The Lifespan of an Apple Mac Part 2

Article by Russell Harris

How long can a Mac last?

Another hard question with no easy answer. If you try and research online for the lifespan of a Mac you'll get mixed answers. Most Mac users will say that their Macs last anything from five years to ten years or more. We have clients who are still using Macs that are 11 years old because it does what it needs to do and works.

For comparison. Most PC technicians will usually expect a minimum of three years use before they start to recommend looking to replace. Although most will keep going anywhere between five and eight years if properly looked after and maintained.

Portables (Laptops) VS Desktops

Of course the type of Mac you buy can effect it's lifespan. The most noticeable being that you're likely to get more life out of a Desktop than a portable computer since weight isn't as much of a factor so components, casings and screws do not need to be as much of a concern than in a portable device. You normally would not move around a desktop once you have set it up or keep plugging and unplugging the power cable which is likely with a laptop.

For most Apple laptops, they'll have a productive lifespan of about three to five years, depending on their usage. Like most laptops, the hinges for the screen can start to loosen after around five years but the machine will still perform well.
If lifespan is defined by being able to fully function and keep pace with all the latest software, then that lifespan will be shorter than the lifespan being considered simply as 'working for what I need'.
Five years is usually the golden number for roughly when Apple will likely start to reduce supporting a device with system updates. This however, doesn't mean the device can no longer be used. It might just not be able to take advantage of new software or features in a new release of macOS.

The model of Apple laptop can also effect it's lifespan and the normal rule of 'the more it costs the better' can be true here. Apple's flagship portable, the MacBook Pro will usually have a higher expectation to last than other models such as the MacBook or MacBook Air. Quite likely you will hear people starting their lifespan expectation at seven years.
This normally though goes with the assumption that you have performed upgrades if available, patched the operating system and performed regular maintenance.

How to tell if your Mac is nearing it's end of life

Here are some of the main signs that you might need to look at replacing your Mac (apart from the obvious that it doesn't work properly or at all) :

1. The latest macOS version cannot be installed.

Usually, around September/October time every year Apple releases a new version of macOS. Generally, this macOS will run on all current models and those Macs made within the five to seven year mark.
If your computer won't upgrade to the latest version of macOS, it is likely that your Mac is or will soon be classed as vintage or obsolete. (Refer to the 'Replacing my Mac' chapter below).
Check Apple's support webpages for the official list of Macs supported by the latest macOS to confirm that your Mac isn't supported.
If you can't run the latest macOS, you are likely to lose out on new features, security patches and possible latest updates from the Apps that you are using.
There is also the chance that you will lose compatibility with other devices such as iPhones and iPads.

2. Hard disk Free Space low

With every technology advance, Apps and files grow in how much hard disk space they need. There will always be a fight to free up space on your computer to allow you to add updates and new software. Not only is this about having the room to save files and apps, but the operating system and Apps often need free space to work with to create temporary files whilst they are working and without this space your Mac can slow down.

Currently, if your Mac has a 128GB or even a 256GB hard disk, it is likely you have or will have to free up space and perhaps more than once. This of course depends on what you do on your Mac and therefore what Apps and files you store.
You may even have to see if you can upgrade your internal hard disk, store files in a cloud storage solution or purchase an external hard drive.
Eventually though you may find you need a newer Mac with larger storage capacity.

3. Performance and battery life

Not only might you be struggling for storage space over time, but also running of out available RAM/memory can prevent you from running many applications at once. You can also find that an old CPU/Processor will mean that running high-end tasks like editing 4K video slow down. The machine just seems 'sluggish' as newer version of Apps and the operating system eat away at resources.

With a portable device, the battery also degrades over time. It is classed as a consumable. Rechargeable batteries only have a certain number of charge cycles before they are unable to hold as much charge as when they were new.
Later versions of macOS have a built-in battery checker to monitor and warn you of the 'health' of your battery.
Key signs here apart from error messages on your screen about your battery performance will be that your laptop doesn't hold it's charge as long as it used to. Perhaps dying after less than an hour on a full charge. You could of course always leave the power adapter plugged in but then it is no longer a portable!

As mentioned earlier, an aging Mac might be able to have it's life extended with an upgrade to the hard disk, installing more RAM/Memory or replacing the battery but remember that on most newer Macs there are little or no upgrades available.
They might also just be too costly as you'll likely need to take your device to an Apple Store or Apple authorized service provider to do the repair and the cost of the parts and labour might sway you more towards just replacing the machine.

4. Hardware Damages

Most times you have an accident with a computer and drop it, knock it or spill something on it you can tell straight away that something isn't working. But sometimes physical damage can happen on the inside and take a while to show.
You can sometimes live with little faults like the microphone not working, keys getting stuck or the screen not being as bright as it used to. But sometimes these little issues can be the start of the decline and replacing the machine sooner for one that is reliable rather than later might be the best option.
As mentioned above, taking your Mac to an Apple Store or Apple authorized service provider for repair can be costly and if your Mac is old, you might want to just take this opportunity to replace it.

5. Regular Software Issues

An older computer is more likely to experience software issues, Apps not working, freezes and unresponsiveness.
If you start to get these, it might just be that the software needs updating or reinstalling so you may find a technician can save it.
But some of these issues can actually be caused by the hardware and therefore again it'll be the cost of a repair versus the cost of a new machine.

6. Unable to run the Apps you need.

Just like Apple with their macOS support list, software vendors such as Microsoft, Adobe etc will also be constantly changing which devices they support for the latest versions of their Apps. If an App is critical to you, (Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Apps for example), you may find you are left behind if your hardware or software is too old to run the latest versions.

We have now looked at some of the main signs that you might need to look at replacing your Mac. But remember that you can prolong it's life with good care and maintenance. Performing spring cleaning of the software, updating where possible and generally Macs have a reliable reputation to last a decent amount of time.

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