You Probably Don’t Need a New Computer — Here’s Why

Computer shopping is fun for a select group of people and a big hassle for everybody else. There are plenty of terms you need to know, plus PC components you have to think about and computer-buying mistakes you need to avoid. You’ll have to determine exactly what you need out of a new machine — you’ll need to think about the hardware you want and the software you need. It’s also important to figure out when you should buy a new computer, both in terms of seasonal sales and product upgrade cycles.

But you also need to know when you really need a new computer and when you’re just itching to upgrade a machine that may work just fine for another year or two. Read on to check out some of the reasons why you may not need a new computer as soon as you think. You may be surprised to figure out that you actually can wait to spend all that money (and save the hassle of computer shopping for another day).

1. Your old computer is working fine

Female couple relax in bed with a laptop

If your current computer is functioning just fine, you probably don’t need a new one. |

We all want the latest gadgets. They’re fun to read about and even more fun to get our hands on. But if you don’t need a ton of power to perform most of your computing tasks, chances are good your old computer is still working fine. Checking email, editing documents, and browsing aren’t typically tasks that demand a lot of power from your computer. Even if your computer is slower than it was when you first got it, chances are good that it isn’t sluggish enough to really slow you down.

2. You haven’t been maintaining your old computer

People use their laptop computers at a cafe in Beijing

If you haven’t been taking care of your current computer, you can probably speed it up with some easy maintenance. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

If your primary reason for shopping for a new computer is that your old one is too slow, then you may want to make sure that the slowness isn’t fixable. Have you been running antivirus scans? And have you been uninstalling unneeded software? How about clearing out unneeded files to free up hard drive space? Have you made sure that only the programs you need are starting up when you turn on the computer? And have you been keeping the operating system and all the apps you use up to date? If you’ve been neglecting your computer, you should perform some much-needed maintenance before deciding it’s time for a new computer. 

3. You can speed up your old computer

Shoppers look over computer items at a Best Buy on November 26, 2015 in San Diego, California. Although Black Friday sales are expected to be strong, many shoppers are opting to buy online or retailers are offering year round sales and other incentives that are expected to ease crowds.

Instead of buying a new computer, you can probably just get your current one to run faster. | Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

There are many reasons that your old computer may be running slow. But as it turns out, there are also some easy ways to speed up a slow computer. You can make sure that your operating system and other software are updated. Or, you can clear out the clutter that accumulates over time. You can also free up some hard drive space, and even check for spyware. The point is that before you throw in the towel and give up on your old computer, it’s probably worth it to make sure that you can’t speed it up with an hour or two of maintenance. You can even completely reinstall the operating system and start fresh with the computer you already have.

4. You use the web for everything

student studying on his laptop

If most of your computing activities take place in the browser, you probably don’t need a new computer. |

OK, so everybody uses the internet for everything these days. But if you find yourself using web-based software instead of running programs locally on your computer, chances are very good that you don’t need a new computer. You can use your browser to send emails, participate in video chats, or create documents and presentations. If you use web apps for everything — or can see yourself doing so — then you probably don’t need to spend the money on a new laptop or desktop. 

5. You’re not sure what you want out of a new computer

Man smiling with his laptop

If you’re unsure of what you’d want out of a new computer, it may be best to wait. |

When you’ve had the same device for a few years, you may get the feeling that it would be nice to have something new. But if you’re itching to upgrade your computer and aren’t sure why, that may mean you should stop and reconsider. Do you have a specific workflow that would be made easier by upgrading your computer? Have you been wanting to buy software that your current computer can’t handle? Is there a specific hardware or software feature that you’re excited about? If not, shelve the idea of a new computer for now. 

6. You have a desktop computer

man sits at a computer while he works

If you have a desktop computer, consider switching out some of its components instead of buying a new machine. |

Many people opt for laptops over desktops thanks to the desire for portability, but desktops have several key advantages. Desktops are more cost-effective than laptops. They offer better ergonomics. They offer bigger screen sizes, which are an advantage for productivity, and they’re also easier to upgrade. If your desktop is slowing down, chances are good that you (or a tech-savvy friend or relative) can replace a few components and get a longer life out of the system. (For instance, you can switch from a traditional hard drive to a solid-state drive, upgrade your computer’s RAM, or add a new graphics card or CPU.) The key is to do your research and find out exactly which components you can (and should) upgrade. 

7. You need something more portable

Man writing something down on a notepad in a library

If you need something extremely portable, a computer may not be the best choice. |

Laptops have gotten a lot easier to throw in your bag and carry around all day, but they aren’t the most portable devices on the market anymore. You can certainly find computers that are small and lightweight, but you’ll end up paying a lot for them. If you prioritize portability and only need lightweight software, a tablet might be a cheaper alternative to an ultra-portable computer. On a tablet, you can browse the web, check your email, and watch Netflix. If that’s the extent of your computer usage, then you may not need to replace your computer after all.

8. Other devices can replace your laptop

woman typing on her laptop

Some people don’t really need a laptop anymore thanks to all the other devices available. |

A tablet isn’t the only device that can take on tasks that were originally designed for your computer. As Dan Price reports for MakeUseOf, laptops aren’t the best choice for popular tasks like music production, video and film editing, word processing, gaming, and passive entertainment. Tablets, of course, are better for portability. Desktops are better for productivity. Digital media players are better for entertainment, and network storage drives are better for data. There are still some reasons to stick with a laptop, such as peripherals, storage, and disc drives. But if you don’t need those, you may be able to dump your laptop and enter the post-PC age. 

9. You can switch operating systems

Businessman looking at his laptop

You can switch operating systems to give your old computer a new lease on life. |

If you have an old PC running Windows XP, you may think it’s time to upgrade to a new computer. After all, many Windows XP machines don’t meet the system requirements to upgrade to a more modern version of Windows. But even if you can’t upgrade Windows, you can switch to Linux instead. Many distributions are lightweight enough to run on old hardware. With a little bit of research, you can find the right one for your computer and your priorities — no new hardware necessary. 

10. You just don’t need a computer for any of your usual tasks

People use free WiFi on their laptops at a cafe in Beijing

If you really don’t need a computer for any of your favorite tasks, you probably shouldn’t buy a new one. | Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

People use their computers for all kinds of tasks. Some edit videos, others create documents, and still others watch Netflix. Your old computer may be dead. But have you thought about whether you need a computer at all? Many people can’t go without their laptop or desktop, but others could use a tablet, or even a smartphone, for all of the same tasks without missing their computer. Before you buy a new computer, think carefully about whether you really need a computer or whether you’re replacing your old one out of habit. 

11. Computers are expensive

Group of co-workers working together

A new computer is almost always a pretty expensive purchase. |

Even if you opt for the cheapest possible machine, you’re still going to spend hundreds of dollars to buy a new computer. That’s hundreds of dollars that could go toward a practically endless array of other purchases, tech-related or not. (For instance, you could buy a new smartphone, which you literally carry with you everywhere.) If you aren’t sure that you really need a new computer, you should probably hold off on buying one until you know for sure. Your wallet will thank you. 

12. You hate setting up new devices

Man looks at his computer in boredom

Unless you really love computers, setting up a new one will probably be pretty annoying. |

There’s one more practical reason to put off buying a new computer — to avoid the annoyance of setting up a new computer. Unless you’re truly a computer nerd (and if you are, you probably aren’t looking for reasons to avoid buying a new computer), setup is annoying. It can get time-consuming to do correctly and often involves uninstalling a lot of bloatware. If you aren’t going to see much in the way of performance improvements or new functionality with a new computer, you may want to wait until the hassle of setting up a new machine is really worth it.

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