How Long Do You Expect Your Macs to Last?

69 Comments

old_mac

How long should a Mac last? Mac360’s Alexis Kayhill posed the question recently, and it got me thinking on the topic, especially since Alexis framed her column around the experience of a co-worker who had purchased a new unibody MacBook (on her recommendation) only to have Apple (s aapl) upgrade the 13″ unibody to Pro status with feature enhancement and a lower price a few months later.

I’m in the same boat, having also bought a unibody MacBook last February. Alexis says her friend “got burned,” though I think that’s a bit harsh. I don’t feel “burned” at all — more like a bit disappointed that I didn’t wait four more months, but you can drive yourself nuts second-guessing such things. I love the MacBook, and am already becoming convinced that it’s going to be one of my all-time favorite Macs. I just wish it had a FireWire port, which the new 13″ MacBook Pro does have.

My target for intervals between upgrading my main workhorse systems has been three years ever since I bought my first Mac back in 1992, and I’ve done pretty well at adhering to it. That would put replacement time for my MacBook in early 2012, which seems a long way off.

The way it usually plays out for me is that the first year I revel in the greater power and storage capacity of my new machine compared with whatever it replaced. At 18 months, twinges of slight frustration and dissatisfaction start to set in, especially after upgraded models have been introduced, but I really have nothing to complain about. However, by the beginning of year three, the aging Mac is usually beginning to feel compromised in some respects, and the hunt begins, although for the last three machines I’ve managed to reach or beat the three-year replacement benchmark.

Of course it helps that I like the challenge of getting useful service out of antiquated hardware. We still have two nine year old Pismo PowerBooks in very active service, and they’re great for what we do with them — text-crunching, email, Web-surfing, and so forth — “netbooks” of a sort, I suppose.

Actually, I still have most of the Macs I’ve ever owned, and only a very few are not in working order. Our six year old iBook G3 died suddenly last winter, but had been a virtually flawless performer up to the day it completely refused to respond to the power button — presumably a terminal motherboard issue. One of my daughters is still using my old 1999 WallStreet PowerBook, and the 17″ PowerBook that served as my primary workhorse between the iBook and MacBook is still in fine fettle.

As Alexis Kayhill observes, there’s a line somewhere between the disappointment that occurs when a newer, power and feature-enhanced, and possibly cheaper revision is unveiled, especially if it’s only shortly after you buy a new Mac. But there’s also the pride you feel when your Mac still looks good and works well five years (or nine years!) after you bought it.

Macs being generally more expensive than typical Windows PCs, at least up front, it logically stands to reason that they should have longer useful lives.

How about you? How often do you usually upgrade your system, and what do you consider a reasonable service life for Macs?

69 Comments

MSW

I own over 10 old PC’s (and some mac’s too) made within the last 20 years and none of them died (Guess I’m just lucky). The machine I’m using right now is over 15 years old and works like a charm.

From my experience working with older computers, I’ve noticed that Mac’s don’t have a very long support life compared to PC’s, which I would say is one of their top weaknesses. Windows XP, from 2001, is still fully supported and runs almost all modern software. Compare that to Mac OS 9.2, also from 2001. It’s about as good for web browsing as Windows 3.1 (I’m serious here. Both OS’s can’t run browsers more modern than MSIE5, which is your best bet with old browsers. It renders today’s web pages not perfectly, but better than Netscape and Opera). Even Mac OS X has a shorter support life. Last I knew, Apple does not even provide updates for OS X 10.4, an OS from 2005. If Apple could improve its long-term support, a lot more could get done with older Mac’s. They’re perfectly good hardware (it’s not like most of them blow up or anything), but having to replace them every 5 years just isn’t fun for everybody.

You can get a lot more life out of an old PC. Any Pentium III or newer machine can run Windows XP very well (perhaps with a RAM upgrade; 512MB is plenty). And if you do everyday stuff with it such as word processing, e-mail, and web browsing, it’ll be perfectly fine.

Kevin

It all depends on how well you take care of it. I have had PCs working for over 10 years without breaking down, im on my first mac right now and there are no signs of aging at all. My guess would be if you keep it in good shape, dont let it get too dusty, and keep it on a surge protector, it should last a long time.
But would you really want a 10 year old computer? Seems by then we will have 128GB of ram as standard and a 16 core processor.
we’ll just have to wait and see.

ARTSTARANDREW

I just got my new computer. A brand new iMac 21.5” with a 1 TB hard drive. Up until about February 2010 we were using a Sony Vaio from 2004. I noticed that it slowed down dramatically in the last 2 years mainly due to heavier usage and wear an tear. Including a dent in the tower left by my foot when it was giving me crap, and it still lasted 6 years. Before that we had a Compaq from 1998 which had a laughable 50 GB hard drive, it lasted until 2005 but was in terrible shape by then, but it still lasted. I chose Apple because I think they are at a level now that they have surpassed the PC’s out there. I also didnt like the amount of Hassle the PC takes to keep it running for 8 years (refer back to the sentence about the dent.) I am hoping to have this iMac for about five years to where it is usable. Then I will keep it as a piece of sculpture, which it is. I have never said this about a computer…But I LOVE mine. Like I named it. So I don’t think I will ever willingly part with it even if it completely crashes.

Rusty

I have a 2007 MacBook Pro 3,1. Pretty much as soon as I got it I put a 320GB HDD in and upped the RAM to 4GB. It had to have a new battery a couple of months ago and last week I decided to strip it down and replace the thermal paste on the heatsink. The reason for the new thermal paste was to try and keep the heat down which I believe is one of the causes of failure for this particular MBP (the one with the 8600MGT). Running Snow Leopard and hopefully with all the upgraded kit it should last me another 3-4 years. The only thing I’m beginning to wish I had was a more powerful graphics chipset (for Windows gaming). Hopefully the new MBPs in 3-4 years time will be kickass!

Jon

I have had my ibook G4 (late 2004 model) for almost six years and it works great for simple tasks such as email, web and itunes and I was still recording music on it as late as last summer. The only problems I’ve run into has been the logic board going out (twice). Considering that I used it in college and took it with me everywhere and it took a couple of nasty falls over the years I wasn’t surprised that I had to get the logic board replaced twice. It definitely runs a lot slower these days but overall it has been a great computer for me and I will go with Macs until the day I die.

I recently ordered a brand new 27″ quad core iMac so I’m patiently (or impatiently) waiting for it to arrive. I still plan on using my ibook G4 as “my around the house” computer as long as possible though….

William

I’m currently using my PowerMac G4 since the day I bought it new (back in 2003). It is still running strong. I’ve upgraded the memory to the max (2GB). I have also added an Airport card. Also added was a 6 port USB2.0 card. Finally, I added what may have been Apple’s OEM 1X SuperDrive (DVD writer). I can still upgrade the CPU to a Dual, but the price of that is equivalent to that the Mac Mini. So I decided not to upgrade the CPU. So, basically, my PowerMac G4 upgrade path came to a dead end. I’m planning on replacing this system with a new iMac. Anyone interested with my system, let me know.

John Morris

I’m using a PowerMac G4 dual 1 Ghz MDD that’s 8 years old and performs flawlessly…these were built in the USA unlike the G5s which are made in China and not very reliable. I’m even running all the latest apps, and it’s plenty fast I mean not going to record a 200 track symphony with it but does all I need it to and plenty fast. Too bad these were the last truly well built Macs because I think they’ll last forever!

Jason

I got my first Mac early 2007 after wanting to get a Mac for a few years before. Anyways, it still runs like it did when I first received it. Warranty runs out in February 2010. I plan on upgrading the HD just because of space and upgrading the memory cause I have 1 GB and I feel I need 2 GB. I probably will extend the warranty too. I totally agree with the article about how you feel when new and cheaper Macs come out. I plan to see how long I can take my MacBook, partially because I think it is cool to have older technology that still works and because I really have no reason or money to upgrade at this point. I can tell you that my Dell that I had before my MacBook needed to be replaced at this point in it’s life but I had to wait until it was really dead because I had no money. I was still in college when I thought it needed to go. I will have a Macs forever.

David

I have the same timeline (about 3 years) for my own Mac notebook upgrades, but really that’s only because I’m a power user. The “old” Mac goes to my wife for another three years, and, now that I have kids, they play educational games on them (the latest games still play fine on my 9 year old PowerBook G3). I recently bought my mom a refurbished last-years model Macbook (white version) only because her 9 year old iMac (the original style) wasn’t portable (it still worked fine for her email, web and other functions). Her 9 year old iMac is now being used by a friend of hers.

SteveINtheUKok

My macs hang around for 2-3 years but the build quality has been very poor of late so they don’t often make it to the first year without issues.

I am still on a plastic MacBook though there isn’t much plastic left, most of it has cracked and broken.

For usability, reliability of the OS and the general hardware 9 out of 10 for the casing 2 out of 10.

stephanie

actually mine lasted like almost 5 years in great shape, until one day the harddrive burnt, actually it still works obviously after i replaced it.

powerbook g4s

Arvind

My Macbook 13″ is nearly 3 years old. I changed the 60 GB drive for 160 GB last year + upgraded RAM to 2 GB more than 1.5 years ago.

A few months back, the body shell developed cracks – so I had the shell replaced.

Otherwise its great – runs Leopard now and is so smooth that I can’t help raving about it.

I’ll have it for another 2 years and figure out how to retire it – possibly give it to my parents.

I’d definitely buy a mac that has a tougher body next time – the unibody things should work, depending on what comes up in 2011.

Brent

I have two Macs. The oldest one is a 2004 PowerMac G5 that runs 24×7 and is a normal desktop computer as well as a server of all types for me (iTunes, proxy, Crashplan backup server, print, EyeTV, iPhoto server, etc) It can house up to 5 hard drives in it. I have a hdd for the OS and all my apps, a media hdd of video projects that I work on as well as all the iPhoto libraries for all the user accounts, and a Time Machine Volume backing up the first two volumes. Even though it’s a *good bit* slower than my mid 2008 MacBook Pro 2.6GHz w/ 4GB of RAM it still is a workhorse that gets video encoding batches just about every single day thrown at it. I thought about selling it but it has many more years of life left in it. My money was well spent on this machine.

John

I have desktop macs which I hang onto as long as possible. Currently a powermac G5 dual 2004. Tend only to upgrade the mac when software forces me to but at the moment everything I use still works fine. The previous one is a blue and white G5 1999 still going stong next to the G5

Petchamon

You have to go a long way before you can beat the gumdrop iMacs. Despite recent lab refreshes with Intel iMacs and MacBooks, I’m currently going through some 10-year-old G3 350mhz models, and they’re just great! Will they run Leopard (or even Tiger?) Nope – but for lightweight tasks in a middle school, they help lighten the demands on the newer machines. BTW, anyone find a way to reliably get a Panther client to log into a Leopard server in MCX? Now that would be really cool.

Andy Markley

My daughter is using my 6-year old TiBook 1Ghz. This Feburary will mark its 7th year. The hinges, HD and DVD drive were replaced last year.

The battery is about the only thing I had to replace every 3 years or so.

We had a Bondi Blue iMac last 10 years before its CRT gave out.

DEATH

I just recently boughty a 24″ Imac to replace my G4 Quicksilver 867mhz. That G4 has lasted quite a few years and its still going strong as I gave it too a friend.
My parents are running a first gen MacMini with no problems. :)

dean

I had a Macintosh IIci for 7 years. I replaced the hard drive and added an upgraded processor, but it served me well for a long time. But in those days we were taking about a lot more money to buy a new top-end Mac than now.

I am at 2 1/4 years on my 17″ MacBook Pro 2.33 GHz (early 2007 model). I am probably getting a new 15″ MBP this weekend. I want the GPU support in Snow Leopard and my current MBP doesn’t have the video processor (it’s an ATI X1600) to take advantage of it.

Michael K

I have a 15″ MacBook Pro and a 13″ Unibody MacBook, the Pro is almost at the 3 year mark and it is now used by my wife. This will most likely stay in the family until it dies, since the Apple Care expires in November. It will end up being cheaper to buy a new MacBook then repair this one. Hopefully that will be in 3 years, since that is my typical refresh period on my laptops and there should be plenty of nice hardware to choose from by then!

Thomas

From my point of view as an Video Editor an Motion Graphics Designer, todays Mac last for nothing or let’s say Apples (arrogant Hardware policy) claims that you are in need of one of the top machines running their Crap Final cut Studio 3 Upgrade!?
In reality, Final cut Studio 3 Software architecture is so programmed so bad that it makes absolutely no sense running it on a Intel Octacore because the app is not getting any faster anyway.
2x dual core with 6 GB of RAM is absolutely ok, anything else is wasted money.

Hopefuly one day people will recognize how Apple is goofing around with loyal customers.

Kat

I got a white MacBook a month before the release of the first unibody. I was a recent switcher & wasn’t aware of the upcoming new units. I feel a bit irked at myself that I didn’t wait, especially on the news of a better videocard, but here I am, eleven months later and I’ve got no complaints. I hope to keep this working for years. Maybe I’ll get a new MacBook sometime in the near future, especially if my workload increases, but I’m very happy & very satisfied with this one.

JeremyK

Well, we had an old Macintosh, the first or second all in one.

We gave it away to someone and it still works.

So how olds that? 10 years?

Im hoping to keep my new MacBook for about 7.

Hugo Jenkins

My mac is 4 years old, it’s a Powermac G5 dual 2.0GHz from the last generation of PPC Macs.

It runs fine and feels like it has at least another 4 years of life in it, but I’m buying a Powerbook this year because I’m seeing more and more software coming out which is Intel-only.

I still have an iBook from 2003 but it doesn’t work well these days.

Gordon Morris

I’ve had a white MacBook for a year. Buildwise, it developed a split along the front right edge within a few months, something that’s happened to both my sisters’ Macs too. And as for the software stability everyone raves about, well it’s not much better than my 3 year old Vaio that I have through work.

I’ll keep the Mac another couple of years, perhaps 3. But if I’m honest, I’m not seeing the benefit that Apple’s hefty price tag should entail. So I’ll end up going back to IBM-based PCs.

mike

I worked on a dell inspiron (a 3,5k $ model) for 4,5 years and it’s still a good machine.

I expect my 13″ macbook pro to last even longer…

Angus Dei

My Macs:

1] Primary: G5 2.5 dual (Late 2005, bought used).

2] Secondary: G4 450 Cube (Updated graphics, so it runs a 23″ CHD).

3] Tertiary: G4 1.67GHz 17″ Power Book.

4] Quaternary: G4 400MHz 15″ Power Book.

I don’t have an Intel Mac, and I don’t plan to get one for several more years. I do have an iPhone (Original 8GB EDGE, which I bought new), and I’ll get the tablet, but desktop and laptop Macs are too expensive for me to buy new, so, I buy them used.

I LOVE MY CUBE!

Oh, I also have a Newton 120. LOL!

Matt

When I bought my first Powerbook, the very next week there was a $1000 price drop on it… I was not too happy with that!

Victor

I just bought a newish unibody macbook and I anticipate it lasting 3-4 years. Mostly based on the sheer lack of efficiency that most new applications exhibit. My iBook G4 lasted for about 5 years before the logic board went bad, and even then it was semi usable. My iMac swivel LCD model, 700mhz so the first generation, is still serving its purpose to my parents. And that’s around what, 8 years old? I would go crazy using it, but quite frankly I would be just fine using my iBook G4 now if it had not broke. It was a little finnicky and I couldn’t watch HD video on it, but I could do everything on it that I do now on my macbook except play games and watch hd video.

Mathew

I have a Macbook and it’s about three years old…it runs wonderfully. It’s a little worn not bc the computer itself is dying but bc my two year old daughter…who ripped of my GGGG key :) and I can’t find it…and bc she spilled juice on the screen (which still works GREAT btw but now has water streaking). I’m looking at the new model 13″

Rob Oakes

I tend to replace the computers every four to five years or so. I tend to use them pretty hard (which causes little things to fail), so the extended warranties are a must. Thus, the first major fail after the warranty is up is when I usually get the next computer.

Saying that, the current crop of computers have been extremely steady. I have a 17 inch Macbook Pro which runs more or less like a champ (after the hard drive failed and the computer went funny) and a 15 inch mobile precision workstation from Dell that is rock solid. Both computers get used a lot, the Dell for creating models for work and the MBP for development and graphics. I’m actually hoping that the MBP will last between five and six years. I’m not a fan of Apple’s non-replaceable batteries and hope that the product line will have evolved back to a user-replaceable battery. (Losing my computer for a week because the battery decide to stop working, as happened to a colleague, is unacceptable.)

I just extended the warranty on the Dell to five years for a song, and have an option to take it to six. We’ll see what the workstations look like in 2012!

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