Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This is directly related to my question regarding leasing or purchasing in flights versus piecemeal design:

When you buy a machine for a user, how long do you assume it will be in use? Do you plan 3 year or 5 year generations, or something else? Is it different for laptops vs desktops? (or are you even still buying desktops? I've bought 4 in as many years, I think).


locked by HopelessN00b Jan 22 '15 at 7:21

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

closed as off-topic by HopelessN00b Jan 22 '15 at 7:21

  • This question does not appear to be about server, networking, or related infrastructure administration within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This question is off-topic under current topicality rules. – HopelessN00b Jan 22 '15 at 7:21

14 Answers 14

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It depends on what your support costs are. Manufacturers will generally give you three years warranty for a reasonable price, but then charge like a wounded bull for years 4 - 5 (and you're pretty much on your own after that).

So you could say the minimum life of a desktop laptop is three years, plus however long each individual machine lasts -- when it fails after three years you swap it for a brand new one.

Also bear in mind that future generations of Windows may not be compatible with 3+ year-old hardware (this was the case with Vista).

I would add that when replacing 3+ year-old workstations you should already have standardised on a replacement model (i.e. don't replace them willy-nilly). – John Röthlisberger Jun 3 '09 at 15:23

Last place I was at we did it this way.

Power users got new machines, high end specs

  • power users are people who need the power not who know how to rework the registry on the weekend
  • these were the drafters (AutoCAD), engineers running simulator software & developers

At 2 years, they got a new top end machine Their machine then went to support staff

  • These are the accountants, payroll, sales, people who generally only used "office" type applications

So max machine life was about 4 years. If a support person needed a new machine for any reason and the power users wasn't due for a while longer we'd upgrade the power user sooner since they make better use of the faster machine.

The machines we bought were high end enough that at 2 years old they were still better then some bottom end stuff, 4 gigs ram, and dedicated video cards was the norm for us.

Thats a lot like how we're doing it now. It's frustrating to me to not know for sure what model a user has when I'm trying to troubleshoot it, and asset tracking is a nightmare since they're always changing hands. – Matt Simmons Jun 3 '09 at 15:25
I should add to this that we always bought Dell (swap name with company of your choice) business grade machines. Minor changes might be things like the drafts got workstation class laptops. So generally we were down to about 4 over all models from 2 lines within Dell. It used to be a pain for tracking until I forced a policy into place that said NO direct pass off's period. Every laptop must be shipped back to me and I'll clean it up and re-issue it to the next person. That allowed me to track them better. – SpaceManSpiff Jun 4 '09 at 12:33

Most answers here will handle the IT/tech side.

So I'll say this:

  • Check with your accounting department about how they depreciate assets like computers. This helps to determine a lifecycle plan, and will make the Execs appreciate IT even more for thinking about the dollar figures involved and how Accounting handles those dollars.
Good point. I should have mentioned in my answer that we worked with our finance department on how they depreciated various assets when considering all parts of our hardware replacement schedule. Definitely a must imo. – RobM Jun 3 '09 at 22:51

We keep ours 3 years. All our eqiupment is leased. So no machine is ever more than 3 years old. It makes support much easier because they all match one of 3 models, and one of 3 images.


We generally go with 4 years, as we can get this level of warranty from our supplier easily enough. It seems smart to bet with, rather than against our hardware suppliers.


As much as I would like to assign a lifetime to our machines, we end up keeping them until they pack it in. The odd time we do buy a new machine, executive management limits us to a small budget with the end result being a machine that is already at least one or two generations old. All in the name of saving money, yet for some reason we must buy from Dell even though I can source cheaper and more powerful machines locally.

I had this feeling I wasn't the only one in an "until it breaks completely" kind of shop. Ditto on the whole thing. – Kara Marfia Jun 3 '09 at 15:31
Same here, except they seem to try and resurrect the dead ones here as long as possible. We have some systems with ~ 2 GHz P4's and 512 MB, and some even older. – Joshua Nurczyk Jun 3 '09 at 16:10
We do replacement hard drives, power supplies, and RAM. Usually the CPU or motherboard needs to die before the computer can. On rare occasions a user might convince management to purchase a new computer if they complain long and loud enough, in which case their old computer becomes a spare. – Scott Jun 3 '09 at 18:57

We keep ours here for 3 years or until it dies (whichever comes first). After 3 years, the computer is wiped and sent back to the vendor for a discount on our next purchase. We rarely change a desktop's owner and if we do, we immediately record it on our asset management.



I use the 3 year plan. Mosly because the laptops are pretty torn up by then.


We've got a flat performance requirement tier here so we replace desktops each 4-5 years. Desktops are inexpensive enough we generally do not add any type of extra warranty - just keep a few spares around. Laptops are different since they always seem to suffer a performance lag,get the heck beat out of them, and are made up of specialized components. We carry full 3 year warranties and replace them at the end of that period.


Well, we say three years, basically because that's how we depreciate them. But we are an IT company, so IRS aside, we'd do new hardware anyway in 3 years for our front-line folks just to be able to reasonably run the latest stuff from Microsoft and Lotus.

Bottom line is: Business conditions dictate the refresh cycle. We target 3, but it's typically when we can afford it after 3.


Typically about 4 years. We like a single manufacturer solution and try to minimise on the number of models, as it makes the imaging task a whole lot easier (productivity lost by maintaining a gazillion different images can cost a lot too).


We used to buy our power users (mainly engineers) a desk top work station and a separate laptop from on the road. We then realized a powerful laptop and external monitor (flat screen today) could double as a workstation. We also decided to lease for 3 years. This got us on a good upgrade schedule. After 3 years can either simply send them back or buy out the lease fairly cheap.

Our office works usually use Citrix. The software runs on a server and each desk just needs a minimal PC as a client.

Non technical people who work outside the office get basic laptops again on a three year lease.


3 years. The majority of staff have laptops, and I've found that laptops don't often stand the test of time very well. Once the three year warranty is up, they are cleaned off and taken out of service.


very much depends on what you put in or what need to put in the hardware.

if, say you install a complete current OS with current openoffice, etc... and you do not need to upgrade these software every few months, or you can wisely choose 'light' apps for the hardware, then your hardware can last very long.

personally, right now, i'm using over 10 years old pentium 4. i even still have and using pentium 2 and pentium 3 hardware daily!

choose your software wisely and you can safely use any hardware over 10 years. coz, good software do not always demand fastest cpu and huge ram to run.

off course, there're exception, like 3d apps, compilation machine, etc that constantly need fastest cpu and huge ram.

but for regular office usages (ms office/openoffice/etc) any good hardware can last as long as the 'real life' of the hardware.

i use it till it died!


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.