How Long Do You Expect Your Macs to Last?

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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 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?

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