I have had my laptop for around 4 years and it runs nearly as well today as the day I got it. A trusted friend, she is.old computer

The interesting part of this: I’m typing this on a new laptop.

Replacing a perfectly fine laptop might sound a little silly. Maybe this is a sign I like new, shiny stuff and will spend prematurely to get it. While I’m not completely immune to the gravitational pull of new technology, the new laptop was a much more strategic buy than simply being materialistic.

While my previous laptop was running fine, the past isn’t always a good predictor of the future. Risks related to failing technology do not grow linearly from day 1 to retirement. These risks escalate at an increasing rate. So, while my ol’ faithful hasn’t let me down in the past, I can’t demand she runs great forever.

Still, can’t I just run it until the next significant problem and then swap it out? That is a common (but poor) strategy with aging computers. There are a few problems with this logic. First, the next problem could be quite a doozy and be a lot tougher to recover from than if I make the transition to a new machine in a planned, methodical way. The problem could multiply the associated pain by coming at the worst possible time (as Murphy would have it).

Also, consider the cost of the lost time due to the lag related to making a reactive change versus a planned one – a planned purchase can be completely prepared in advance of you using it. What is one’s time worth? Lastly, if I’m buying in a reactive mode, I might make poor buying decisions that can be costly. So, maybe I could get another year or two out of my old laptop, but the savings on the delayed purchase usually don’t touch the sneaky costs related to this reactive approach.

Let’s consider the math here.

What does delaying a purchase save me? Well, perhaps if I stretch every computer I own from 4 years to 5, essentially, every 4th computer is free. That sounds attractive! Except, I have to earn it over 20 years (that’s 7300 days). Let’s say the “free” computer costs $1,200 or… $0.16 cents per day saved (two cents per work hour?). Still sound interesting? In my experience, the $300 saved on each computer pales in comparison to the risks and hassles of this approach.

Let’s be conservative for a moment and just say the two approaches are a “wash”. Let’s return to the previously mentioned “technology gravity”. This isn’t just a materialistic drive for guys like me that see what new stuff can actually do. My new laptop is worlds better than my old pal. I can’t tell you definitively how much, but it is enough to FEEL noticeably better driving home from the office at the end of the day. Something as simple as adding touch screen functionality, as one example, definitely saves me time and energy that will produce more value than the $0.16 cents I could have saved today by delaying this purchase.

Nobody should buy technology for technology’s sake, but if something can save you hours or days over the life of the asset, it is worth a lot to anyone who puts value on time or the quality of their output.

If you’re reading this on an old trusty workstation (or maybe not-so-trusty), how old is it? Forget that it is running today and think through the real costs with not planning it’s replacement in advance of its death? Think about it.