Better to buy equipment and keep it as long as possible, or upgrade frequently?


macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Mar 20, 2008
I realize that this is a subjective question, but I'm curious as to which approach to replacing gear (Macs, iPads, or iPhones) makes the most sense to you financially or in other ways.

My approach has always been to buy the best model I can afford, to keep it until it dies or becomes unusable for my needs, and to either sell it for a pittance or give it away to someone with lesser needs. If the device is upgradable, I upgrade it over time as much as possible. The most extreme example was the trusty PowerMac G4 Sawtooth I bought in 2000. Over the years, I upgraded the main hard drive twice, added a second hard drive, replaced the CD burner with a Superdrive, increased the RAM, upgraded the processor with an OWC card, upgraded the graphics adapter, and added a USB 2.0 card. I kept it until 2008, when it finally became too slow for my needs, and gave it to my dad, who used it for two more years until it died. Then I bought an early 2008 MBP. I soon maxed out the RAM and replaced the hard drive with a higher-capacity one. Over the past year, it's started feeling slow to me. I've thought about replacing the HDD with an SSD, and even replacing the optical drive with a large HHD, with the idea that I'll get another year or two out of it. But I can't increase the processor speed, and the logic board already went out once (two weeks before AppleCare expired).

Upgrading my PowerMac was satisfying, in a geeky way, and it spread out the cost over almost 8 years. If I add up the cost of all the upgraded components, though, I'm not sure I came our better financially than if I'd sold and bought 2 or 3 new Macs during those 8 years. The days of upgradable computers are almost over, it seems, but the same question still remains: Does it make more sense financially to buy a device, keep it as long as you can (by which time, it has little residual value), and then buy a new one – or upgrade every year or two, selling your previous model while it still has high resale value? Apple products have high resale value, but I don't know from experience whether it comes out to be a wash – i.e., spend $2,000 every 5 years on a new Mac (because your old one had negligible resale value), or $400 per year to upgrade to a new one (because you sell your previous one for $1,600 each time).

As for non-financial factors, upgrading frequently ensures that you have the lastest tech, which you may or may not need. On the other hand, selling stuff for the best price can be a hassle. I'm leaning toward taking the "upgrade more frequently" approach in the future, but I'm curious about other people's opinions and experiences.


macrumors 65816
Oct 21, 2009
Among the starlings
Another issue to factor in is the hassle to migrate from one computer to another. Yes, Apple makes it easier than it might be, but I have yet to enjoy a totally painless migration (probably doesn't help that I install a lot of UNIX utilities).


macrumors 6502a
Apr 18, 2011
My instinct is to keep, maintain, upgrade, and use til end of life.

Financially, though, I've decided that doesn't make full sense, especially as I live in the UK but am in the US often enough, and if I sell my MBP frequently in pounds, then buy new laptop in US, if I sell when value is still retained high, every year to 2 years, I stay up to date for very little cost. The currency factor just kicks it into a no brainer.

The retina MBP is testing that, as I now will keep the 17" quad core and do ram/ssd upgrades and keep this 2011 going at least one more year while I decide.

iPHone, same, I own outright. I'm on 4s and will prob sell to stay up to date, not because I need to keep up, but because it hurts more to ride value down all the way, then start over.

I intend to get a Mac Pro tower, now that I will aim to keep going for at least 5-6 years, the MBP every 2 years, the phone maybe every year to 2. So there is my 5 cents.


Also, I have a bad feeling that Apple is trending towards making it harder to do this. ONly the mac pro remains as long lived, the other products are being end of life'd earlier by Apple's decisions on software, support, etc.


macrumors 68040
Dec 14, 2006
somewhere else
I've only gifted Macs away, never technically sold them. In a couple of instances, they have been donated to charity and I told my tax guy.

One of my Macs I gifted as a "hand-me-down" to a family member, who then gave me a few hundred bucks -- less than what it would have been worth on the used market -- so maybe that was charity.


From a technical standpoint, I think the time to offload a computer is when it won't run the latest-and-greatest operating system, even if it will continue functioning for years. In a household with multiple Macs, it's far easier to administer the same operating system on all machines. That time has finally arrived for my 2006-era MacBook as it won't run Mountain Lion.

This is probably more important today than a few years ago, because of iCloud and the Mac App Store. Go ahead, try getting the address book from a Mountain Lion machine to one running Snow Leopard.

Admittedly, my opinion is heavily influenced by the fact that I dislike system administration. I used to do it for a living, now I do something else. As a matter of fact, I switched to OS X to get away from administering a dual-boot Linux/Windows box; in doing so I cut my system administration load by >90%.

If you like diddling with computers, go ahead, try to see how long they will last as useful devices. Me? The less time I spend on getting a computer/iOS device to work, the better (which is why I don't jailbreak my iOS devices).

I have better things to do with my free time.

For me, I hope that my Macs can last four years running the current OS. Anything more is gravy.

For iOS devices, I'm far more inclined to upgrade on a two-year cycle.
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Dark Void

macrumors 68030
Jun 1, 2011
I have the approach of purchasing a computer (or technical equipment) and using it for as long as possible. I purchased my first laptop two years ago (2010 13'' MacBook Pro) and I intend on using it until it literally becomes "unusable," in other words, until it is beyond repair.

I don't really think of it as a financial process of purchasing one unit and then selling it off and replacing it with the next model. I understand how that is most effective for some people, but I am not in the position where I need to upgrade that frequently.

It's more of an approach in where I take pride in the purchase and take it as far as I can go. I feel like constantly swapping machines every single time a new model is released is almost like taking things for granted in a way, although I understand the perspective of upgrading if it is an actual "necessity," be it for work or what have you. It makes sense in the end because well, after all, I did not "need" this laptop - I wanted it and bought it.

I think it's more of a sentimental type of deal, I would rather take pride in my purchase and take it as far as possible, upgrading it along the way if need be - instead of just tossing it aside when a new model arrives.


macrumors member
Jun 11, 2012
Pacific Northwest
After I got burned from the day hell froze over (the shift to Intel), I have been far more cautious about upgrading. I still have and use my dual processor G5 every day because it is more productive at some tasks than my newer Intel Macs. But finding out my machine was dead-ended a few months after I spent a couple of grand was not a pleasant experience.

Recently, I started working up an upgrade path, to simply my systems. And then I had to endure myself dissing myself: what are you doing, your system is getting the work done. Including the G5, which would be worth next to nothing if you sold it. Get back to work.

However, my iMac powered audio system is now in serious need of upgrading. The problem is, if I upgrade the iMac, I'll have to upgrade a lot of other things. Ouch. And upgrading at the wrong time could be financially painful if I miss a big upgrade, considering the new connector protocols.

I don't have a crystal ball, but I think Apple is "up to something" with their desktop machines. In my experience, whenever they get this quiet, and there are weird unnecessary delays, and the upgrades are inconsequential (for example, like the last boost of the G5 processors), then it's time to step back. I'm not trying to fuel more speculation, I'm just observing.

Upgrading frequently would not have offered any protection.

So I am enduring work-arounds and waiting. After my G5 experience, I think the single most important upgrade factor is whether Apple is likely to spring a game-changing new design. Because that's who they are and what they do.

Obviously it's impossible to forecast this, so my approach is to regularly lurk this site to educate myself.

That said, does anyone have a strategy of upgrading from used to newer used Macs? Does that make any sense?


macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
I bought my "main Mac", a PowerMac g4/1.25 MDD, in 2004.

Still using it, it works ok.

I'll replace it, someday... :)

(Actually, waiting until the -new- Mini is introduced)


macrumors 603
Feb 13, 2012
Perth, Western Australia
Depends what you buy.

I'm a fan of buying mid-range and upgrading more often.

If you buy high end, you'll take a BIG hit when it comes time to sell, but if you buy mid-range you get 80-90% of the performance at half (or less) price, for most components.


macrumors 6502a
Oct 13, 2008
Wellington, New Zealand
I am on a two year cycle as well for my laptops (or shorter). I have been replacing my mac pro a bit less often as Apple does not update the machines as often as i would like.

I do it for tax reasons.


macrumors 6502a
Nov 5, 2010
I had my first MacBook Pro for 3 years and then gave it to a family member. I currently own a nearly maxed out 2012 Air. I'll probably keep it for another 3 years unless I truly impressed with the 13in rMBP (if it ever comes to be) and then sell my Air for as much as possible. I normally upgrade my phone (iPhone or Android ever 10-14 months (I use family members' upgrades and give them my old phones as I keep them in great condition). As for the iPad, I won't buy an iPad for awhile as the one I just sold was not used for more than a couple hours every month. It just didn't fit my lifestyle


macrumors member
Dec 24, 2003
New York, NY
Apple Care

I've been asking myself the same question. For me, as a person who is not very tech savy, apple care is a big issue. I have been a frequent caller for tech support. I have a 2009 MacBook Pro - which while it has slowed down, is still sufficient for my needs. But I find myself thinking I'd probably upgrade in the next year or two anyway. It may be worth it to move the schedule up to get the tech support that comes with apple care. Mine ran out several months ago. But every three years seems a bit too often for my needs and pocket. Hmm.


macrumors 6502a
Jun 21, 2011
Greece and Holland
I have my imac almost a year now, its, the 2011 21.5" i5 base model.
I ve allready bought my aplecare for the next two years, so hopefully it will be ok. But then i think i lll try to sell it and get a new one!
My ipone4 i have since the release day so i ll upgrade now , but not sure if i get the iphone5 !


macrumors newbie
Feb 13, 2012
I'm only on my second Mac. My first was a 2004 iBook that I pushed to its limits and gave to a family friend, it's apparently still working. My current computer is the first unibody MBP from 2008. It still runs great, but I've also upgraded the HD to a7,200RPM model and the RAM to 8GB from 2. Lately I've been thinking it's almost time to replace it, but I'll probably get another year or two out of it.

Unless you absolutely need the latest and greatest on the market I don't see any point in upgrading every year or two. In fact I know many professionals who use older equipment due to workflows, accessories, or other technical reasons, so it can actually be detrimental to upgrade too often.

On the other hand, if you need and can afford the upgrade (both monetarily and in terms of time and effort to get setup) then I don't see any reason not to.

Personally I'm a little old fashioned in that I like to own my stuff outright and take pride in it. Therefore I will usually go without until I can afford a new whatever, which is another reason I don't replace my computer very often. The problem with selling your new stuff every year or two is that you're not guaranteed to find a buyer, nor that you will get the price you want, so I woundn't rely on it. Also, I always feel that there is someone who could really use it that I could give it to for free or at a severe discount, and that's what I've done with all my computers, Mac or otherwise.

Phones are another issue, probably nobody would want my old 3G or even my current Android phone in a year or two . . But I'll have to wait and see how iPads hold up.


macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Mar 20, 2008
I don't have a crystal ball, but I think Apple is "up to something" with their desktop machines. In my experience, whenever they get this quiet, and there are weird unnecessary delays, and the upgrades are inconsequential (for example, like the last boost of the G5 processors), then it's time to step back. I'm not trying to fuel more speculation, I'm just observing.
I gave up waiting for a new "midrange tower" in 2008, when I broke down and bought a MBP to replace my PowerMac G4. Most of the time, I keep my MBP hooked to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse, although the portability of its being a laptop has come in handy a few times. When I want portability, usually my iPad suffices. Anyway, I stopped following the Mac Pros years ago because, even though I like their upgradability, they're too expensive for a hobbyist such as myself. So I don't know what people think might be in store for the next Mac Pro.

I do, however, follow iMac rumors more closely, as I go back and forth between wanting a 27" iMac and a laptop as my next computer. I'm wondering whether the next iMacs will include Retina displays. Part of me thinks it's too soon, that producing 27" and 21.5" Retina panels in volume is too expensive at the moment. But with Apple's buying power, you never know, and delays in getting the panels might be what's causing delays in the release of the new iMacs. If the only updates are Ivy Bridge processors and USB 3.0 ports, I'd think the new iMacs would have been released by now.

The transition to Retina is the main reason I'm holding off buying a new Mac. I don't need a Retina display, but every time I look at a rMBP or the latest iPad, the Retina display looks so gorgeous, and I think I'd regret buying a computer with a conventional display in what might be the last couple years of conventional displays on Apple computers. The only reason I'd buy a computer with a conventional display would be if Retina iMacs command a price premium and also drive down the price of refurbished conventional iMacs even further.

Another reason I'm waiting is the price of SSDs. We recently got SSD-based Lenovo ThinkPads at work, and the increase in speed over my previous HDD-based ThinkPad is so huge that I don't want to buy an HDD-based computer ever again, at least not for the primary drive. 256 GB SSD drives are reasonably priced now, but I couldn't quite fit all my files on one. A 512 GB SSD would be more than enough, but they're still expensive. They're dropping in price, though, and should be inexpensive enough for me next year.

So as for my original post, if I break down and buy a refurbished current Mac because of its low price, I think I'd be tempted to upgrade to something better in a couple years. If I wait for a Retina Mac with a 512 GB SSD, though, I think I'd be happy with it four or five years, unless some drool-worthy new tech feature comes out during that time period. If the processor speed of my early 2008 MBP weren't slowing me down for things like Aperture, and if it didn't have that faulty NVIDIA graphics card (which I suspect is what fried the motherboard last year, and which could happen again), I'd be tempted to replace the HDD with an SSD and use it for another couple years.


Apr 10, 2011
Interesting thread. I might sell my 13" MBP next year, but the 13" MBP I have may be the last that a user can upgrade the RAM/dual HDD (optibay). If Apple does axe the Classic Macnook Pros at the next update, I'll probably keep my 13" and upgrade the RAM to 16GB if needed.

I prefer to buy equipment and keep it for as long as possible. :)