24 February 2007

Computer Lifespan--What's Yours?

On /. I said $400 was "mid-range" for a computer. I was promptly informed that $400 is really cheap. Must be inflation. When did I last get a desktop (leaving the lappy out of this as they have odd pricing)? 2001, I think. I have one from 2002, but home-made aren't counting for this. That HP from 2001 was probably $350. I've heard before that the average computer lifespan is 3 years. Just 3 years? My newest desktop is 5 years old! Here's what I have:

  • Dad's Good Computer
    • 2001
    • Celeron
    • 128mb RAM
    • 20 or 40gb hard drive (I forget)
    • Windows XP
  • Dad's spare
    • 1998
    • Pentium II
    • 192mb RAM
    • 5gb hard drive
    • Windows XP
  • Mom's good computer
    • 2002
    • Celeron 3GHz
    • 784mb RAM
    • 30gb & unused 100gb hard drives
    • Ubuntu 6.10
  • Mom's spare (read: my toy)
    • 2000
    • Celeron
    • 128mb RAM
    • No hard drive or OS

The two computer running Windows are slow. If I add a bit of RAM, they'll be fine though. The Pentium II is always slow, but it works. The newer one is, I guess average usually, but it gets slow if I try to run an AV scan and a spyware scan at the same time. I would love to put Damn Small Linux on the Pentium II. It really could fly with that, but I'm not sure how well my family would handle Fluxbox or how much it would want to "play nice" with the Lexmark printer. I think it'd make a perfectly fine file server for me when the family decides it needs to be retired. I want to keep my computers in use as long as possible. Yes, it's nice to be able to say you have the latest and greatest, but I like being able to claim having a computer that is both old AND functional. I love that using Linux means that a computer like that one could stay in use for another 5 years and not really be terribly slow because of distros like DSL.

So, howabout it? How long do you usually keep your computer? What do you think is the average age at retirement for a computer?


desNotes said...

I usually build a new computer every 3-4 years. I buy the parts over a period of time after picking out the motherboard, RAM and what graphics card I will select. They are usually fairly expensive (around $800) but I use them for work and the older ones are used as file servers, experimental servers, used for building distros, etc.

SheeEttin said...

I have had a grand total of three computers, so I may not be exactly qualified here, but oh well.

This computer here was built for $750ish Autumn 2006, replacing a Compaq Presario (running Windows 98), purchased... somewhere around 2002. That replaced an NEC-built computer, so idea of the date, but it ran Windows 95, so that might give you an idea.

Generally, computers are kept as long as they're useful, for the aforementioned file servers, etc.

Yuriy said...

I don't believe that you got a "midrange" computer for $350 in 2001. These days it's easily possible because there really is no "low end."

I think the average lifespan of a computer as a windows desktop, without upgrading is indeed about 3 years. Even with linux I don't think I could tolerate using your computers ;) My computer started out being about a $400 midrange system (reused parts not included in price) I guess almost 4 years ago. I've been spending $100-$200 on upgrades every year though and I can't really say it's the same computer anymore. I think the only part left of the orginal is the floppy drive, and that came from an HP bought back in 2000. Oh and (of all things) the graphics card is several years old. But that's been in there as a "temporary replacement" for a year.

Mackenzie said...

Maybe I (or my dad) am just really cheap ;) As far as I remember, "over $500 = expensive," but that's also probably why I think System76 are really expensive. Then again, my laptop was $850, and since desktops are usually half the price of laptops, that still does sound about right. Unless, of course, desktop prices have gone up relative to laptop prices. The only upgrades made to the 2000 & 2001 computers was to add cd burners. The Pentium 2 originally had 64mb of RAM and we upgraded it to 192mb a few years ago, also an upgrade from Windows 98 to XP (which in terms of performance, is a downgrade as it is more bloated). I think if I could get a virus scan to run on the Pentium 2 I'd find viruses and then after getting rid of those it'd speed up.

Travis said...

Hm, it depends.

I have..

"That PC I screw around on"
128 MB RAM
Ubuntu 5.10/Xubuntu 5.10
Nearly a decade old now.

"The Family's Good PC"
512 MB RAM
Dualbooting Ubuntu 6.06 & XP
Had it for about two years now, still runs most things I need with very little problems. We actually bought it 1 week after we bought another new PC, because the other new PC's power supply died within a week. Actually, we didn't buy this PC as much as Best Buy allowed us to trade it in.


"Travis' laptop"
512MB RAM (256 originally)
Ubuntu/Kubuntu 6.10
Kind of kicking myself in the head on this one. I bought it used, a Dell Latitude C640 for $540 thinking "dang, that's a good deal!"

Not even a month later at Wal-Mart they're selling Vista-ready laptops for under $500. ): Oh well.. my Latitude has been doing me good.

Anonymous said...

I've still got a Zorba 64k CP/M computer that I paid $1,795 for when I was at graduate school in 1983. Still works fine. Now I just buy the best components I can every 2-3 years. Oldest PC at home now is 9 years old. I'm keeping it to deal with old media, including 5 inch floppies, DAT tapes, Syguest and Iomega disks. And the Zorba reads dozens of old CP/M soft sector formats. Reading old media is one thing that will never succumb to virtualization.

Very impressive blog. Well done.

Mackenzie said...

My first computer ran CP/M-80 and CP/M-86 (8086 & Z80) :) I don't have old media that I need to read, so no use for that (okay no use when I had it because I was too young to read a manpage and my family is computer illiterate).

And thank you :)