Horse Sense #121

The Hidden Perils of Old PCs and Software

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The Hidden Perils of Old PCs and Software

Windows Server 2003 End of Support occurs 7/14/2015. After that there will be no new security patches to help protect PCs from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, no software or content updates, and no technical support from Microsoft. You cannot simply install new operating system software and call it a day. Proper configuration and testing can take a significant amount of time.

3 year old PCs cost 1.5x as much to maintain as new PCs. Warranties on machines older than 3 years tend to increase dramatically in cost. 3 year old PCs suffer 40% more downtime than new ones. By the time a PC is 5 years old, productivity drops 50% compared to a new PC. With laptops, the figures are even more dramatic, especially since you usually cannot incrementally add capability the way you can with many desktops. So, look at your PC inventory and consider that even the best maintained equipment will need to be replaced eventually.

If you buy at the higher end of the market, you will get more life out of your PC. However, to avoid high productivity or maintenance costs you should consider a replacement cycle of 3-7 years. We strongly recommend replacing any pre-Windows 7 machine. Do not feel comfortable if your machine is running Windows 7 as it may be quite ancient. Windows 7 has reached the extended support stage where Microsoft will not add any new features, though it will provide security updates. This applies even if you buy a new machine with Windows 7 on it today! A newer operating system will generally have patched all the security holes and fixed all the performance issues of the previous edition and it will be able to understand and use newer hardware more effectively. While you could run an older operating system on new equipment, if you are buying new equipment anyway, upgrading the operating system makes sense. Try not to replace all your hardware and software in one year or you may end up with a feast (nothing needs to be done) or famine (I have to fix everything!) situation. Even if you are not going to replace a machine, selective upgrades, especially solid state drives, may allow its remaining life to be much more productive. If you have bang for the buck questions, just ask us!

Servers are exceptionally critical pieces of equipment. Since many people depend on their capabilities, any negative or positive impact will affect a lot of people. Simple file servers might not require a lot of processing power or RAM, but they do need good networking capabilities, good management, reliable hardware, and fast disk access. Many older servers do not have solid state disks which hinder their ability to serve a lot of users. If the server hosts applications or multiple user sessions, then RAM, processor speed, and fast hard disk access become a bigger deal. These servers benefit the most from a fast refresh cycle.

If you do decide that a new piece of equipment is in your future, do the following:
(1) Think about what you want to do now and in the 3-7 year future.
(2) Then figure out what software will help you do it.
(3) Then figure out what hardware will run that software well. If in doubt, add more capability. Not enough capability when you need it is a problem. "Too much" capability never is.

What should you do with your old equipment? Unless you have a lot, selling it probably is not going to be worthwhile. You may be able to salvage pieces and parts. Keyboards, mice, monitors, and other peripherals are often easy to salvage and reuse. If you like the keyboard from your old machine, by all means use it with the new one! Consider offering the replaced systems to employees or donate them to a charity or school. If all else fails, do not throw electronics away in the normal trash as they contain toxic materials. There are many places to recycle responsibly locally or you can look online at sites such as

©2015 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse