When is a computer not worth fixing?

The Question

“Is this computer worth fixing?”  This is one of the most common questions we get and it’s really not an easy one to answer.
 
For example, I have had people bring me a computer to fix, and it is clearly not worth the cost of the repair.   One customer brought in a desktop PC and just wanted our Clean-Up Speed-Up service done.  He was hoping to get a memory upgrade too.  I quickly learned that the memory it had in it was maxed out, and the computer was over 9 years old.  It wasn't worth putting another dollar into and I handed it right back with a discount for a data transfer!

A computer’s value isn't limited to what you pay for it at the checkout.  There’s a value in the effort you put into it that makes it personal.  Of all the appliances and electronics you can buy, a computer is by far the most customizable tool you’ll ever own.  Not only that, but daily we learn about new ways to use our computers and that only increases the value.

Imagine you could buy a car that you could completely customize yourself.  You can add or remove functionality like a musical horn, radar detector or custom wheels.  When you replace the car, the effort you put into those customizations has to be done all over, and if those wheels won’t go on the new car, you have to get new ones.

Value Proposition

“A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced. “ –Wikipedia   How often has a computer met the value proposition for you?  Did the computer exceed that value proposition, and did you feel you really got more than what you paid?

This is obviously a very subjective view but there are some standards we can measure this by.  Did the computer have to be serviced immediately after buying it?  Did you find that you couldn't do something and simply settled on it and gave up or changed the way you did things to conform to the computer’s capability?

This is an important factor when you consider if a computer is worth replacing.  Especially if you had to put a lot of effort into getting your value proposition by repairing it early on or taking some classes to learn how to use it.

Technology Obsolescence

It used to be that about every 2 years we would see a new wave of processor technology and about every 3-4 years we’d see people enjoying blazing speeds of the newest thing next to our poor 3-year old machine plodding along.

These advances are starting to slow down, and while we see some great improvements in speed, they don’t translate into making your web browsing experience a whole lot faster or enable you to type a blog post any more quickly.

If your computer was running slow and you looked at it and saw “Intel Core 2 Duo” or “Quad”, there’s about a decent chance that you just need a little maintenance and the speed will pick right back up.

Processors made from about 2007 on have some great longevity and while there are exceptions, generally speaking, you can enjoy a good 6-7 years out of them.

You might see some incredible bargains right now on computers but believe it or not some of them are actually sold as new with 5-7 year old processor technology in them.  A new computer selling for under $400 should be looked at closely so you don’t buy into obsolescence.  There are some great deals out there, of course, but buyers beware.

The Nitty Gritty

Here’s our evaluation process to help a customer determine if that computer is worth the cost of repair.

Age

Straight up, age is a big consideration.  The hardware requirements needed to run today’s software demand more and more performance that older computers can’t deliver.

Cost of repair – labor vs. parts

Some parts, like hard drives, might require a new installation of Windows to be replaced.  Windows XP is so old and needs so many updates; we could spend over 2 hours getting that computer ready for you.  It might not be worth it (especially since Windows XP will no longer get security updates after April 2014).

Warranty

In our busy world it’s easy to forget we may have purchased an extended warranty.  We check on warranties before we start work because you could have the repair done for free.  Some manufacturers make it easy to check the warranty status, and some even offer reasonable warranty extensions if it has expired.

Computer Tasks

We ask a lot of questions about how our customers use their computers.  There are many factors when it comes to replacement, like if you have a program that only works on Windows XP.  A replacement won’t come with XP so it might be worth keeping.  Additionally, that favorite photo or slide scanner of yours may not be supported for Windows 7 or 8, and the cost of replacing that also needs to be factored in.


Wade Stewart is the Managing Member of Stewart and Son Computer Services, LLC in University Place, WA and serves as a trusted partner to many local small and medium sized businesses. 

You can read more from Wade at Stewart and Son by visiting the following blog sites:
http://stewartandson.wordpress.com/
http://smokingwires.blogspot.com/

Content Copyright Wade Stewart (C) 2013

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