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Summary:

Macs retain higher resale values than other PCs, but they don’t last forever. But how do you know when to act? What are the symptoms of impeding Mac death or obsolescence, and when is a good time to consider getting a new one?

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Macs retain higher overall resale values than many other PCs, but they don’t last forever. But how do you know when to act? What are the symptoms of impeding Mac death or obsolescence, and when is a good time to consider replacing an old Mac with a new one?  The following seven points should help you make an educated decision about whether or not to invest in one of the new MacBook Pros unveiled Monday, or any other new Mac for that matter.

1. Will not run OS X Lion (or Snow Leopard). In the past, if you had a Mac running an older version of OS X, you could keep it running for a long time without much issue. But iCloud’s minimum specs have changed that. Your Mac must have an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor to run Lion 10.7.2 which is required to use iCloud on a Mac. If you’re not certain your Mac meets these requirements, you can easily identify exactly what Mac you have and get the specs from there. Users hoping to update to iCloud from MobileMe will need a newer Mac, and those hoping to stay on top of what could become the core of Apple’s business will also want to upgrade.

Not everyone needs the convenience features of iCloud, but you should note that Apple has also stopped releasing security updates for older Macs as well.  To play it safe, you may need to have a Mac that can at least run Snow Leopard.

2. Battery no longer keeps its charge. While certainly not the primary reason to get rid of a MacBook that still works when plugged in, it’s a sign that you may be getting near the end of your machine’s useful life.  Apple does have a battery replacement program, even for MacBooks that do not user-accessible batteries, but the cost of replacing a battery can run anywhere from $130 to $180, and if your battery is past its prime, other system components might be nearing their end, too. It may be time to consider turning that laptop into a desktop, and get a new MacBook.

3. Most-used apps are sluggish. New software tends to get bigger and more demanding with time. With each new update comes a lot more features. These may not be features you need or care about, but sometimes they’re required in order to maintain compatibility with a particular file format. You can always try sliding back to an earlier version to preserver performance, but if apps you use time and time again are making your computer slow or unusable, it’s probably time to look for something new.

4. An iPad outperforms your Mac. It may surprise you to learn that the current iPad 2′s geek bench scores are about as high as the Mac mini G4′s scores from 2005. You could try to clean out your Mac, free up some hard drive space, or even add some memory or a solid state drive to help and improve performance. But at the end of the day, there is a limit to the gains in performance you can squeeze out of older hardware, and the cost of doing so might outweigh the benefit.

5. Difficult-to-replace component has failed. If you’re not comfortable replacing the internal components of you Mac yourself, service prices can become cost-prohibitive when compared to buying a new Mac.  You may also end up being very disappointed following a major upgrade when something else goes wrong, like a hard drive failure.  With MacBooks especially, when one part starts to fail, the rest are likely not too far from failing as well.

6. The Mac you want was just updated. Following the rumors about possible Apple product updates can become more obsession than hobby.  I have looked toward’s MacRumor’s Buyer’s Guide for years now in an effort to track down when a particular product is going to be updated.  The simplest rule to follow, however, is that if you need a new Mac, buy a new Mac. But if your need happens to coincide with a fresh product update, don’t hesitate.

7. You own a PC, but all your mobile devices are Apple. Like works best with like, and that’s particularly true of Apple products. Apple has a great guide to help with the transition from a PC to a Mac.  And with Apple’s Boot Camp, VMware Fusion or Parallels, you can keep on using Windows on a Mac if you like.

  1. Most unhelpful, nothing more than a marketing ploy and an Apple ad!

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  2. Michael W. Perry Monday, October 24, 2011

    My Signs It is Time to Upgrade.

    1. My current Macs are getting so slow, they’re a pain to use. True of my iMac but not of my SSD-equipped MacBook.

    2. Current Macs have all the features needed for the next few years. For my previous desktop/laptop pair, that meant the ‘n’ variety WiFi. This time it means Bluetooth 4.0 and USB 3.0. The lack of the latter is one reason I’m waiting.

    3. The CPU is one likely to be used by Apple for a long time. That’s why I avoided Core Duo for Core 2 Duo and can run Lion. This time I waiting for Sandy Bridge chips to be replaced by Rocky Bridge ones next year. Three or four years out that distinction may matter a lot.

    4. Repairability. I can replace the hard drive in my white iMac. With the current aluminum iMacs I can’t. Hence, I’ll wait for a more fix-friendly iMac or go with next-year’s Mac mini. A plus to Apple if that Mac mini will take desktop hard drives.

    Notice that 3 of my 4 criteria focus on what Apple is now selling. What you’re getting matters more that what you have.

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    1. Even replacing the hard drive in the latest Mac Mini is a challenge for most. And I must agree that investing in a set of heavy duty suction cups, torx screwdrivers and demagnetized tweezers to remove the glass panel and gain access to the hidden internal hard drive on the latest iMacs is way to “Mission Impossible”.

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  3. Reason 2 is laughable. Why? Because I flatten my MacBook Pro Late 2009′s battery twice a day. With the recharge life-cycle indicating that with such use, given your advice, I’d need to get a new MacBook Pro every 6 months. I’m on my 3rd battery, and I think your advice stinks :)

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  4. I was going to replace my Mac pro, but changed my mind when I saw the mess that is Lion. Until that mess is cleared I’ll stick with Snow Leopard and my old pro.

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    1. While the current state of Lion may not be a reason not to upgrade a Mac Pro for most, not having Thunderbold built in would be a better reason. I believe all current Mac Pros will still run OS X Snow Leopard. And if you are not interested in iCloud, at least you will still get security updates on your Mac Pro running Snow Leopard.

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