Five Advantages to Owning an Older PC

Five Advantages to Owning an Older PCIt can be difficult to feel good about your computer when you read articles about the latest and greatest technology. Add to that every tech-minded podcast or YouTube channel in the world holding up these expensive and seemingly magical devices in front of you and talking about how great they are. I’ve been there, and I’ve actually put myself back in that position, intentionally.

Harold Johnson, another contributor here at LockerGnome, recently wrote about living behind the hardware curve. He, like so many of our readers and community in general, has experienced many of the highs and lows of being seemingly behind the curve in terms of technology hardware. While it can seem a daunting experience on one hand, there is something to be said about systems that have a little more mileage.

Owning a computer that isn’t comprised of the latest technologies may put you at a numbers disadvantage in some regards, but you do have several things working for you that could be to your benefit as a user. Initial costs, smoother operation, less failure chances, less expensive replacement components, and better native support for operating systems are just a handful of these advantages.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why owning an older computer may actually be better for you than the latest and greatest the world of tech has to offer.

Lower Initial Cost

If you want the biggest and best components, you had better be willing to shell out top dollar for them. A system that could run you $500 in a year or two may run well over $1,000 today. That’s how technology works. Every month, it seems, the price for various components goes down considerably. What was once a top-dollar processor can become a bargain bin deal in a year’s time.

In many cases, this price drop can happen in months as manufacturers replicate the specs the fancier brands push on their latest products. Video cards are especially quick to drop in prices as companies slash prices to stay competitive.

There’s something to be said about buying year-old refurbs as well. Manufacturers typically have a section of their website dedicated to selling clearance and refurbished merchandise. These systems are typically 40-70% cheaper than the original product, and carries the same or an equivalent warranty. Some discount electronics stores also carry certified refurbs at a deep discount.

Bugs Are Generally Worked Out

Hardware and software rarely works perfectly out of the gate. Especially with Windows and Linux, bugs need to be worked out once the product is launched. Operating systems need specific drivers to work with hardware, and sometimes those drivers conflict with others, causing issues.

Grabbing a system with components that have been out for a year or more allows you to take advantage of mature drivers that have the bugs worked out. Anyone that deals with the latest and greatest hardware on the regular can tell you, early adoption comes at a cost well beyond the initial monetary investment. Sometimes, you have to put up with months of troubleshooting and working with developers to create better drivers.

Most Failures Happen Early On

Hard drives, motherboards, processors, power supplies, and other key components can be subject to early hardware failure. I’ve personally experienced two cases where a brand new computer had a power supply go out within the first few weeks, once with its own fireworks display.

This sucks, and sometimes you need a machine that has been broken in for a bit for projects that require a little extra reliability. Commercial-grade hardware is built to last, and you can often pick up systems that were once used by large companies and sold as these corporations upgraded at a big discount.

I still have a four-year-old Dell workstation that I purchased refurbished from a Discount Electronics here in Austin that once sat at someone’s workstation. Unlike so many consumer systems before it, this PC runs like clockwork, every time. Sure, I might just be lucky. The first-generation dual-core PC has enough processing power to run Windows 7, modern Linux builds, and even the more resource-demanding Windows Vista. Currently, it’s being utilized as a full-time Folding@Home box running at 80% processor efficiency 24/7 for the past several months. No problems, yet.

Replacement Parts are Cheaper

Just as your initial investment is expected to be less with slightly older hardware, replacement parts also come fairly cheap. If you wish to upgrade a single component, add RAM, or replace a bad widget, you can do so for less than you would spend on something newer.

Ancient computers aside, just about any component you need for a system made within the past four or five years can probably be found online very inexpensively. If you open yourself up to secondhand products, you can save a lot of money. Just be careful about what you buy, and where.

There is a disadvantage here in some cases. Motherboards for laptops and other proprietary components can be tricky to locate sometimes. For example, an old Alienware laptop I’ve had for years will probably never function again because I can’t find a working motherboard for it anywhere. Desktop PCs have the advantage of more flexibility and consistent hardware standards.

Better Native Support

Formatting and reinstalling an OS can be a chore, especially if you’re working with a newer computer. Yes, that may not sound like it makes sense, but imagine how many newer hardware options aren’t supported natively by operating systems.

Windows, for example, picks up my older PC’s components and operates almost perfectly right out of the box. My newer PC, not so much. I actually have to pre-load a disc with my motherboard and network adapter drivers in order to access the Web to install other drivers. Meanwhile, my older PC’s components have been added to Windows’ catalog of supported hardware for some time.

Granted, sometimes older hardware can get you in trouble here. Think about all the folks that upgraded to Windows Vista only to discover that their old peripherals were no longer supported because the hardware manufacturer stopped making drivers for it during XP’s lifespan. Then again, we’re talking about the PC itself here, not the peripherals.

Final Thoughts

The purpose of this article is to share my own experience with owning what some tech-minded geeks would consider to be outdated hardware. Older PCs are quite useful, and for a number of great reasons. Having an extra system around allows you to explore and experiment more with technology, and there’s nothing wrong with using a two-year-old system as your primary machine.

Unless you’re doing heavy 3D modeling, editing HD video, or gaming with graphics set on extreme, you’re probably good to go with a computer that’s a few years past its prime.

In a world obsessed with the latest and greatest, there’s still something to be said about hanging back and enjoying more mature tech. After all, even an Apple IIe still retains much of its original charm.

What about you? Do you own an older computer? If so, what do you work with?

22 comments On Five Advantages to Owning an Older PC

  • Nice article there.  One thing I will have to disagree on is that older parts are cheaper, this just isn’t the case.  In fact it the exact opposite.  The older your system the harder it is to find parts thus bumping the price right up.  For example if you want to by some new DDR3 RAM you will be able to get 4GBS very cheaply under £20 in the UK.  However if you want to buy DDR 2 or even DDR 1 the price goes right up in fact double for DDR 2, 2 gbs being £22 on EBAY now after a quick check, you will have to use EBAY or other alternatives as most retailers will have stopped stocking it.  This is one of the only times where not waiting saves you money.

    • While I can see where you’re coming from on this one, there’s a store right down the road from me that sells legacy hardware components such as video cards and IDE hard drives that went for $150+ new for $10-50.

      • Certainly in the UK it is very difficult to buy older hardware, I was looking to upgrade an AM2+ CPU so not that old really 2007-2008 the price is more expensive than buying a new one AM3 CPU which would seem ridiculous. Looking on Amazon and EBAY as the shops stopped selling them. I would love to have a store like the one you mentioned near me, must be different in the US.

      •  Certainly in the UK it is very difficult to buy older hardware, I was
        looking to upgrade an AM2+ CPU so not that old really 2007-2008 the
        price is more expensive than buying a new one AM3 CPU which would seem
        ridiculous. Looking on Amazon and EBAY as the shops stopped selling
        them. I would love to have a store like the one you mentioned near me,
        must be different in the US.

      • Nice. I find it ludicrous that some places sell PATA 1TB drives for almost $150… I actually bought some approximately two years ago for $50/each.

  • I think owning an older laptop from 2005-2010 would work well for a middle of the road solution to support legacy apps and games. Being that it is compact it can be put away when its not needed. Granted you do not end up with an older “desktop replacement” from 2005. Dell had one a few years back that literally looked like a suitcase.

    • Cloud solutions has made it incredibly easy to do a lot more with a lot less in terms of hardware performance. Thanks for the comment!

      • No problem. Nice article by the way. Yeah, the cloud is nice so long as you have a constant connection. If we actually receive a more robust form of household and wireless boradband all around in the near future things will be close to the goal of instant access/gratification. Its such a tease to have 4G/LTE or a similar iteration which is faster than your home line in some cases only to be limited to 2-5GB on any carrier. That is another issue all together.

  • Also take note right now would not be the best time to look into ‘upgrading’ an older PC. The prices of hard drives are really high due to that flood in Thailand. I recently purchased drives and left the store scratching my head as to why a 320GB drive cost nearly $100.00 as I purchased a few before the summer for $32/each.

  • I like some older computers that tick nicely. For example I am writing this comment from a freebie laptop that was given to me. A Dell Inspirion 5150, from 2004 and still works fine to this day. Nice and speedy considering its age… Another thing you could of mentioned in the post is how computer parts “ware in” like the keyboard for example. As it wears down your fingers get more and more accustomed to it, allowing you to type faster.As well as  the mouse/trackpad (in some cases). Making the overall feel seem nicer and making you sometimes more productive. 

  • You can also make them dual boot with Linux.

  • Louise Marshall

    We finally gave our old Windows 95 computer to a school kid. We use the windows 98 laptop also. I have Vista and my husband just bought a desktop with Windows 98 that’s much faster than the laptop.

  • Both my desktop and laptop are from Nov 2006. Both run XP. I had to replace some hardware on the laptop and upgraded the RAM to 4GB from 2GB. Had to get a  new AC Power addaptor too (but opted for two generic ones.) replaced the keyboard cause somehow I broke the H key on the one I had on this laptop. BothPC’s I had to replace the CMOS battery too.
     

  •  I so, so agree with you on this! I cannot tell you how many folks come to me to get their older system looked at- who have been assured (by salespeople) that they MUST toss it into the bin & buy new…it is shocking!  After a relatively painless re-install & tweak, the thing runs like a top- and as you say- with less issues than the current “bleeding-edge” crop.

    The ones who require the best-of-the-best at all times- go for it. Likewise, those with high-end usage. For the rest of the world, newest isn’t best when all you need is web, email, a bit of music listening, and looking at photos.

    As far as finding older hardware- I get an awful lot during our verge (curbside) cleanup days. Lots of scavenging going on, I tell you- lol…This last round, I picked up: over 30GB of older RAM, 8 CD/DVD burners, a few floppy drives, 3 card readers, 5 perfectly intact systems (now running Linux Mint). FREE!  Other than that, plenty to be had on ebay & local community papers- just have a look. Still, best way is how I do it- side of road pick-up. For that matter, I suppose you could offer the service of picking up old systems in exchange for setting up the new one just purchased? Get inventive.

    Cheers!

  • You can do very well with an older system, my main home PC was a very old Dell Latitude D420 running just Ubuntu (no dual boot) for a couple of years. But I didn’t do much work at home, what what I did was done via RDP to the office so the slow system didn’t matter.
    It all comes down to what you do. Certainly if you are mostly using Web apps, browsing, and even watching videos you don’t need much. And yes, PCs get old quick! The Dell XPS I am using right now was a powerhouse a year ago, it is looking more average now. I still love it though, don’t regret paying what I did. It could last me a good two more years without the need to upgrade. There are other reasons for paying top dollar for a new system build quality being one of them… But sometimes there are other drivers, when Windows 8 has been out for a lil while I’d like to get a new laptop, one with a touchscreen. So, it is quite likely my still very nice Dell XPS won’t be my main machine for a full two more years. 

    •  Yes Ubuntu seems to work better on older machines, due to having more support for hardware, especially graphics cards. What I like to do it buy a barebones system that can be upgraded easily, So it will be easy to put a new CPU or extra RAM in there providing that the cost of replacing the parts is going to make it worth your while.  I put an SSD in a machine that was 3 years old nothing special it made a huge difference.

  • RAM doesn’t seem to be cheaper, the one I bought 5 years ago was 2gb for $50, now it’s like $100, I have looked all over too. =/  Does it just more expensive because it’s phased out?

  • Replacement Parts are Cheaper: This isnt’ always the case. I am always looking for DDR SD RAM for my old PC and its the most expensive compared to new RAM. 

  • Writing this comment on a Toshiba Portege M700, it’s an old and intensely weird early laptop/tablet design, but despite it being clunky I love it to bits. I honestly don’t see the point with obsessing over hardware, I know people who are constantly updating their machines up to mind-blowing specs, and then all they seem to use them for is playing call of duty (hardly a particularly taxing series to run) or watching shitty quality pirated videos. In many ways once you get past a certain ‘level’ of hardware it’s pointless to upgrade it as it makes barely any noticeable difference.

  • Agreed! the older computers are so much better! mine is 16 years old still going strong! I will never replace it! my other is 9 years old still going pretty damn well I’ve replaced the capacitors in the power supply and it was good as new again!

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