May 12, 2020

Computer Repair vs. New Computer: Should I Fix or Buy?

It can be frustrating to try to keep up with the latest and greatest new technology. Everything from cell phones to appliances seem to be out of date as soon as you get them home. When it comes to your computer systems, it can be hard to tell when you need to replace your hardware versus when you can repair (and maybe upgrade) your current machine. How can you tell if you should repair or replace your computer?

Do You Currently Need Computer Repair Services?

If your computers are meeting your business needs for the moment, you have the luxury of a little breathing room to evaluate your techneeds, see what’s available, and budget for new or upgraded equipment over time. If your computers aren’t meeting your company’s needs, either because they are malfunctioning or don’t have the speed, memory, or capability to perform necessary tasks, you must make a more immediate decision to repair or replace them. Consult an experienced IT repair professional to help you evaluate whether it makes sense to implement a temporary computer repair solution while deciding on and budgeting for a complete replacement or whether it would be better to bite the bullet and replace your hardware now.

What’s the Nature of the Problem?

The most obvious factor you’ll consider when deciding whether to repair or replace a computer will often come down to relative dollar cost. But this evaluation isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems. In some cases, it may be possible to work around a problem instead of getting it fixed. While we can’t recommend this for businesses who value “up time” and productivity, for some home users this may be a money-saving consideration.

For example, the screen on your laptop is cracked. It’s impossible to use because you cannot read anything in the display, but the machine is otherwise working fine. Your options may be to repair your laptop by replacing the screen or replace your entire laptop—or you may be able to connect your laptop to an external monitor display and continue using it.

Next, it’s important compare how much it’s going to cost to fix the problem to the computer’s current “market value,” as well as how much it would cost to replace the equipment. Your IT professional should be able to determine all of the above for you and offer these factors for your consideration.

Repairing the aforementioned cracked screen, for example, might cost $200—but if the laptop is only currently worth about $250, then it is borderline whether there is real value in having the computer repaired. You may be able to replace the laptop with a newer model for only a few hundred dollars more. But as we’ll talk about below, there are other “soft costs” that you may not realize need to be factored into the decision to get a new computer.

How Old Is Your Equipment?

The age of your equipment is actually an extremely important factor that many do not give full consideration. Just like cars, which many know will typically last for 150,000 to 250,000 miles until they start to have major issues, a computer has a measurable and predictable lifespan in number of years. Depending on the quality of the computer when originally purchased, this lifespan is between 3 and 7 years. The more expensive your computer was originally, the longer it will typically last. Buying a “business grade” computer instead of a “consumer grade” computer will also lead to a longer lifespan.

So why do computers have a lifespan? Shouldn’t they last until the computer no longer works?

Considering how the above factors affect the lifespan of a computer, we find that the “total cost of ownership” (TCO) often balances out to a similar “per year” cost. An inexpensive $400 computer can be expected to last you 3-5 years, which is about $100 per year. A $600 business-grade computer with the same performance specifications can be expected to last you 5-7 years, which is also about $100 per year. The important difference is that the premium $600 computer will operate better and more reliably during the time of ownership, which equates to more productivity and less frustration—two things that everyone could use!

In the case of our cracked-screen laptop, if it is more than a 3 years old and is a consumer-grade laptop, this is another reason to consider investing in a new, lighter, faster, more functional laptop rather than fixing the old one.


Evaluate the Soft Costs

There are many hidden “soft costs” that you may not realize are involved in buying a new computer vs. repairing.

When evaluating the cost of repair vs. replacement, it’s important to consider not only the cost of labor and hardware but also the ramp-up costs involved with getting a new machine operational.

If you have very little software and data stored on the cracked-screen laptop, virtually no customization, and use mainly software-as-a-service (SaaS, or “cloud-based”) programs, you may lose a minimal amount of productivity by replacing your machine. On the other hand, if you have a lot of data and customized programs installed on your hardware, getting a new machine up and running may cause significant downtime.


Should I Fix or Buy New?

For some people, you may have a lot to consider in making this decision! For others, especially those who’ve taken the leap to “cloud computing,” replacing your computer may be a much simpler choice.