Which makes more sense? Upgrade or replace?

Upgrade My Computer or Buy a New One?

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Upgrade My Computer or Buy a New One?

Do you have any frugal computer-smart readers who can give me some unbiased computer advice? I have a seven-year-old laptop that runs very slowly. It does not have any viruses. It looks like it simply needs to be upgraded. I called a computer repair shop, and of course, they recommend an upgrade. I am not completely sure what that entails. It looks like it could be a few hundred dollars. Of course, if I go to a place that sells computers, their recommendation is to buy a new one. And it looks like I can get a new computer for not much more than the upgrade. I am trying to decide if it would be more cost effective to have the computer upgraded or simply buy a new one. Will the upgrade take me another number of years or will I end up having to buy a new one in a few years anyway? I know computers are much cheaper now than they were back when I bought mine, but I hate to think that computers have become a throw-away item. Any advice?

What's the Operating System?

It depends on what operating system you have. If you have Windows XP or Windows Vista, you definitely should put your money into a new or newer computer. XP and Vista is no longer being updated by other programs, and XP is no longer updated by Microsoft. Vista is soon to follow. It also depends on what you use your computer for. If it is just to play games and send email, then you might want to upgrade what you have, if it is newer than the aforementioned. Currently, Windows 10 is the program on the average Microsoft programmed computer, although it will probably be replaced by a newer version soon, if history is any indicator.

If you have an Apple computer, I can't offer you any advice, since I have always used Windows.

Buy New

After seven years, your system needs a lot of help. Unless you go for the super-expensive models, I'd suggest it would be better (and cheaper) to buy new. Most regular PCs and laptops go for $300 to $600 these days, so it isn't very prohibitive. I replace my PC every five years as a rule of thumb. If it's in halfway decent shape, I'll do the basic repairs and put the old one in a closet as a spare for whenever the current one has to go in the shop.

Cheaper Upgrade

Call the high school or community college and see if there are students who could do the upgrade or help you in some way. When it comes to technology, before I do anything, I ask a 15 year old.

Know Your Options

A seven-year-old laptop has probably reached the end of its useful life. The only upgrade option (other than OS) for the majority of laptops is to increase RAM. RAM is probably the one inexpensive addition to any computer system. Currently, your laptop should have no less than 2gb of RAM (ideally 4gb) to adequately manage any modern OS.

However, a HDD wipe and OS reinstall may be all that's necessary to re-energize the laptop. Most likely, over that past seven years, your laptop has accumulated quite a few unnecessary files, drivers, dlls, junk files, etc. Before a HDD wipe and reinstall, I would use a product like CCleaner or Glary Utilities to clean out these items and then apply a 'registry' cleaner. Next, use a good HDD defragmenter. Windows contains an adequate defragmenter.

If the aforementioned products do not adequately improve the laptop's performance, proceed with HDD wipe and reinstall. At seven years of age, the OS is hopefully Windows 7 and eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 10 after Windows 7 reinstallation. As a word of caution, Windows 10 will run on 1gb of RAM, but just barely. Upgrade RAM to the laptops capacity before upgrading OS to Windows 10.

Hope this helps. Without more specific information on the laptop and its performance, this is probably the best options available.

Software Upgrade May Be Adequate

It depends on what is meant by a computer "upgrade." If the computer is running slowly, the first thing I would do is probably a fresh install of the operating system. An "upgrade" on that would probably be a newer version and the purchase of that newer version is probably the bulk of the upgrade cost. If the computer's hardware is in good shape and still adequate for your needs, then this software upgrade is adequate to extend the computer's life for a number of years.

The biggest thing to remember about buying a new computer is that you will get the latest operating system (Windows 10 if it is a Windows computer). You will need to learn how to use it and it will be very different from what is on a seven-year-old computer. Some of your software may not run on it. That is the biggest risk, but it is a risk that will have to be taken someday when you do eventually buy a new computer.
Jo Etta

What Do You Use Your Computer For?

It honestly depends on what you use the computer for and in what ways is it slow.

If you are like most people and use it just for email and surfing the internet and maybe some word processing, etc., upgrading memory might be a good option especially since upgrading memory is a fairly inexpensive thing to do these days.

If you are a heavy user and need the speed from your computer, then it would be worth investing in a new computer. I know I have seen laptops for as low as $300 that would probably have more features than you need, but would be more up to date and faster.

I would look up your computer specs online and check the maximum memory it can hold/use and compare it to what you have now. If you have 1gb of memory and the laptop can be expanded to 4 or even 8gb, then that would be the most logical course of action as that is an easy thing for you to do yourself. Also, you will find out through the specs exactly what you need, so you can price the memory sticks from various sources.

If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself, ask friends/family if any of them are tech savvy and see if they can assist instead of paying a store that may or may not know what they are doing.

Install a Linux Operating System

My 14-year-old son just installed a free Linux operating system. He researched the different Linux systems online and downloaded it, replacing the old Windows system the laptop had. The Linux system took up much less space and he can still do the same things with the laptop he did before. He did this all himself. If I were trying to keep an old computer going, I'd switch to a Linux operating system because of the space issues. The hardest thing he had to do was decide which Linux operating system he wanted. He found sites that compare them very useful.

An Over-Burdened Hard Drive Runs Slow

I did website design for several years, and one of the main reasons a computer runs slow is the hard drive is getting full. Hard drives have moving parts, and when moving parts get over-burdened, they slow down. Try transferring files you don't use a lot from your main drive (in most computers, that's the C drive) to an external hard drive, to another drive (some computers have an empty D drive just for this purpose), to a thumb drive, etc. and see if that doesn't make your computer work faster. (I transferred three years' worth of saved documents to the D drive and it really made a difference.) It can also prevent a dreaded "crash," and if that happens, you might as well get a new hard drive or a new computer. You can always find out how much room you can free up on your hard drive by using free built-in programs like disk clean-up and disk defragmentation, and you can also download free or low-cost programs to do these tasks, but make sure you download them directly from the developer's site. "Google" them to see user reviews to determine which ones are the most reliable and will work with your computer. Also, check your anti-virus program. If you have downloaded more than one, they may be "fighting" each other and that can really slow down your computer. Keep the one you feel does the best job. Plus, see if your internet provider has a way for you to test your computer's upload and download speeds. It could be those speeds have decreased over the years. Something else to try is removing multiple desktop icons and also reducing the number of programs that automatically begin running when you start your computer.
The Baroness In Oregon

Clean It Up

Make sure you delete any unused programs, files, etc. Empty all of your history and trash. There are directions on the internet on how to make your computer run faster. We have an old one too, and every so often, I do this.

Computers Are Limited

CCleaner and Malwarebytes are both free programs that can help clean up your computer. Run those first. You will need to run the first two sections of CCleaner. Remove programs you don't use. Go through the downloads folder and clean it up. If it is still running slow, then you might be able to get away with just a hard drive and maybe memory upgrades. Solid state drives (ssd) run faster. You can buy a smaller ssd and still run faster. With that being said, computers are limited. Apple is about the only brand that lasts a long time. I know of ten-year-old Macs that are running just fine.

Reviewed June 2017

Take the Next Step:

  • See if you have a tech savvy friend or family member who could lend their assistance.
  • Looking for a new computer? Check sale prices at Amazon.com.
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