Should you upgrade or replace hardware?

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Should you upgrade or replace hardware?

A new survey of IT managers has found that opinion is evenly divided, so we look at the pros and cons of each option.

When a desktop or laptop computer starts to seem sluggish, should you make selective upgrades or simply buy a new one?

According to a survey of more than 350 IT managers conducted for memory and solid state drive (SSD) vendor Crucial, 50 percent said they would replace the computer, 47 percent would upgrade, 2 percent didn't know, and 1 percent gave other answers.

Crucial didn't provide any clues about what the ‘other answers’ were, but we suspect it might include measures such as completely reinstalling the operating system and applications, or uninstalling unnecessary software and performing other 'spring cleaning' tasks – and that’s certainly we’d recommend trying before making any purchase.

One interesting survey finding was that “cost effectiveness” was the top reason given for advocating replacement and upgrades. How can that be? We can see both sides to that argument.

On one hand, adding memory and replacing a hard drive with an SSD is a lot cheaper than buying a whole new computer – and depending on the computer, neither are very difficult (see Easily migrate your OS to a new hard drive.) On the other hand, "time is money", the study says, and buying a new computer will save time and it will have a longer useful life.

Our advice is that if money is not a problem, at least to the extent that you can easily justify and afford an immediate replacement, go ahead and buy a new one.

But if the state of your budget means you need to be more parsimonious (been there, done that, got the T-shirt), think about the likely useful life of the upgraded computer. If it delays replacement for at least a year, you can be reasonably confident that the eventual replacement will be better or cheaper than the model you'd buy today, or even both.

Then, if you believe the cost of the upgrade is justifiable in terms of time saved and perhaps more importantly reduced stress, go ahead with it. Otherwise think seriously about putting the cost of the upgrade aside so you can buy a new computer sooner.

One final observation: depending on the age of the computer in question, buying a used but good and fairly recent computer might be an affordable compromise.

With a company fleet, this could be done in a hand-me-down manner, where the person with the most demanding requirements gets the brand new computer and the rest of the fleet is redistributed according to need.

Just remember that the more varied the software requirements of users, the longer it is going to take to set up each computer, so don't forget to include the time required when weighing up your options.

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