When I first started getting into computers back in the early 90s, two years was about as long as a machine would last, or it had just fallen too far behind other equipment and was unable to run the latest operating systems and programs.

Back then, a computer was basically a two-year investment. When the two years was up, you had yourself a boat anchor. There wasn’t a whole lot you could do with old equipment.

Then… Around 2005 or so. Computer hardware manufacturers reached a plateau. This plateau, which is connected with what’s called Moore’s Law, sort of slowed down the development of faster and faster hardware. Hardware was still faster with each release, but not at the quantum levels that it was in the early 90s. Therefore, you could get by with getting perhaps five, even ten years out of equipment.

What about today? Should you go with new equipment or go with a refurb? Well, the fact is I very seldom buy new equipment for my clients. Refurbs are that much cheaper and they’re that good. I will typically pay about half what new hardware costs. And my clients don’t notice any difference.

This is true in the world of desktop computers and laptops. What about laser printers? Well, I honestly don’t know enough about the subject to give you good advice there. I know that laser printers from the 90s were built like army tanks and a lot of them are still working. They’re drawing a lot of power and they don’t give you really great resolution on your prints, but they still work. Laser printers bottomed out in price about five years ago. And now you can get yourself a nice monochromatic laser printer for around $250-$300. You can get yourself a color printer for around $450. But there are certain brands of printers that have a great reputation for durability. The HP printers from five years ago are legendary.

Now note I don’t recommend HP printers. Of recent vintage. The reason I don’t is because they have set them up to run in a disabled state if you attempt to use cartridges which are not genuine HP products. That crosses the evil one. Instead, I recommend Brother and Epson because they are still polite about using generic cartridges.

But back to PCs. Let’s say someone has given you a PC that’s 20 years old. What can you do with it? Well, the first thing you do is you open the case out in an open area with compressed air and blow the dirt out. Check out the RAM slots. 20-year-old RAM can be found for a very reasonable price, whether it’s on eBay or perhaps at a local computer shop in town that sells used hardware. You can always stuff those RAM slots full.

This means that with a 2005 vintage machine, you might be able to get 16 gigs of RAM in there. That’s a lot of RAM. If you can get 8 gigs of RAM in there, you’ll have a machine that will run Windows 10 very nicely.

The second thing you want to do is replace the CMOS battery. Those batteries are cheap. You can get them for around a couple of bucks each. And they don’t last forever. So pop that CMOS battery out and put a new one in.

Now, the third thing you do is take that spinning hard drive. Most of the time you just want to toss it in the trash. The eggs are smaller and it’s going to be very slow. And it may have viruses and stuff on it. Get rid of the hard drive! Now, pop yourself a 256 GB SSD, go into BIOS, and tell it to boot from a flash drive and install Windows or a Linux distro if you prefer, now head with a solid state drive and maxed out RAM.

Odds are it didn’t cost you anything. Odds are it cost you perhaps 35-45 dollars to upgrade it to state of the art.

In my case, I will install Fing Networks or other programs. These machines are very valuable to me, and I’m very fortunate that I have to pay little or nothing to have them. Now, you may want to spend money on new hardware for your main desktop machine. Or, you may opt to refurb some older equipment. As long as the state drives and with maxed out RAM. You’re going to achieve speed your machine never had when it was brand new, spending thousands of dollars on a system, knowing that it had about two years.

But we did it anyway, because it was worth it. We got a lot of work done with our computers. We did a lot of creating with our computers. Because older hardware does so well for so long. What about the future? The NVMe drive, which is a solid-state drive… lives. In it, even after the shine wears off the surface.