How Long Will My Mac Last?

Are you wondering how long your Mac will last or how frequently you’ll need to replace it? This is a very difficult question to answer, since many factors can affect the durability, longevity and compatibility of a computer. I’ll do my best to provide some concise and useful guidance.

My shortest answer is that many of my clients replace their computer about every 5 years. Some clients who have high-end needs might replace their computer every 3-4 years, and it’s worthwhile for them to migrate to Apple’s latest and fastest hardware more often. I have many clients who have been able to stretch their computers to last 7 years or more.

Often customers will replace their computers because their previous computer’s compatibility or performance is no longer adequate. Macs will typically function for many more than 5 years, but if it breaks after 5 years it’s not always cost-effective to repair. The need to make significant upgrades to a Mac’s hardware can also be cause for replacement. The most common upgrades needed are adding memory, installing a larger hard drive or installing a newer version of Mac OS X. These upgrades can be cost-effective if you are able to do the work yourself. If you have to hire somebody to do the work, the labor charge alone can negate cost-effectiveness.

In recent years, I’ve found that web browser compatibility often drives customers to replace their computer. The two most common uses of a computer are sending emails and viewing web sites. The people who make web sites, like banks, often employ ever newer web site technologies to keep their web sites current and secure. These changes often require ever newer versions of web browsers like Safari, Firefox and Chrome. As these web browsers get upgraded, it becomes necessary for their developers to occasionally drop support for older versions of Mac OS X as well as older or slower processors. For example, Macs using older PowerPC processors like the PowerMac G5 and iMac G5 can no longer run current versions of Safari, Firefox or Chrome. This means users might not be able to properly view or access some web sites. Thus, these computers increasingly will need to be replaced since they are becoming become less and less useful. Interestingly, PowerMac G5 ands iMac G5s were made between 2003 and the end of 2005 and are more then 5 years old, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that they need to be replaced.

I don’t have any specific data to support the following claim, but I think the rate of replacing computers is increasing. I think that customers used to replace their computers less frequently then every 5 years. These days, a new Mac has a minimum cost of about $1000, so it’s not easy for many people to replace their computer that often. With the recent advent of the less expensive tablet computers like the iPad, I find some hope. These devices and their capabilities are rapidly evolving. I think that in the coming years many casual computer users will be able to use an iPad for their email and web browsing needs. Thus, when you next replace your Mac, it is reasonable to consider if the computer could be replaced with an iPad. If you were to need to replace your iPad every 4-5 years, it would be a less expensive proposition.