How Long Does a Laptop Last? The Complete Guide
Updated on January 18, 2022 | by Louise Simon
In 2019, computer shipments, including laptops, totaled a staggering 266.69 million units. The top two companies, namely Lenovo and HP, accounted for half of those sales. In total, though, 2019 shipments represented a 2.7% increase from the previous year’s sales.
The third quarter of 2020 was even more impressive, with its 12.7% year-over-year increase. During this period alone, PC makers sold 79.2 million units.
With all that said, you may be wondering why more and more folks buy new laptops each year. How long does a laptop last anyway, and is there anything you can do to extend its life?
We’ll get to the bottom of these questions below, so be sure to read on.
How Long Does a Laptop Last on Average?
The average laptop lifespan ranges from three to five years. In its user manuals, Lenovo specifies its products to have an estimated service life of up to four years.
However, the more expensive upper-tier laptops, such as some Macs, can last for up to a decade.
Factors That Affect Laptop Service Life
The specific make and model of a laptop’s physical parts, or its hardware, has a big impact on its service life. The environment you use it in and your overall treatment of the device also plays a massive role. The types of activities you run (or fail to) on the laptop can also make it break down sooner than expected.
Exterior Physical Components
Some of the most durable laptops are those that meet military-standard requirements. This means that they’ve undergone extreme stress tests, such as the MIL-STD-810G. These standards include environmental, transportation, and shock tests.
Portable computers that pass these rigorous exams classify as “rugged laptops.” In consumer terms, this means that they can handle extreme temperatures and shocks. They may also come with an Ingress Protection (IP) certification against dust or water.
With that said, rugged laptops often have a metal chassis, such as magnesium alloy or aluminum. Their solid enclosure usually makes them heavy and bulky, though. Still, their design makes them last way longer than typical consumer laptops.
On the other end of the spectrum are the budget laptops, which often use plastic materials. These are easier to damage and are less withstanding of extreme temperatures. However, they weigh much less than metals, so they’re much more portable.
Hardware specifications affect a laptop’s ability to remain relevant to increasing user demands. This is especially important for processors and random access memory (RAM) cards. The higher their specs, the heavier the tasks, and the more activities they can do without slowing.
By contrast, lower specs have limited performance capacities. This can translate to lags during a laptop’s or a program’s initial start-up. It can also mean impaired overall laptop speed when you try to run simultaneous apps.
For example, an Intel i5 processor loads software faster than an i3 processor. The former can also run more apps at once, without speed issues.
The same applies to RAM: an 8GB RAM chip can perform more tasks at once than a 2GB one. The former also interprets instructions way faster than the latter. You can expect the higher virtual memory to be much better for multitasking.
For these reasons, low laptop specs can prompt you to replace a device sooner.
Exposure to Extreme Temperatures
You can cut the lifespan of a laptop short if you always expose it to extreme temperatures. This is especially true for the battery; it can deplete sooner in really low or high temperatures. Scientists say that the acceptable temp range for lithium-ion batteries is -4 °F to 140 °F.
Subjecting the batteries to anything outside this range can cause them to degrade. Worse, they can develop permanent damages and may even explode or burst into flames.
Exposing a laptop to freezing temperatures can also damage its circuit board. This can happen when you boot your computer after it has been in the cold for some time. The electricity that travels through the circuit board can cause rapid heating.
The heat can then force the board to expand. This can cause it to break or distort, as there’s no extra space to accommodate the expansion.
Laptops with LCD screens are also vulnerable to damage in freezing conditions. The liquid crystal in the screen can freeze and result in dead pixels. In severe cases, the entire screen can become pixelated, or it may no longer display anything at all.
Other Environmental Factors
How long a laptop lasts also has to do with continuous exposure to dirt and pollution. Contaminants can get inside your laptop and form residue on its internal hardware. This can create overheating issues, as the laptop fan can perform poorly due to debris.
The longer you allow a laptop to overheat, the higher its odds of premature failure.
The Laptop Activities You Perform
The activities you need to perform on your laptop also affects how long it remains viable. If you’re an average computer user whose demands won’t change, your device can last for a full three to five years. This is rarely the case, though, as consumers produce more data at an exponential rate each day.
To give you an idea, humans created 90% of existing data within just the last two years. People now also produce 2.5 quintillion bytes more each passing day.
So, unless you’re proactive in data management, your laptop can become irrelevant sooner.
Moreover, any extra task you run on your laptop brings it closer to its max operating capacity.
Suppose you purchased a laptop with a single-core processor and 2GB of RAM. You only planned to use it for basic tasks like email, writing, research, and web browsing during that time. These specs will no longer cut it if you now also want to watch HD videos or play video games.
The Laptop Tasks You Fail to Perform
If you don’t clean your laptop’s chassis regularly, it can die way sooner.
A laptop is less likely to overheat if you keep it, especially its air vents and ports, dust- and debris-free. This is even more crucial for laptops that don’t have internal fans, like mini Chromebooks. These devices rely only on clog-free vents for unobstructed cooling airflow.
Failure to update software can also put your laptop at risk of failure due to infections. The same goes if you bypass security or if you download stuff from unverified or non-secure sites.
Note that malware activity, especially ransomware, is on the rise. Some reports even found a 715% year-on-year rise in ransomware detections this 2020.
Either way, malware infections can make your RAM usage skyrocket. At the very least, they can slow down your laptop or cause it to crash. They can also make it difficult for your device to run simultaneous tasks.
Malware depletes resources, so attempting to do other tasks can make your laptop heat up. In short, these malicious programs can cause both software and hardware damage.
When You Don’t Need a New Laptop
Before you discard your current laptop, confirm if it has upgradable components first. You may be able to upgrade its RAM or storage by swapping them out with a higher-spec version. However, this only applies to a few laptop models: those that don’t have soldered parts.
If your laptop turns out to be upgradable, the next thing to consider is its age and build. If it’s less than a couple of years and has a solid chassis, you may want to keep it longer. Upgrade to better parts so that you can boost its overall speed and performance.
This way, you don’t have to spend several hundred or thousands of dollars on a new unit. You also get to minimize your carbon footprint by reducing your e-waste.
Signs You Need a New Laptop
If your laptop is at least three years old, it’s non-upgradable, and you demand more from it, it’s time for a new one. This is even more important if you use it for school or work duties. The older it is, the higher its risk of hardware failure, which can cause irreversible data loss.
If you time your purchase right, such as during pre-holidays, you can find huge tech discounts. Some of these deals on laptops can slash 30% to even 70% off their original web prices. The back-to-school season is another great time to snag awesome computers for less.
All Great Things Come to an End
There you have it, the ultimate answer guide to your question. Now, you know that their average lifespan is between three and five years—however, the pricier ones, especially the rugged military-grade models, last longer.
Of course, keeping your laptop clean and all its apps updated can also help extend its service life.
Looking for more guides that can boost your tech and digital know-how? Be sure to check out the blog and news posts posted on our site.