 9 pointed questions that if answered honestly, will almost certainly save you money. If after having read this article, you are still not able to squeeze life out of your current PC, I’ll show you how you can sell it for the most money.

What Brought This On?

If you are asking the question, “When is it time to buy a new PC?”, there must be a reason why you are asking this question.

I completely understand your frustration. But for a moment, I would like you to stop reading this, get a piece of paper, and in one sentence, write down exactly why you want to buy a new PC. We will come back to your reason later, Now don’t skip this step, again, in a little bit we will come back to the sentence that you are are writing down now.

Does Your a Computer Simply Need to Be Cleaned?

More often than not, the “problems” we have with our computers can be solved simply by cleaning the PC. Though there are several things you could do, there are a few things that you can do right now to speed up your computer.

Remove Unnecessary Start-up Programs

Click the START button and type STARTUP and hit the ENTER key. This will open up the following Startup Settings dialog box where you can manage what applications are allowed to run in the background every time you boot up your computer.

Uninstall Any Unused Programs

If you have programs on your computer that you have not used in over 30 days, uninstall them. You can always reinstall them at a later date. By removing these unused programs, you free up disk space, and you will find that your computer may feel snappier, especially on older computers. Of course, the impact will depend on how many programs you uninstall, and how large those programs are.

Completely Format and Reinstall the Operating System

As a last ditch attempt, you can format your computer and reinstall the operating system and all of the programs that you use. This will restore your computer to the factory settings, the way that it was the day you got it. If you have never done this before, or feel very uncomfortable doing this, bring it to a computer store and ask them to do it for you. They will charge you, but it’s less expensive than buying a new computer, by far. But before going to this extreme, let’s read on.

Have You Considered Upgrading Your PC?

There are two things that you can do that will increase the speed of your computer immensely. Increasing the RAM and replacing a traditional hard drive for an SSD drive. These two items alone can have a tremendous impact on how fast your computer will function.

Upgrade the RAM

RAM is a piece of hardware that will make your applications start up faster. It also will help some applications work faster and run far more efficiently. Software packages like Adobe Photoshop, or Adobe’s video editing software, Adobe Premiere both require more RAM for rendering images and videos in a timely manner.

Replace the Hard Drive with an SSD Drive

If you still have a computer that uses a traditional hard drive, after cleaning your PC, the number one thing you can do to substantially speed up your computer is to replace the hard drive with an SSD drive.

An SSD drive does not have moving parts like a mechanical drive does. A mechanical hard drive functions similar to a record player, with a mechanical arm that reads a spinning disk, (I know, I’m dating myself). An SSD drive has no moving parts, like a USB flash drive. Because there are no moving parts, an SSD drive is more durable and will last longer than a mechanical hard drive.

What are you Using the PC for?

How you currently use the computer is a major factor in determining how you will use the computer moving forward. I have broken down 5 types of computer users for you. They are High School Students, College Students, the Gamer, the Family Computer, the Business Computer.

For each group, I have offered ways to extend the life of the computer and offer advice on when you might want to consider purchasing a new one.

High Students

If your High School student is not able to complete their assigned tasks, it just may be time to invest into a new computer. Again, this is highly unlikely, given that High School students really only need internet access, an Office suite, and maybe a printer.

Let’s be honest, your kids are going to tell you that they *need* the latest and greatest computer, one that they can use for all 4 years and maybe even into College. Don’t fall for it.

They do need a computer with at least 8GB of RAM, and you should only buy from a reputable company, such as Apple (technically not a PC, but very popular in schools), Dell, HP, Lenova, Sanyo, Sony, Samsung. My rule of thumb is, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it, regardless of the price.

If you do buy a new computer, don’t let them fool you into thinking that you *need* to buy one every year or two. You don’t. Your 16 year old student probably *needs* a Ferrari too, right?

College Students

College students absolutely need a computer, and not just any computer. They need a laptop. Today students take notes on their laptop computer is class. They take it to the coffee shop, the student lounge, and home during school break. A laptop is not an option, it’s a requirement. This is why many schools will make it part of their tuition.

When you buy a laptop for your college student, invest the money in a good laptop, and definitely do not buy an off brand or “refurbished” unit (unless you are buying a certified refurbished laptop directly from Apple.com).

If the laptop they have right now does not measure up, and will not meet their needs, it just may be time to bite the bullet and invest in one. Keep in mind that they will use their laptop every day, to write papers, do research, and take notes in class, so be sure not to skimp on this investment, as they will be using it for the next four years.

Gaming PC

Gaming PC’s do require top of the line hardware components. New games are constantly coming out that demand more and more from the computer. The rule of theme here is buy what you can afford and be content with it for as long as you can stand it. Eventually, you will need to upgrade the hardware.

On a gaming PC, you will spend your money on a fast processor, phenomenal graphics card, as much RAM as you afford, and certainly a fast SSD drive.

If your Gaming PC just isn’t cutting it anymore, and you have already invested in it by upgrading various components, it just might be time to purchase a new one. It will be expensive, but it should last you a few years until you find yourself in this same predicament again.

The good news is that you can easily sell a gaming PC to an in gamer. You will definitely not make your money back, but you will get something for it. Right now, THE place to sell a computer is on FaceBook Marketplace. Stay away from eBay (they will take 10% of whatever you sell it for), and Craigslist, as nobody really buys anything from Craigslist anymore.

Family Computer

Family computers are notorious for being slow and bogging down. But there is a reason for this, one that can easily be remedied.

A family computer is a computer that each member of the family uses. The problem is that nobody cleans up after themselves. They install a game to play, play it a few times, and never play it again. Meanwhile, it runs in the startup programs every time you start your computer.

Family computers are almost never maintained. So how do you remedy this? Put one person in charge of maintaining the PC, who will uninstall programs that have not been used in over 30 days (there is a way to find this out). This person will also keep an eye on what programs are allowed to run at startup (in the startup folder).

If you have already cleaned up your computer, and have uninstalled programs that you don’t use at least 1 time every 30 days, and you find that the computer is still too slow, you can probably upgrade the hardware components to extend its life, but if not, check out Facebook Marketplace to see if you find a computer that has better hardware specs than you currently have and weigh your options.

Business Computer

Like a college computer, a business computer can’t go down. In other words, your business can’t function without it, so you need to make sure that it is well maintained.

The good news is that your business needs will probably stay the same. You will want a computer that can access the internet, of course, and has an Office Suite, (presumably Microsoft Office, though you can get nearly the same functionality by using OnlyOffice, freely available tat OnlyOffice.com).

Because your business needs will probably not change as often as your computer hardware, you can probably hold onto your business computer for quite some time. Typically, a business computer will only need to do a few things, such as gain access to the internet, print, use software found in an Office suite, and a financial software, but that’s probably it.

The point is that you can probably run this computer until it just dies, which could be for up to 8 years or so. If you are not in the habit of turning the computer off every day after work, be sure to do so on the weekends. Once it dies, buy a new one. Buy something fast because you will probably be using it for the next 8 years or so.

How Old is Your Current PC?

Computers can last a long time these days. There are two factors that determine the longevity of a computer.

  1. How well you maintain the computer.
  2. The hardware component found within the computer itself.

As an example, it’s nothing for a well maintained computer from Apple to last 8 to 10 years. Granted, they are expensive, but they also last a very long time. Why? Because the hardware components found inside an Apple computer are exceptional. They are intentionally designed to last a very long time.

Now, if you were to buy a computer for $300 or so, you almost certainly will have to replace (or at least repair), that computer after a year and a half, maybe two years. Why? Because the hardware components found in such an inexpensive computer are not designed to last a long time.

If you don’t want to buy an Apple computer, you can still find high quality computer components with other PC manufacturers like Dell, HP, Lenova, and a few others I had previously mentioned. Just don’t think that EVERY computer that these companies sell has outstanding hardware components. They don’t. I would definitely be suspicious of anything under $600 (for a Desktop PC).

So, how old is your computer? Was it a bargain basement deal when you bought it? Can you pronounce the brand? Is it on the fritz? If, after having cleaned up the PC, (as discussed at the beginning of this article), you find that it’s just not meeting your needs, it may be time to get a new computer. Only you can make that determination, however.

What are your Software Needs?

Have your software needs changed? Sometimes, people find that they are now using software that requires more system resources than they once needed to be proficient.

I know that it might be tempting to think that your kids are just trying to get a faster computer out of you, (and maybe they are), but software is always getting more powerful, requiring more system resources.

If you find that you are using software applications that are memory intensive, or if you find that it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r to render a video that you are trying to post to YouTube, you may need to either upgrade your hardware or replace your machine.

What are Your Hardware Needs?

The same applies to hardware needs. If you have a computer that just isn’t cutting it, you are going to have to ask yourself if you should upgrade the hardware on your computer or replace it. Generally speaking, upgrading your hardware is less expensive than simply replacing the whole computer, but if your computer is very old, it may not be capable of hardware upgrades that make it worth your while.

For example, if you have a computer that can only be upgraded to 8 GB of RAM, and yet your needs require 16 GB of RAM, well, you have your answer. You will need to replace the computer. However, perhaps your needs don’t require 16 GB of RAM, but instead, your needs can be met by simply replacing the mechanical hard drive with an SSD drive. That just might do the trick, and if so, then you have extended the life of your computer for a while, saving you the cost of a new computer.

Have You Considered Using Linux?

Like Windows and macOS, Linux is also an operating system. Linux is designed to run using very low system resources, and it runs great on older computer hardware, (computers with 4GB of RAM).

Linux is free, which can’t be said of Windows of macOS. The majority of software that runs on Linux, is also free. Gamers love Linux because it is very fast, powerful, and doesn’t have the hiccups that you might find on a Windows computer. It also support Steam, a well known gaming platform.

Linux is an operating system that will definitely extend the life of your computer, again, because it supports old hardware, (as well as new hardware). Installing Linux on an older computer will definitely make it feel snappy.

How to Make the Most Money from Selling Your PC

Don’t be so quick to throw your computer away. Someone just may want what you have. It may not work for your needs, but it may work for the needs of another. So, how can you get the most money out of it?

You can sell it online. But be careful in how you sell it online. I would absolutely stay away from eBay, as they will take 10% of whatever you sell it for, plus, you will have to ship it to the buyer. Craigslist and Letgo are other services that you could use, but they are a little outdated, (hm Hmm Craigslist). So what is the best way to sell your computer?

FaceBook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is the current “hot” place to sell your computer. If you have never sold anything on Facebook Marketplace, it’s very straight forward and easy to do, especially if you have ever posted anything on Facebook before. You simply take a picture of the computer, add a short description, and post it. It will display to people who live near you.

A word of caution. No matter what, never ship the computer, regardless of what they tell you. In fact, whenever I post on Facebook Marketplace, I AlWAYS state in the description, “I will not ship under any circumstances, so don’t ask”. That statement alone removes all of the fraudulent users.

A second word of caution. Never have them come to your house to pick up the package, and never agree to go to their house either. Always find a public place, something convenient to you, not to them. Why? Because the could stand you up, or decide at the last minute that they don’t want it. If they want it, they will meet you at a location of YOUR choice. If they argue, move on, because someone else will meet you at the location of your choice.

Closing Thoughts

At the beginning of this article, I asked do you write down the answer as to why you wanted to buy a new PC. Look at the answer you wrote down. Have I addressed the reason why you wanted to replace your computer? Have any of the solutions I offered helped you find a way to extend the life of your computer?

Is your computer upgradeable? If there are components that you can upgrade, how far into the future will they take you before you find yourself where you are right now? (You can ask a tech person, and they will tell you). If the motherboard on your computer does not allow for upgrades, and it is not serving your needs right now, it’s time to get a new computer.

Take 5 minutes to clean up your PC by removing any unnecessary start-up programs. To further clean up your computer, remove any computer programs that you have not used during the last 30 days, (they can always be reinstalled if needed). Finally, as a last resort, you can format your computer and reinstall the operating system, which will bring your computer back to the way it once was when you first purchased it.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.