Whether you use a PC or a laptop, sooner or later you will need to upgrade your computer system because it can slow down over time. Unfortunately, you can only increase the amount of RAM so much and re-installing OS every 3 months eventually becomes a tedious task. When is the right time to upgrade your computer system? Some people like to upgrade their computers every year just so they can have the greatest and the latest; some people like to hold onto their computers as long as possible. While having the greatest and the latest is great, it is not the best practice for your bank account. I would love to have the latest Apple MacBook Pro with all the upgrade options but I understand this is my want and not my need. On the other hand, if you fall asleep in front of your computer because your computer takes 15 minutes to boot up then another 5 minute to load up Google home page, perhaps this is a sign that you need to upgrade your computer.
Just when it the right time to upgrade your computer?
This answer will be different for each individual. For me I have been evaluating my decision based on quantitative analysis. I will only upgrade my computer if the new computer will at least double my productivity. This is a very general statement so let me explain a bit.
For example I regularly use Lightroom and Photoshop to edit pictures for my part time photography business. When I first got my MacBook Pro ~6 years ago, editing pictures in Lightroom and Photoshop was very quick. The MacBook Pro was able to keep up and I was able to switch between Lightroom and Photoshop flawlessly. Life was good. About 2 year ago I upgraded my camera from a 12 megapixels DLSR to a 23 megapixel DLSR. The file size of each picture doubled itself, going from 15 MB to almost 30 MB. Because of this, both Lightroom and Photoshop required more RAM and CPU power to process each picture. Lightroom and Photoshop still worked fine but I was beginning to notice some slowdowns. The slowdown was especially noticeable when I used Photoshop to edit RAW files in TIFF format because the file size would run up to 1 GB or more.When I try to apply specific filters on a picture, sometimes I would get an endless spinning rainbow wheel of death, causing me to fall asleep in front of the computer. Not only was this frustrating, this also meant that I was spending more time than needed to edit my pictures. After an 8 hour wedding session and thousands of pictures, having a slow computer was increasing time needed to go through the pictures and edit them.
Now let’s assume photography is my main source of income, and this reduction in productivity means a reduction in my hourly pay. Let’s consider a scenario and put this into a quantitative perspective.
Assuming a photography job is paying me $1,000. The shoot itself takes 5 hours and the editing takes another 5 hours. $1,000 divide by 10 hours means my hourly pay would be $100 per hour. Now imagine I have a slow computer, so photo editing now takes twice as long. All of a sudden I'm only getting paid $67 per hour. To make matter worse, because I had to spend extra 5 hours in front of the computer, this means I couldn't take on another $1,000 job that would take 5 hours to shoot. The opportunity cost begins to add up and compounds itself very quickly, especially when multiple photography jobs are involved.
In this simple scenario, it would be a good idea to spend the money and upgrade my computer system to improve my productivity. Not only would it reduce the amount of frustration, it would also improve my photography business. It's a win-win situation.
If you’re not using a personal computer for a job, you need to determine what do you use the computer for mostly. If a particular activity is taking twice as long as before on your computer, it is probably time to consider upgrading your computer.
Another thing to consider when it comes to purchasing a computer system is the long term cost. You can get a laptop for as cheap as $200 nowadays, but cheap doesn't mean good quality. As mentioned, frugality means buying quality items, not cheap items. Buying a cheap laptop may save you a few dollars in the short run but it may not last as long. You may end up having to replace the laptop a few times and the cost will add up over time. In my field of work I've ran long term stability tests on some low quality laptops. They typically do not last all that long, therefore I, myself, would not touch them with a ten foot stick.
Ultimately it's your decision on what is the most important thing to you. If you simply cannot spend that extra $100 on a PC or laptop, perhaps you need to set your expectations correctly. Don't set unrealistic expectations by expecting the cheaper laptop to last 10 years without breaking down.
Do you consider other things before upgrading your PC or laptop?