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back to article The desktop lifecycle: How long is it anyway?

It's a recession so do you look to squeeze an extra year out of the desktop. How and is it wise to do this? How long is the lifecycle anyway? Once the desktop PC had successfully colonised the office, it became clear that they would need replacing regularly to keep up software and hardware developments. Hardware has become more …

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The desktop lifecycle is no more

Forgive me for getting all 'strategic' in my thinking. But I think the desktop lifecycle is obselete.

We're running quite a few pilots at the moment, delivering all kinds of apps and services through all kinds of models - thin client, SaaS, virtualisation. The device is near enough irrelevant. It just needs some power really, the chip/ OS/ storage is a done deal if we choose it to be so.

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FAIL

I for one...

... think the studies quoted in the article are bunkum. If you keep the old software and hardware then you don't need to train people which has to be cheaper than new licenses, new boxes of chips and 10 days of Powerpoint presentations to teach people about the Office Ribbon.

Does the ecological effects of all this throwing away of perfectly good kit not get a mention?

Surely reconditioning and reformatting have to be the best way forward. Recession or otherwise. Do it for the polar bears.

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Anonymous Coward

Thrown away?

All the companies that I have ever worked for recycle their old desktops, either sending them to a re-seller or in some cases to charities who clean them up and send them to third world countries.

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I've said it before and i'll say it again

We run our desktops until they die and I can't bring them back again.

The older machines have all been given some extra ram to bring them up to a decent speed but that is it. As long as they can run Office 2010 and IE without taking too long about it then the users can do their jobs. The newer ones are running Win7 and a few Vista.

When XP stops getting security updates in 2014(?) I expect to have replaced at least half of the desktops we currently have. Leaving only a handful of XP machines to upgrade.

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Boffin

From a company PoV

Our machines have hit and passed their "3 year life cycle" and you know what? They still work. Granted, they were the "HP business machines" POS (no, not "point of sale") of which you get a crappier setup for twice the price.... However, the machines of just a couple years back have more than enough CPU capability to run today's normal business software (think accounting, office, web). However, the machines will feel painfully slow with the pitiful amount of RAM that "business machines" are given. The fix? Stuff an extra stick of RAM in it (hopefully up to 2-4GB total) and replace the crappy under-performing hard drive with a 40(ish)GB SSD. Why only 40GB? Last I checked, my machines average 22GB of used space on their 320+GB HDDs. Win7 perhaps closer to 30GB. Business users, in a domain (file server implied), don't use local storage. With a 40GB SSD for under $100 ($70 even), even a last-gen OCZ Onyx drive will make an old Pentium D-based machine feel new. So, you're out perhaps $100 per machine and you get to keep them for another 2 years. Retire them then, and pass the SSDs forward into the new machines.

Yes, there's the usual "crap breaks" rule, but once you get it in your head to have a "bone yard," it becomes a moot point. Those 3yr-old machines that pass out of warranty? They go in the spare parts bin when the mobo dies or the like. The next machine that has a PSU problem gets the boneyard PSU. Salvage RAM. Of course, there's always the "have new spares on hand" technique. If a PSU goes out, you don't have "downtime" of 3 days waiting for new parts, you just swap in the on-hand spare. Done in 15min if at a local office (which is usual for "small biz"). Usually, the "added burden to tech support" is due to the software, not hardware. This is why IT crews should (and usually do) have a stack of image disks. A virus takes out a PC? Re-image it. Back to working order faster than a Malwarebytes scan. You can even take a short stroll through the HDD to make sure the user has saved everything to the network.

BTW, Win7 runs perfectly well on those Pentium D machines I mentioned, 2GB of RAM with those 40GB SSDs I mentioned. Took all of 15min to dump the image on them. The neighboring non-upgraded (yet) computers seem atrocious in comparison.

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Megaphone

BUY NEW STUFF!!!

It doesn't matter if your old kit works, you must buy new shiny new faster hardware running the latest resource-sapping software, so you end up doing exactly what you did before. You need to spend your way out of debt, or are you some kind of commie that wants the economy to fail?

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HMB
Alert

Some 'techies' miss the point...

As someone who deals with computer maintenance, I think that hobbyists frequently miss the point. Their time is free to them and computers cost money.

Small businesses in particular can spend at least £100 repairing a computer that might then pop a motherboard 6 months later (due to age), combine that with the staff downtime (company loses money) and it would have been cheaper just to get new kit in.

It's very much like the argument of when does keeping an old car become more expensive than buying a newer used car.

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Gates Horns

wot replacement cycle?

In my current position, the PC I have been given still has a floppy drive (whats that for, grandad?) and a P4 chip and only has 1GB RAM, but there dont seem to be any plans to replace it anytime soon. Never mind the fact that I must spend half my day waiting for it to catch up, so half my day rate is being wasted. I'm sure it isnt prudent for a large corp like this one to be seen upgrading everyone to Alienware laptops and Win7 when there are dividends and CEO bonuses to be paid.

However with all the disk thrashing going on with the pagefile, it can only be a matter of time before the HD dies. Not that I'm deliberately running Notes, Office, Eclipse and IE concurrently in order to find out how quickly it will fail, you understand! ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Wasted time

I know exactly what you mean. My PC is also ancient and I spend ages waiting for it to catch up. Then I get frustrated with it so go for a coffee or something, wasting even more time. I can't have a new PC because of cost cutting by my blinkered employer.

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MJI
Silver badge

Why replace?

I had a PC go down at work so for speed I supplied the replacement, OK my replacement work PC was the insides of my old home PC.

And guess what?

My old 8 or so year old P4 2.4 was quicker than the newest dual core at work.

As I said for a laugh a large hamster vs a pair of fieldmice.

Got a Q8300 now and it is the first work PC faster than my old life expired home computer.

So if your old PC is fast enough, why replace?

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Replace the bits that matter

Cases >10 years old

Motherboard+CPU about 5 years old

Ram upgrade about 2 years ago

SSD upgrade last year

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Anonymous Coward

Ok for home...

That's ok for home, similarly my server has a ten year old rack box, has had about five different motherboards, God knows how many different disks and cards etc. etc. but this is me, my time, my hobby. If you multiply that by say a thousand you're into serious engineer time, which represents serious cost.

It's very much like offices replacing all their fluorescent lights in one go, a few will have broken, most will be just about end of life and a few may well have a fair amount of time left in them. The thing is that if you get a team of facilities management guys in to replace them all at once, it doesn't cost that much and they don't have to come out to each individual bulb as it goes, which is much more costly.

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Anonymous Coward

refreshing

I must agree that those studies are bunkum.

Most of our desktop machines are between 5 and 6 years old. A quarter of them were upgraded from P2 machines and still have original P2 power supplies, which must be about 12 years old now.

The P2 upgraded machines were done with literally the cheapest CPU and motherboard I could get my hands on (we're a charity!). The other machines are typically entry level home oriented desktops and with one exception they all cost less than £200 ex VAT.

Total hardware failures in 6 years over the 50-odd machines - 3 power supplies (none of them in the former P2 machines).

There is a need for a 3-year refresh cycle but that applies only to Windows - reinstall from scratch after 3 years, double the RAM, and it runs like new. Defluff the fans at the same time and you're ready for another 3 years.

So now after 6 years we have been asking - should we do a desktop refresh? TBH we think we can get another year or two out of our present hardware - so we've opted for a 60% refresh where the best of the older machines will be relegated to "occasional use" roles.

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Anonymous Coward

The studies were probably funded under the table by....

The studies were probably funded under the table by good ol Redmond, gotta keep the large accounts coming back through the revolving door....

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Stop

Just don't get it

I am the IT admin in 2 SBS server 2003 shops. This is no way a full time position, both companies are just using inbuilt resources, me, who is a Navy trained WinNT admin (which means you do the course but don't get a cert, lest you leave, which I did anyway) who happens to be available for failure and advice, I am charged out to both businesses though, at £35 an hour for IT support. I might do an hour in the average month.

All of our "new" desktops for static staff are Core2Duo coming from ebay at £100 with winXP COA on the side. they have just been replaced by bigger business at the end of their support cycles. They are only bought when needed, either when I've get fed up with complaints of slowdown, (rare) or hardware failure occurs. It's generally not cost effective fixing a desktop for the sake of replacement with an ebay £100 special.

Mobile users were on expensive VAIO laptops when times were good, as they were the moneymakers and reliable kit was worth the expense. They will all get MSI winds or EEEPC 1205 for replacement if theirs fail now, as they are more than fast enough for the role. Hardware has gone way past the needs of the software, consumer laptops are more than adequate for our business now. (I've been using a MSI wind since last year, best laptop I've ever had)

We are running WinXP with a mixture of Office 2007, Visio 2010, users personal choice for browser, NOD32 for Virus (excellent) and Sage for the finance types.

Thanks for the tips on the SSD though, that will alleviate slowdown claims. As I have a minor budget for testing, I wil give one a run in my desktop. Always fancied a Gigabyte IRAM or similar though, I must admit.....

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmmm???

The studies were probably funded under the table by good ol Redmond, gotta keep the large accounts coming back through the revolving door....

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