How Long Should We Keep Business PCs Before Replacing Them?


Knowing whether to keep a business workstation or laptop another year or replace it can be a tough decision for a business owner. While it may not be as fast as it once was, if a computer is still able to do the job, they may try to get more use out of their investment. But when it comes to business technology, which is responsible for keeping much of a company’s operations going, a drop in efficiency can mean a big cost.

According to a study released by Microsoft, keeping a business PC in operation longer than four years can mean a cost of $2,736 per year. This cost is due to productivity losses, downtime, security issues, and more. That’s just about double the typical cost of a brand-new workstation or employee laptop. According to that study and another by Intel, the optimum replacement cycle for a business PC is between year three and four. We’ll go into the details of why next.

Why You Should Replace Your Business PCs Between Year 3 & 4

A study by Intel provides several stats that point to a 3 to 4-year replacement cycle for business computers. This will allow them to stay in the sweet spot of peak efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Total Cost of Ownership

It was found that total cost of ownership takes a dramatic upward turn between years three and four. The calculation looked at three variables, which were PC acquisition costs, maintenance costs, and training costs. Because of the sharp rise in maintenance costs, the TCO curve rises sharply. They show that between the 3rdand 4th year of ownership is the most cost-effective time to replace a computer.

Service Call Number and Length

Older computers mean more time on the phone with tech support, which means less productivity for that computer user. The Intel study found that between 36-48 months and 48+ months (year 4), the number of help desk calls per user increased by 50%. The length of those calls also increased. From an average of 36 minutes per call to nearly an hour (56 minutes).

Costly Downtime

Computers that are 4+ years old have twice the downtime of computers that are three years old. Factors that go into computer downtime are:

  • Hardware problems
  • Crashes
  • Software conflicts
  • Slow & problematic performance

Small business downtime can cost as much as $10,000 per hour. If you have a key employee, like your accounting person, that has computer downtime, it can bring a big portion of your operations to a standstill while the issue is being addressed. All that lost productivity costs needs to be factored in when weighing a new PC purchase decision.

Data Loss Incidents

Older PCs have more problems with data loss due to computer crashes, software syncing problems, and other issues. The Intel study found that computers that were over 4 years of age lost data 3x more often than 3-year-old PCs. Data loss can mean emergency IT costs. You must try to recover lost data and expensive rework trying to recreate data that can’t be recovered. The dramatic increase in data loss incidents after year four, is yet another reason that a 3 to 4-year replacement cycle is a good strategy.

Device Security Breaches

Device security is another factor you should evaluate when deciding to keep an older Business PC another year or to replace it. Computers that are older than four years have 3x the security breaches of those that are less than three years old. Software and hardware advance so fast these days. Older computers can experience a number of security vulnerabilities that makes them more susceptible to malware and other online threats. These vulnerabilities include:

  • More likely to have outdated and EOL browsers or software installed
  • May have reached a point where a new update or software version is incompatible

In the Microsoft study, it was found that over 40% of older PC’s were still using older versions of Windows. For example, Windows 7, which reached end of life (and loss of security update support) back in January of 2020. One device breach by ransomware or another type of malware can easily infect all devices on your network. They can also infect any syncing cloud platforms, leading to major costs and downtime.

Productivity Losses

Productivity losses often fly under the radar because it might mean 20 minutes here and 40 minutes there as staff struggles with an older PC. The boss might not even realize how much those lost minutes are adding up. Computers that are older than 4 years were shown to be 2.7 times more likely to need repair, resulting in 112 hours of lost productivity time.

Put a Technology Replacement Plan in Place with Help from Copperband

Our IT consulting experts at Copperband can help your Middle Tennessee or Southern Kentucky business put a hardware replacement cycle in place that keeps your team productive, secure, and optimizes your return on investment. Contact us today to schedule a consultation! Call 931.263.8000 or email us.