Q. What are the signs that it is time to replace your computer?
A. Unusual behavior from hardware and software can provide clues. For example, grinding or clunking noises coming from the computer’s internal drive have traditionally been signs that your system was about to go south (or at least needed investigation) and that new equipment might be on the horizon. However, as hardware has gotten more reliable, the software that runs on it can become outdated before the machine’s physical parts give out.
If you are running an operating system released within the past five years or so — but the computer seems slow — try performing the standard maintenance routines for your platform. These tasks include running the built-in Disk Defragmenter and the Disk Cleanup utilities for Windows or making sure your Mac has enough available free space on its drive to work efficiently. Check the support site for your platform for more information.
Keeping your operating system up-to-date is important not only for the newest features, but to get the latest security patches. If your computer’s processor or other components are too old to receive these updates or the manufacturer has ceased official support, you may want to start thinking about getting a new computer.
You can usually get along for a few years with third-party security software, but the newest versions of your preferred programs and games may not work — or run at a snail’s pace on your outdated system. You may also find that adding new hardware peripherals to your computer becomes difficult if your machine lacks the proper connection ports or the manufacturer does not release driver software compatible with your older system.
Getting a new computer is often a considerable investment, not only in money, but in the time it takes to move your files, install any new updated software and adjust to the new operating system. Migration applications for both Windows and Mac computers are available to help ease the transition for upgrading to a newer version of the same system; the support sites for Microsoft and Apple have guides to making a cross-platform move.
When it does come time to leave your old computer, you can recycle it responsibly. Apple, ASUS, Dell and many other manufacturers have electronics take-back programs to recycle old equipment. Check your hardware company’s site for information.
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