TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Lifespan of a Desktop PC?

Re: Lifespan of a Desktop PC?

Robert Bonomi (
Thu, 17 Mar 2005 01:22:54 -0000

In article <>,
<> wrote:

> Would anyone know what is the average/typical physical lifespan of a
> desktop PC? That is, how many years do they run before components
> start failing?

"Way back when", disk drives were the most frequent point of failure.
They had expected lifetimes equivalent to a few years of continuous
operation. For today's hard drives, the expected lifetimes are on the
order of 20-40 years.

Floppy drives are prone to go 'out of alignment' after a number of
years. This matters *only* if you are using floppies to transfer stuff
_between_ different machines. An out-of-alignment drive can read
material written on _that_ drive w/o problems, although trying to read
those disks on a different machine, or reading disks from a different
machine _on_ the out- of-alignment drive, results in 'data error'
failure messages. How long it takes a drive to go out of alignment
depends on the quality of the drive construction, and the physical
abuse that the system containing it is subjected to. It's usually
_much_ cheaper to replace the drive, than pay for the labor to have it

The 'electronics', assuming they make it past the 'infant mortality'
stage (the first 100 hours or so, of operation) are easily good for 20
years, and probably _much_ more.

> When buying a new PC, how do people typically transfer the contents
> from the old PC hard drive to the new PC? At work, people move stuff
> out onto the LAN server or move the old drive into the new box; but
> others say old drives are not compatible with new technology. How do
> home users without a LAN handle it?

If they can't do it themselves, they _pay_ somebody to do it. <grin>

There are software tools that let you transfer via a serial port, or
parallel port, or even USB or Firewire, between two computers.

Drive 'compatibility' is pretty much a "non-issue". *Very* old PCs
used, primarily, what were called MFM drives, Or sometimes a cousin
thereof, called RLL. Newer generations -- meaning most 386/486 class
machines, and everything past that -- use what is called IDE. IDE has
gone through a number of changes, adding higher-performance options to
the base technology.

You cannot use a MFM or RLL drive in a machine that has support only
for IDE drives. HOWEVER, the earliest IDE drive _will_ work in the
most modern IDE machine. And, if one is sufficiently determined to
use the 'antique' drive, it is usually possible to drop an appropriate
'controller' card into the newer machine to run it -- this approach
may not be viable if you have a machine with *only* PCI expansion

Then there is the issue of any software installed on the old drive.
If that drive was in a machine running a MS operating system that
includes the "Registry", most software will _not_ be usable if the
disk is simply installed in a new machine, nor if the software is
'copied' from the old machine to the new one. Because the required
"Registry" settings are not propagated to the Registry on the new
system. General practice is to 'reinstall software from the original
distribution media', then copy any _data_ files over. It's a real
time-waster, but Microsoft doesn't think user's time has any
value. *snarl*

I've got _twenty-year-old_ PC equipment that's still running today.
One example being a "TI Business PRO 286" box. I still use it because
I haven't found anything that can replace it, at an affordable price.
Notably because it has *fourteen*(!!) usable expansion slots in it.
And I've got them _all_ full with various specialized goodies. It
would take at least 3 'semi-modern' machines to provide the same
number of 'usable' expansion slots.

Well, maybe not. I just saw an ad for an odds-and-ends dealer, that
has a 14 slot rack-mount box, with a 486 processor card, for about
$300. That's a *LOT* of money for a 486 box, though. <grin>

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