How frequently should I upgrade machines?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Poob Bubes, Feb 9, 2009.

  1. Poob Bubes macrumors 6502a

    Poob Bubes

    Apr 16, 2007
    Just looking for some opinions on the best amount of time to keep a machine before upgrading. For example, should I get a new iMac every 3.5 years? What is the optimal amount of time to wait so that you still get a decent price when selling your current machine? Obviously, the longer you wait, the more your current machine will depreciate, so is there a point that represents the most value when upgrading? FYI, I currently have a 2.16 Intel iMac.
  2. GimmeSlack12 macrumors 603


    Apr 29, 2005
    San Francisco
    For resale value, I'd say the sooner the better. Probably 2 years if you want a decent price for the machine. Otherwise, expect to get less than half of what you paid or just buy a fairly top of the line model and expect to use it for up to 5 years.
  3. jayman99 macrumors member

    Jan 10, 2009
    typically this depends on your use of the computer.

    i'll give you my insight on this question including a few words from my experience working at apple.

    i'd recommend purchasing a new mac every 3 years. if you can get more use out of the machine then go for it, hold off getting a new one if it does everything you want it to do still.

    i say every 3 years, because that is when your extended (optional) apple care warranty expires. typically i think 3 years is a good timeframe for a new machine because by this time cpu upgrades are more substantial, memory, hard drive space, and other specs, etc.

    i'd also recommend purchasing apple care with the system. this ensures that the computer will work for three years without a hitch and everything is covered (except physical damage, which doesn't happen often on the imac). i'd be more concerned with physical damage on a notebook.

    the applecare on the imac is the cheapest applecare at apple. the imac also has the lowest failure rate.

    the last reason to get the apple care is because in your question, you stated you may sell the computer after so many years. if you do not have apple care on the machine, it is more likely you will lose a buyer if the imac is not covered under a warranty.

    you can still get a decent amount of money on a mac up to 3 years old. a few tips:
    - keep the mac in the best condition possible
    - keep the original box, manuals, discs, etc.
    - purchase applecare!
    - you can future-proof your purchase ordering the faster processor option, better graphics, larger hard drive, upgrading the ram, etc. the higher the specs the longer the systems lifetime.
    - upgrade the software on the machine. for example, you want to sell the system after 2 or 3 years, upgrade the Mac OS and iLife. Those are the basics.

    All-in-all, use the computer to the point where it doesn't do what you need it to do anymore. you can take these tips into consideration. like i said, i used to work at apple, i loved having the latest and greatest mac... then reality caught up with me... the more systems you buy and sell early on, it gets extremely pricey and it is psychologically mind draining.

    best of luck, excellent topic.
  4. mgridgaway macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2006
    If you purchase Apple Care, I would consider selling it after 2 years. People really like to see that it's still covered by warranty, so you're more likely to get more money for it. Obviously, you should make sure that you really need a new computer. If you're only using it for email/surfing/youtube, it'll probably last you closer to 4 years or even longer. On the other hand, mine is only a year old and I'm already regretting not buying the 256MB ATI2600 model.

    If you don't choose to get Applecare, sell it whenever you feel like you really need the improvement in speed. This should really only happen if your computer habits change (say you start doing pro work or playing video games) or your computer is 4+ years old. I wouldn't worry too much about resale value. Although you lose money by not selling it in it's prime, you save money because you're not buying a new computer every 3 years. Do the math.
  5. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Like a car, I recommend driving it until it won't run anymore.
  6. mgridgaway macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2006
    A good recommendation for cars, but your car doesn't need more horsepower as cars around it keep getting more advanced. It just keeps driving until it can't. Computers require more and more power to function properly, and if you use a computer regularly, using an obsolete (read: 5+ years, give or take) model makes your time less efficient, even if you're just watching Youtube.
  7. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Very few computer users need more horsepower. Most just think they do.
  8. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    ^^^Yeah, for many users, software demands don't really increase as fast as computing speed does. Lots of people look at photos, write in MS Word, email, browse the web, listen to music, and if they're really keen, edit a photo in iPhoto. Remember, there are a lot of boys and girls, men and women who don't care much about computers, the quality of their photos, etc, as long as they work and they can see their photos and look at stuff on FaceBook, eBay, etc.

    I believe the answer to this particular question is "upgrade every year". Resale value of your machine remains very high (for Macs) after 12 months unless there was a major processor upgrade, feature upgrade, or new form factor released during your 12 months of ownership.

    Lets say you buy the high-end $1600 MacBook, and someone tends to upgrade every 3 years. After 3 years of ownership, he sells it for $500, and uses that money, plus $1100 of his savings, to buy another $1600 MacBook in 3 years time. In other words, that MacBook cost me around $367 per year ($1100/3 years).

    If I decided to upgrade every year instead, lets say I could sell my 1 year old, $1600 MacBook for $1200 or $1300. That would mean that the MacBook cost me $400 that year. If there was only a minor speed bump to the MacBook line that year, perhaps you could sell it for $1300 so that the MB only cost you $300 that year.

    In 3 years time, it would have cost you approximately the same amount of money to upgrade every 3 years as it would to upgrade every single year. The only difference is that by upgrading every year, you're using the latest and greatest all the time.

    Saying that, I'd rather upgrade every 3 years. ;) If I have a reliable machine, I don't want to give it up to buy something that's only a bit faster. I don't see the point when my needs haven't changed much, particularly if my machine has been trouble-free. That piece of mind is really nice.
  9. zdobson macrumors 6502

    Nov 9, 2007
    What do you do with your computer? I think that is the biggest factor in how often it's worth upgrading. IMO, it's not worth upgrading until you're sitting around waiting for your computer to perform a task. Otherwise, why bother? Unless you just like having the latest and greatest.
  10. Turmoil macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2008
    I generally use mine till I can't run some piece of software I want, or until it's run into the ground. About 4 years till I have to have a new one, but I always find uses for the old one, until they just give out.
  11. Vikz macrumors regular


    Nov 13, 2007
    San Juan, Puerto Rico
    with apple computers you should change machine within the 5 to 7 years, why do I say that?

    because by the 5th or 6th year software stops supporting the architecture and in the 7th year apple considers hardware vintage and the only way to repair the mac is to go to cali directly or buy ebay parts.

    of course there are more variables like software specs and how much smooth you want everything to run, etc etc but thats my advice to all the people that have asked me that :)
  12. petermcphee macrumors 6502a


    Aug 20, 2008
    This seems like a very well-reasoned post. I plan on upgrading my machines when they no longer work or are too expensive to fix.:)
  13. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

    Dec 23, 2006
    In my imagination
    You should upgrade every three years, or whenever the warranty runs out.

    Doing it every two may help your resale value though, but three years is the standard in my opinion. As was said, the higher end the machine is, the longer you can keep it, but even with high end machines, their resale value will go down.

    If you do plan on selling a machine, my golden rule is to drop the price of the Mac by a third of the price every year you have it. Anything less than that and you are ripping off the potential buyer (if you feel okay with that then go for it) example: I just came off of Craigslist and a seller wanted $800 for a 1.25 GHz Powerbook G4 and $500 for a 1 GHz iBook.... WTF!!!! :mad:

    The car analogy works good for the high end stuff since you can upgrade it and it's speed will stay up there, but expect to just toss your machine at the end of ten years if you can get it to last that long, or sell it for practically nothing.
  14. pprior macrumors 65816

    Aug 1, 2007

    Video editing and large RAW file editing being the exceptions I have noted personally.

    Max out ram and run the thing as long as you can. Macs seem to last much longer before upgrades are "needed" than PC in my experience.

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