How Long Do Desktop Computers Last?
How long do desktop computers last? The answer depends on the hardware’s intended use. “A lot of people use the standard of four years,” says Herrick, “but I think it depends. While a high-performance desktop may not last as long for that particular need, it could last for two or three more years in a lower-demand environment. Instead of a specific number, I look at the intended use lifecycle.”
For Windows PCs, it depends on whether you’re using a consumer- or business-grade computer. “If you’re going to buy standard office-work computers and keep them in service for four years, once they’re outside original use, they may not be good for much more,” he says. “Business-class desktops generally last longer with fewer problems.”
When it comes to maximizing the lifecycle of desktops, Herrick suggests assessing your intended use case against the potential benefits of an extended warranty. Many manufacturers offer warranties for up to five years. This can help boost total the lifecycle if the anticipated use cycle is shorter. In this case, schools aren’t on the hook to repair or refurbish desktops.
From an IT procurement perspective, Herrick points to business-class computers as the better investment. “Procurement and IT agree that business class is going to be the best way to go. They offer improved performance and they’re easier to manage from an IT standpoint. They also offer solid enterprise support.”
Prolonging the Lifespan of Laptops and Notebooks
In this mobile age, higher education is using more laptops and notebooks. “While a lot of people used to use laptops as secondary devices, they’re now shifting to a more mobile, one-device model,” Herrick says.
How long do laptops and notebooks last? For their intended purposes, they have a much shorter lifespan. “While desktops have components you can upgrade and replace, laptops and notebooks generally don’t,” Herrick says. “You can’t just replace part of the internal components. This makes them less cost-effective to upgrade.”
He also highlights the mobile nature of these devices. Since they’re often exposed to environments that may include poor air quality or reduced heat exchange, they tend to degrade more quickly.
While a similar secondary use strategy applies to extending laptop lifecycles, Herrick points out that laptops are generally more costly and offer fewer secondary uses. In an ideal world, users would return laptops to IT at the end of their initial lifecycles, when they would be wiped and evaluated for potential repurposing. However, considering the shorter lifespan of mobile devices, “it’s more valuable to have a fleet of spare laptops than desktops,” Herrick says. “Instead of focusing on secondary repurposing as the primary goal, it’s about figuring out how much you stock without having excess inventory.”
Centralizing Lifecycle Management in Higher Ed
Herrick also emphasizes the coordination it takes to effectively manage devices across campus. For example, procurement, finance, operations management and information security departments must all be on the same page.
The main benefit of centralizing the lifecycle management process is to reduce complexity, especially during the move to hybrid learning. “The past couple of years have made it clear,” he says. “The more centrally coordinated you are, the quicker you can respond.”
What’s the bottom line? Strong asset management is critical to balancing budgets and sidestepping supply chain disruptions.