Update or Replace a Computer

Decision Time – Fix, Update, or Replace Your Computer

Your computer is starting to age and you are wondering what to do about it.  Basically, there are three possibilities:

  • Update the computer hardware and software
  • Upgrade the Operating System to Windows 7
  • Buy a new computer

 Updating Your Current Computer

I use a rule of thumb that the life expectancy of a PC is from 3 to 6 years.  Businesses usually fall in at the lower end and home computers at the upper end of the range.

The components of the computer that are easily updated are:

  • Memory (RAM)
  • Hard drive (storage space)
  • Video Card
  • Monitor
  • Operating System

Each of these upgrades will cost about $100.  Upgrading one or two of these is feasible but doing all of them would add up to $500 or more.  This would be prohibitive since new PCs start around that price.  In that case, your best bet would be to buy a new machine and transfer your data and software.

Upgrading to Windows 7

If your PC is not more than a couple of years old, upgrading to Windows 7 is probably a good idea. However, there are several points to consider.  The new operating system has higher requirements for hardware such as memory (RAM), video adapter, hard disk space, and current external devices like printers and scanners.  Also, older software might not install or run correctly.

If you currently have Vista, this would be an excellent opportunity to inexpensively put any Vista-related problems you may have had behind you.

Microsoft provides an upgrade utility that tells you if your PC can run Windows 7 and what changes you might have to make. You can download the utility at this web site:


For external devices like printers and scanners, it would be wise to check the manufacturer’s web site to see if Windows 7 drivers exist for the equipment.

Windows 7 will directly upgrade from Vista.  If you currently have Windows XP, you will install the new operating system as a fresh installation and not an upgrade.  This means you must install all of your existing software so you will need the original disks to do this.

You can download an Easy Transfer Utility from Microsoft that will transfer your data to an external drive that can then be imported to the new system.  You can download the files at:

32-bit XP – http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=734917d8-0663-4c26-89d0-2d00b632ebdb

64-bit XP – http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=75649781-1e3d-4000-a6ce-638fe694de02

If the current operating system is older than Windows XP, it is highly unlikely that the PC hardware will support an upgrade to Windows 7.  Buying a new PC is your only option.

Buy the New Computer

If the preceding options don’t work in your case, you’ll just have to break down and get that new computer.  You should still check out whether your existing software and equipment such as the monitor, printer, scanner, etc. will be compatible with the new PC.  That way you can budget the total cost of the replacement and avoid any unexpected added expenses.

Hopefully making some of these changes will put some more fun into your computing experience.

About Dick Buchanan

I started working with computers some 25 years ago when my wife, Carol, and I purchased our first PC which was a Kaypro IV CP/M machine. This lead to studying computer science at Seattle Pacific University and becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). During this time I have worked for The Boeing Company, IBM Global Services, and Microsoft. I currently own and operate a local computing services company called Byte Savvy located in Kalispell, MT
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