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What is the Lifespan of a Desktop Computer?

written by: Shawn M. J. Mann•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 5/23/2011

How long can you expect your desktop computer to last? Here we discuss this common question and answer how to maximize the lifespan of your desktop PC.

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    How Long Do Desktop Computers Last?

    When you fork out a bunch of money for a new desktop computer, you expect it to last for the long haul, right? The average life span of a desktop computer is about 3-5 years. There are many variables that can reduce the life span though, such as how much you use it and how hard you push it, environmental heat and humidity, dust, and insects. Yes, your computer can really have bugs!

    I have seen instances of people with computers still working after ten to twelve years, that they were still satisfied with. These are pretty rare though, because most people need the new features that technology advances can provide, or additional hardware upgrades to meet performance minimums for the software they add. If you use your system as a word processor and nothing else, yes, you can get a decade of use out of it.

    If you are preparing to purchase a new desktop PC, and don't plan on buying another one for some time, upgradeability is important. You can get long term use from your system, although you may need to replace individual components that may wear out, such as your Hard Disc Drive. Here are some important factors you should look at.

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    Hard drive space - does it have enough HDD storage space to meet your needs? Can you install additional drives for extra storage later?

    Operating System - If you are buying a computer for the long term, you should probably "Bite the bullet" and make the transition from Windows XP to Windows Vista now. Microsoft has extended support for Windows XP for the time being, but with the coming release and standardization of 64-bit technology, they need to push the newer Operating Systems into the market. By purchasing a Vista ready computer, you will ensure that the hardware in the system is going to be compatible with future software and O/S.

    Memory/RAM - For best performance with Windows Vista, you should make sure that there is a minimum of two to three GB of RAM installed in the system, 32-bit Windows does have a limit on how much physical RAM it recognizes. For documentation on this from Microsoft, please visit: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa366778.aspx

    Upgrade Slots - Check to see how many additional slots are available on your motherboard for future upgrades. The more, the better. These include RAM modules, PCI, PCI express, and USB.

    Pitfalls - Purchasing a system with "On-Board" Video, Audio, or LAN might be cheaper up front. However, if any of these fail, you may be looking at a complete motherboard replacement, which can be expensive if not covered by your warranty.

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    To keep your computer in prime condition, be sure to open the chassis on a regular basis, and clear out any dust buildup inside. *Be sure to unplug the power cable first!*

    The best way to do this is with compressed air. You can buy cans of this at almost all computer or office supply stores. Electronics attract dust like a magnet, so the buildup can get pretty bad if you don't maintain it. If you have pets or live in a dusty area, it can build up even faster. If dust clogs up the internal fans, it can cause overheating and thus lower the life span of your processor, motherboard, power supply, and other components. You may also want to remove the RAM modules and blow out any dust in the receptacles, and make sure there is no dust in your USB and other ports. I've seen many computers with dead insects in them, which is never a good sign. If this happens to you, set some bug bait traps near your tower, and keep all food and drink away from your desk. Always check to make sure all internal connections are tight before putting the cover back on your PC.

    To help keep moisture away, make sure your tower is not near a window. Even if the window is closed most of the time, condensation occurs on the glass. If you do have the window open, you risk rain or other water coming in. If you plan to put your computer into storage for any amount of time you should wrap your tower in plastic, and make sure to put it above ground level, in case of flood.

    Last, but not least, if there are thunder or lightning storms, do not just turn off your computer. Make sure it is physically unplugged from the wall. A nearby lightning strike can fry your system even if it is turned off!

    These tips should help you get the maximum life span from your desktop PC hardware. There are also other things you can do to keep your hard drive data healthy that I will not cover in this article, but you can find many other great tips at here at Bright Hub.