how long should a computer lastSo your computer is getting old. It’s abysmally slow, certain keys have to be pressed a bit harder for them to work, it won’t run new programs, or it just plain won’t start/stay running all the time. It’s time to get a new system, but you’ve got a lot of questions. I may not have all the answers, but I’ll get you pointed in the right direction.

I often get asked how long a computer should last. Under most conditions, you can expect a new laptop to last three to five years, although ideally, eight years is not uncommon. For desktops, another year or two is the standard. Several factors play into the life of your system, and you can stretch your dollar by following a couple of easy steps.

Let’s start by being honest: a cheap computer is not going to last as long as a moderately-priced model. Most systems run anywhere from $300 to $3,000. That $300 computer will not keep going like the $3,000 unit, or a $1,000 unit for that matter. Bargain-basement models run slower and generally do not have the features of a moderate-priced ($600 to $1,200) system; and since cheaper materials are used in its construction, its life expectancy is on the low end of the spectrum. Three-year lifespans on a $300 computer are rare and buying a cheap computer twice as often as a standard model isn’t getting you the best bang for your buck.

Heat is one of your computer’s greatest enemies, so keeping it in a cooler atmosphere will help your system immensely. However, one of the biggest factors in overheating a unit is an easy one to solve: dust. Dust – especially hair and pet dander – can clog a fan quickly, which can exponentially raise the temperatures inside a computer. Regular use of canned air can go a long way in avoiding overheating. Having the system professionally cleaned at a computer repair center can also clear away junk canned air can’t reach.

It used to be leaving a computer plugged in all the time was bad for the system, especially where laptops were concerned. Today, with more energy-efficient systems and “sleep mode,” that’s not necessarily the case. The amount of usage plays into this. If you use your computer daily, turning it off can actually be more harmful to the system than leaving it on. Putting your computer into sleep mode is a much better move than turning it off. If, however, it can be days between uses of your system, it’s better to turn off your computer, unplugging it if you have a laptop.