TechJunkie is a BOX20 Media Company

Home PC What Kind Of PC Lasts The Longest?

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.

Moving parts

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).

What Is The Difference Between Freeware, Shareware And Open Source?

Read Next 

17 thoughts on “What Kind Of PC Lasts The Longest?”

John says:
Table top fans are a computer saver. Keep it cool.
Luis R. says:
Longevity has many variables as we all know. I am using a 7-year old Compaq EVO at work which only last month blew up its power supply. Unfortunately the IS guys didn’t have any spare PCs available at the time but they just replaced the power supply and it was good to go. I say unfortunately because I was expecting them to come with a new PC… oh well…

At home I have had similar experiences. My current build is five years old and still running quite well. I am planning to upgrade sometime in the near future mostly in anticipation of Windows 7 more than anything else. So far I have never had a hardware failure (knock on wood) other than power supplies (three of them in my current system) and a couple of cd/dvd drives.

But I know people who have had several major hardware failures including hard drive crashes in the same period of time. Your mileage may vary.

Kidd says:

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.

With the occasional exception. I am ready to present to my company that Overclocking is our only solution to running Autodesk Revit MEP. This is cutting-edge software that (to the dissapointment of thousands of users) in its’ latest release, STILL does not utilize multi-core technology. And the biggest problem with the program? Performance. It simply runs 4-20x SLOWER than the previous generation of Autodesk drafting software, AutoCAD. Thanks for the article, Rich. I think I’ll go start a thread for this now.

Roy says:
Just a suggestion, because heat is a killer. I use my computer for graphics and it is over three years old ( in this day and age that is ancient). I learned years ago to put a small fan 4″ by the bottom side of my lap top. I keep the cache empty and it stays about 5 degrees below the normal for the processor. I also never let my laptop sit flat, I use a incline mesh stand for better circulation. I have two monitors, external hard drive also connected to the computer. So it really gets a workout.
On internet test speed. I don’t know how reliable they are I have hit down low speeds of 18.55Mb/s. Today just for the heck of it I did a 24.35 Mb/s. Don’t figure!
But I have learned that cool is better. It is a Gateway MX6453, AMD Turion 64 x2 1.60 GHz with 2GB of Ram. Xp Media center edition version 2000 with only service pack 2.
So you can see that it is not the most powerful on the market.
Also I update anti virus every day before I even start work on the computer.
So like Uncle Dave says it really doesn’t matter the computer, when you buy one it really is a stab in the dark on how good it will be. It’s what you do with it after words that counts.
And one word of advice, just because someone advertises to “try this or that” to remove errors it doesn’t mean it will work on your computer.

P.S. I have for years now only used System Suite (that is not a plug for their product) to clean and maintain my computer, and my previous computer. It’s not bloated and it does a good job (on my computer) to keep it clean and running.

Marianne Popp says:
I have 5 machines in-house….at least 3 of those are 4-5 years old and cross my fingers none have had major component failure. But when I decided to add the last 2, I put Ubuntu on the 3 old ones and they now seem to run faster than they ever did with Windows on them and of course with less blue screen, virus or hardware problems.

I just consider myself very lucky with hardware (knocking on wood, right now). But am willing to upgrade motherboards and such if that type of hardware goes, because I do like all the cases.

sinaisix says:
i would buy a pre built given the part of the world i am is more cost effective and simple
marc says:
My 4-1/2 year-old ASUS socket 939 motherboard gave out last week. It’s being replaced with a socket AM-2 board, a 2.8 Ghz AMD 64 x 2 CPU with a heavy-duty fan, and 4 GB RAM for starters. Guess I feel the need for speed over low wattage, and it’s a sweet upgrade at $169 for all that. The board supports Phenom CPUs and up to 32 GB RAM in case I want to upgrade further later. I’m looking forward to running Windows 7 with this setup.

If you have a good case you can update the innards and march on for another round.

scopy says:
I had a dell on the go for over 5 year. Is in a draw somewhere, falling a part but still works. It’s one of the back up laptops i have and i have had to go back to it a few times.
piasabird says:
I think most people who purchase netbooks will not be happy with them. They are just too underpowered and most people will be sorry when they purchase a device so low powered. People should buy computers powerful enough to do what they want the computer to do, not what the salesman wants you to buy. If you dont want to play games you may want more power than you think. If you spend more money up front you will cry less later.

A good business machine depends on what you want to do. If you want a lot of windows up to do multiple tasks some options you might not think of may be right for you like a Two Monitor system. Sometimes at work I wish I could have 2 monitors to look at two saparate applications that I use together when scanning documents. I have a little Dell 18.5″ HD 720p monitor and it seems to be pretty good but it is not quite wide enough for 2 application windows. I think a 22″ widescreen monitor might be about right. Either that or two 17″ more square monitors. I think the industry needs to package more systems with a dual monitor setup. If they gave a few systems in and big discounts or sent some two monitor systems out for people to try I think that would become the standard. Imagine doing programming with the ability to go thru the code on one screen and seeing the results on the other screen. Either that or watching TV on one screen and working on another screen.

Business Logos says:
I can tell you notebooks/laptops have the shortest shelf life! I go through them (regardless of the brand) at a rate of 1 per year.
Josh says:

“Slower RPM hard drives generate less heat which can enhance the life span of your computer box, especially is space :::is::: tight. “

Rich Menga says:
Warren says:
Technology updates too rapidly for ppl to care too too much about longevity.. after 3-4 years, the new pc’s and laptops out make you want to upgrade anyway, so i would rather get the performance and have an excuse to upgrade when it starts to fail. Then of course, its not too old for you to possibly sell it off, or if youre nice, give it to a family member. Another example.. my graphics card plays games decently now, but in 2-3 years, the games comin out will most likely be too intense
Jase says:
interesting article, although you forgot about another aspect of this issue

how well this given hardware is looked after by the end user. – that goes for any machine no matter how good (or not) it’s parts are.

A lot my garanteed income as a tech lately comes from a select group of people who like to physically abuse their systems. I’m forever replacing cd drives and usb ports and the like because they like to rip a thumb drive out of the port in a hurry and damaging it, or folks who simply nudge their cd/dvd drives closed cos they have to close the one on their stereo that way, then wonder why their drives don’t open anymore, or refuse to close properly etc.

Brian says:
Knock, knock, knock (on wood). Is failure of computer hardware (other than fans) really that common? I have never had any component mechanically fail other than fans, and I have owned a PC of some sort since for almost 30 years (C64!!!). My current built PC has had one case fan replacement. I have a balky chipset fan (the ASUS MB I have was famous for it), but I usually can get it spinning again, and its aftermarket replacement sits in the box. It has been mildly overclocked, and runs basically 24/7, for the last three and a half years.

My parents use my Dell 4100 (!!!) that I bought in 2000.

In a nutshell, I have always maintained that computer hardware failures are usually either misdiagnosed software issues (a virus misinterpreted as a hard drive crash) or abuse and neglect (dropped laptops, etc.).

eli says:
I just recently built a box with an AMD 4850e, and I love it. It’s not the fastest of course, but with Ubuntu, it’s plenty fast enough. I’ve enabled the frequency scaling, and it sits at 1GHz at idle. It’s very cool, & very quiet. I don’t do any serious gaming, so this is plenty of power for me.
Floppyman says:
I really don’t think longevity is an issue these days with faster spinning drives — unless, of course, they are not properly cooled.
Doug says:
I’d rather have a faster PC than one that lives longer. But that’s because I like gaming and change my PC every 3 or 4 years, which I consider to be enough for a PC to last. Other people may think different, of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Jul 8, 2009

643 Articles Published