When is it Time to Replace my Computer?

When is it Time to Replace my Computer? A reader asks…

How long should a computer last? I’ve noticed that my 2017 Macbook Air will no longer be able to get the latest macOS version, it’s stuck on High Sierra, and I can’t update any further. I used to use a Windows PC, and it seemed that after about 4 years the computer just wouldn’t work very well. Now six years into a Mac, I’m feeling the pressure to keep up-to-date, at least from the security standpoint. Your thoughts please?

My initial thought is that you’re very much nearing the end of the useful service life of your 2017 Macbook Air and it’s time to start thinking about replacing it. In 2020, Apple starting outfitting their Macbook models with the M1 chip, and updated to the M2 chip in 2021. Plus, Apple replaced the keyboard mechanism in all their models in 2020 with a significantly better design. All this to say that a new Macbook Air is going to be a much better product than your current one, albeit at a likely higher price.

There will be a downside in that the new Macbook Air model only has Thunderbolt USB-C ports, so you’ll need an adapter to connect to anything that uses a different USB port (such as USB-A), or an HDMI port for an external monitor.

To give you an example of the pricing change, a new Macbook Air starts at $1,200US, and nicely outfitted with a 15″ screen, 16GB of unified memory and 1TB of SSD storage memory, you’re looking at $1,899. You may have gotten your 2017 Macbook Air for about $1,000, so today’s prices are quite a bit higher. If this isn’t a showstopper for you, then I highly recommend the 15″ Macbook Air with 16GB of unified memory, and as much SSD storage memory as you feel comfortable getting (but no less than 512GB).

Tired Computer

So why is your Macbook nearing time to replace? Apple in general supports their computers for about seven years, although you may get quite a few extra years out of it if you choose. Because of higher hardware requirements for newer versions of macOS, Apple won’t support an older Mac with the latest macOS after more than a few years, however Apple is cagey about this. Apple does issue security updates to older versions of macOS for quite a number of years, but this varies seemingly at whim.


I should note that your 2017 Macbook Air should be capable of running macOS Monterey, which came out in 2018 (and is four major newer versions than the High Sierra you’re running). This is according to Apple. Most likely you simply aren’t looking in the right place for your update as the Mac App Store likely won’t show you the Monterey version to install. I noticed that I needed to search for “macOS Monterey” in order to see the update option, it doesn’t show up on the Mac App Store Updates page. You can also open Safari to this link: https://apps.apple.com/au/app/macos-monterey/id1576738294 which should display a download (“Get”) button.


So why replace when your Mac is still operating ok? I’m less concerned about new features that come with a new version of macOS than I am about the level of security protections of the older versions. Apple doesn’t completely abandon older versions of macOS, but they certainly get much less attention to computer security than current models. This is the primary reason why I don’t recommend using a Mac that’s not capable of running the latest version or two of macOS. Monterey is one version behind Ventura, which is one version behind the current version of macOS – Sonoma.

What about the business and corporate world? Most larger corporations replace about 1/3 of their employee computers every year. Smaller companies with smaller IT budgets may stretch things out for 4 or more years. For a personal computer (not for business) standpoint, it depends on your financial situation. I’ve seen folks try to get 10+ years out of a computer before replacing, and others who get a new computer every year. Personally, I’m a bit less concerned about someone using an older vintage Mac than I am about someone using an older vintage Microsoft Windows computer. For anyone reading this, if your PC isn’t running Windows 10, it’s past time to replace it. If it runs Windows 10 but won’t run Windows 11, you have about 2 years before you must replace it (Windows 10 end-of-life is October 2025).

Hardware keeps improving as does software (and operating systems). Apple would like you to get a new Mac every time they issue a new model, but for most of us, that’s not a real possibility. I do think it’s high time for the average consumer to start thinking about their computer as a consumable, and give it 3-5 years before replacing (3-4 years in the case of a PC). You don’t have to follow this advice, and many people don’t, but there’s a certain risk you run with older hardware – namely the security of your digital life. If you’re very careful and follow all the recommended security and maintenance recommendations when using your computer (and the internet), you can certainly get more years out of your computer than you would otherwise.

If you read this far, then you’re probably already thinking about a new Mac. September-December is often a time when Apple releases new models, which means that you can save more on last years’ model, or just bite the bullet and get the latest.

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One Comment

  1. Good info in this article. You can extend the life of your hardware by turning your old Mac or Windows PC into a Chromebook using Google’s Chrome OS Flex, which would make it a decent computer for kids, students, and adults too presuming most of what you want to do can be done via Chrome’s web browser. For example: read gmail or use other Google apps like Docs, Sheets, and more; watch Netflix and other online streaming services; read ebooks from your library via https://libbyapp.com/ (and more!) Generally you can do almost anything that’s reachable via a web browser.

    Chrome OS Flex has the benefits of Chrome OS security (with some caveats), but the downsides are that you can’t run standalone apps. Before deciding, please read more about this at https://support.google.com/chromeosflex/answer/11542901

    Here’s Google’s Chrome OS Flex installation instructions:

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