What Kind Of PC Lasts The Longest?
Longevity is a factor when buying or building a new computer, no question. You don’t want to put your money down on something that will break in less than two years. Even though computers are dirt cheap these days, it always just plain sucks when something busts on your computer box because it just wrecks your day.
Computers that last a long time are not particular to any specific brand. Any time you say, "Well, x brand sucks!", there will always be somebody who will fire right back with, "Bullsh*t! I’ve had an x brand for 10 years with all original equipment and it still runs great!" So you can’t peg quality on brand. Heck, there are still some people with eMachines PCs that still run just fine.
Even the best-of-breed computer and component manufacturers have had a few stinkers. Apple has released some crappy Macs. Asus has released some not-so great motherboards. Not every model from Lenovo is a winner. You get the idea.
What makes a computer last a good long time can be boiled down to a few very simple considerations.
Heat kills computers. PCs that run hot by nature will have a shorter life span.
With an overclocked CPU you are running the processor very close to or outside of its designed tolerance limits. And even if your box is properly cooled to compensate, the CPU will have a shorter life span.
With the multi-core CPUs we have available today there really isn’t any reason to overclock anymore. Hobbyists do still overclock, but only because of the "because I can" factor and not much else.
The rule of thumb with computers is that anything that moves will usually break first. Things that move are optical drives, hard drives (internally) and fans.
Fans are found on the PSU, the CPU, sometimes the video card and in other parts of the case that allow additional fans to be installed.
Fast-RPM hard drive(s)
Internal HDDs start at 5400-rpm and end at 15,000-rpm. Most of us use 7200.
Slower RPM hard drives generate less heat which can enhance the life span of your computer box, especially is space is tight. For example, the Mac Mini specifically uses a 5400-rpm hard disk drive to keep heat down because of its super-small size.
I’m not instructing you to buy 5400-rpm drives. The 7200s work fine. But if longevity is what you want, stick with 7200 over the 15,000.
Video cards with fans on them
If the video card has a heat sink with a fan on it, you know it gets hot. And the fan is yet another moving part that can break later.
What computer would last the longest then?
A non-overclocked computer box with standard (meaning not "high-powered") RAM, a low-wattage CPU, a low-powered video card and a low-RPM hard drive.
A computer box of this type usually has no more than three fans in it. One for the PSU, one for the CPU and the last being a single case fan in the rear. In some instances the box runs cool enough to where the case fan isn’t even required.
If you are looking to buy a pre-built that has specs like this, specifically look for "nettop" computers.
If you’re looking to build a box like this, you want to do the following:
First, stick to the mini-tower case format. You don’t need a big case but you do need something big enough for proper cooling.
Second is to shop for your CPU by watt rather than by speed.
Low-watt CPUs are made by both Intel and AMD and are both seriously cheap. Intel’s Celeron 430 Conroe-L is 35 watts and runs for just $40 at present. AMD’s Sempron LE-1300 Sparta is a 45-watt and is the same price.
For a few bucks more you can step up to the 65-watt Intel which is a dual-core and quite speedy considering its power consumption.
As a comparison, an Intel Core i7 920 uses 130 watts. Yes, it’s much faster, but a whole lot hotter.
Third is to stick to 7200-rpm hard drives. Go no higher. Being this is the most popular rpm speed for HDDs, you won’t have a problem finding one.
Fourth, use RAM that does not require heat spreaders or add-on cooling of any kind. If you’re confused as to what to get, just use Crucial.
Fifth, use a video card that doesn’t require a fan just to operate. Your best bet is to use on-board motherboard video. If you want something better, my personal suggestion is to use a dual-head (just in case you want dual-monitor) card with a bare minimum of 512MB video memory on-board. These cards are cheap and readily available.
Sixth, for any fans present in your build, make sure they are easily replaceable. I specifically recommend buying an extra fan for each in your system. If your box has 3 fans, buy 3 extra. How do you know when to change them out? Either when one or more stops working or one or more starts making noise that wasn’t there before.
Alternative build using mobile components in a desktop box?
Technically this is what a nettop is. You specifically use mobile components in a desktop to cut down on heat. For example, instead of using the standard 3.5-inch HDD, you could use a mobile-sized 2.5-inch. However the parts do typically cost more, so it’s best to stick with standard-sized desktop components.
Are low-powered PCs slow?
Not really. Granted, they can’t game, but since the advent of multi-core low-watt CPUs you’d be hard pressed to call it slow. Heck, the low-watters even have 64-bit support. You could build one of these outfitted with 4GB RAM and believe me, she’ll be more than speedy enough – and last a long time to boot since it will be nice and cool.
Are low-powered PCs hard to build?
Quite the contrary. A low-powered box is one of the easiest builds. There are less fans to connect, less wires and smaller (but still easy) parts that give you lots of room to work even in a mini-tower.
Would you entertain the idea of using a low-watt PC for longevity’s sake?
Let us know in the comments. And if you already use one, let us know your experience with it (good or bad).