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In an ideal world, your PC would last as long as you need it and the only reason to get a new one would be for the performance boost. Unfortunately, life isn’t fair Planned Obsolescence: Why We Can't Have Nice Things Planned Obsolescence: Why We Can't Have Nice Things How much money are you wasting due to "planned obsolescence"? In this article, we explain what that is, why it should concern you, and what you might be able to do about it. Read More . PC parts die and replacements can be expensive — so it makes sense to get the most out of every part you can.

First, we recommend reading up on these common PC maintenance mistakes 8 PC Maintenance Mistakes That Kill Your Hardware Lifespan 8 PC Maintenance Mistakes That Kill Your Hardware Lifespan PC maintenance isn't rocket science, but you could be making a handful of mistakes that are actually harming your hardware. Read More that you should be avoiding. A long-lasting PC starts and ends with good maintenance habits, especially when you build the PC yourself Is It Still Cheaper to Build Your Own PC? Is It Still Cheaper to Build Your Own PC? How much does it cost to build your own PC these days? Compared to pre-built models, are the savings worth the effort? We investigate. Read More . Once you’ve done that, check out these tips on how to extend the lifespan of your PC parts.

1. Motherboards

There are several reasons why you should upgrade your motherboard 5 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your PC Motherboard 5 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your PC Motherboard Not sure when you should upgrade your motherboard? Here are a few guidelines to help you out. Read More , but let’s hope you do so voluntarily instead of being forced into it by a motherboard crapping out on you. Unfortunately, they do crap out pretty often.

Why They Die So Quickly: Even though there aren’t any moving parts, motherboards are so complex and delicate in their designs that even the smallest malfunctions can be catastrophic.

In 2013, the best motherboard model had a failure rate of 1.43% per year whereas the worst motherboard models had failure rates in the 6–7% range. Expect them to last about 3–4 years. Any longer than that, consider it a bonus.

pc-parts-failure-msi-motherboard

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The biggest reason for this is that the capacitors on a motherboard will deteriorate over time and become exhausted. Sometimes they’ll even leak. Sure, they can be replaced, but it’s a non-trivial DIY operation that you may be uncomfortable doing yourself.

Other causes of failure include heat, static, and moisture.

Tips for Prolonging Lifespan: Keep your computer away from environmental hazards like excess moisture or extra-dry air, which can promote static buildup. Excess heat can sometimes cause a motherboard to warp, leading to shorts and broken components.

But the best thing you can do to prevent motherboard failures is to never touch the motherboard. That’s hyperbole — you obviously have to touch it in order to install or replace parts — but try to limit the motherboard’s exposure outside of the PC case.

And when you absolutely must touch it, be sure to ground yourself first so you don’t accidentally shock and fry the motherboard itself.

2. Data Drives

Data drives come in two main forms: hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs). A computer cannot function without one, because that’s where the operating system resides. It’s the brain of your system. If it dies, you’ll need to get a replacement ASAP.

Why They Die So Quickly: HDDs and SSDs are both prone to failure Hard Drives, SSDs, Flash Drives: How Long Will Your Storage Media Last? Hard Drives, SSDs, Flash Drives: How Long Will Your Storage Media Last? How long will hard drives, SSDs, flash drives continue to work, and how long will they store your data if you use them for archiving? Read More but for different reasons.

HDDs are mechanical — they have moving parts — and will physically break down over time. The platter might get scratched, the head might stop reading, or the parts might become “paralyzed” by a power surge 5 Tragic Computer Accidents You Can Prevent 5 Tragic Computer Accidents You Can Prevent Ignorance could end up wrecking your computer. We've rounded up some of the top computer accidents that can have disastrous consequences. Fortunately, they're all easy to prevent. Read More .

SSDs are based on flash memory chips, so they have no moving parts. However, they have unreliable long-term data retention, they are more susceptible to extreme temperatures, and power outages can lead to data corruption The Effects Power Outages Can Have On Your Computer The Effects Power Outages Can Have On Your Computer Do you unplug your computer during severe storms? If not, you may want to start. Read More .

pc-parts-failure-data-drives

Tips for Prolonging Lifespan: No matter which kind of data drive you have, it’s always a good idea to invest in a good surge protector Do You Really Need a Surge Protector? Do You Really Need a Surge Protector? A surge protector is not the same thing as a power strip! Here's how they're different and why you need surge protectors instead, as well as how to choose a good one. Read More . Electrical surges can cause a lot of harm to all kinds of devices, not just PC parts.

Avoid extreme temperatures when possible. Refer to your data drive’s manual for safe operating temperatures. This means cleaning dust out of your computer How to Care for Your Hard Drives and Make Them Last Longer How to Care for Your Hard Drives and Make Them Last Longer Sometimes an early death is the fault of the manufacturer, but more often than not, hard drives fail earlier than they should because we don't take care of them. Read More to ensure good air circulation and prevent overheating!

Other than that, it’s mostly about buying a good model from a reputable brand. The next time you’re shopping for a data drive, check out our articles on some things to consider when buying a hard drive 5 Things You Need to Consider Before Buying a Hard Drive 5 Things You Need to Consider Before Buying a Hard Drive Buying a hard drive? It's not that difficult if you know a few basic tips. We've assembled the most important features of a modern storage drive and what you should buy. Read More or when buying a solid state drive 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD The world of home computing is moving towards solid state drives for storage. Should you buy one? Read More .

3. RAM

RAM is crucial for a pleasant computer experience, and it’s one of the first parts you should upgrade if you want to speed up your PC performance Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? If you need a faster computer but aren't sure which component would be most beneficial to upgrade, then here are the guidelines you should follow. Read More . How much do you need? Well, it depends How Much RAM Do You Really Need? How Much RAM Do You Really Need? RAM is like short term memory. The more you multitask, the more you need. Find out how much your computer has, how to get the most out of it, or how to get more. Read More , but 8 GB is the current norm.

However, depending on the model and brand of the RAM modules you buy, the lifespan of the unit could be more fickle than stable. Dead RAM modules are more common than you might think.

Why They Die So Quickly: Given perfect conditions, RAM actually has a remarkably long lifespan. In 2013, the most reliable models had failure rates as low as 0.20% per year while the worst models had failure rates in the 3–4% range. Relative to other components, that’s not bad.

But there are two things that can kill a working RAM module in the blink of an eye: temperature and power surges.

pc-parts-failure-ram-modules

If a RAM module’s operating temperature is between 0º C and 85º C, it can get corrupted or die if operated outside that range How Heat Affects Your Computer, And Should You Be Worried? How Heat Affects Your Computer, And Should You Be Worried? From time to time, we all get concerned about our computer's temperature. But should we be worried? Read More . Power surges from faulty motherboards, bad power supplies, and electrical spikes can also cause failure.

Tips for Prolonging Lifespan: The most important piece of advice is to buy a high-quality module from a reputable manufacturer. In 2013, the best brands were determined to be Kingston, Crucial, G.Skill, and Corsair, in that order. Read user reviews, but ignore the fake ones The Scourge Of The Web: Fake Reviews & How To Spot Them The Scourge Of The Web: Fake Reviews & How To Spot Them "User reviews" are actually a pretty recent phenomenon. Before the prevalence of the Internet, user reviews were called testimonials, and you’d only see them on TV commercials and product pages. Nowadays, anyone can write anything... Read More .

Otherwise, make sure you’re connected to a surge protector — or better yet, consider using an uninterruptible power supply 4 Ways to Save Money When Buying a UPS 4 Ways to Save Money When Buying a UPS In order to save money on your UPS purchase, figure out what you need and find a place to buy it at a discount. Read More .

4. Power Supply Units

A power supply unit (PSU) is what delivers power to all of the components in your computer. There are a number of considerations to keep in mind when buying the right PSU for your needs 6 Things to Know When Buying a Power Supply Unit (PSU) 6 Things to Know When Buying a Power Supply Unit (PSU) Power supply units aren't as glamorous as processors and graphics cards, but they're a critical PC component that you absolutely cannot overlook. Here's what to know when buying one. Read More , but lifespan is one of the more important ones.

Why They Die So Quickly: PSUs are only slightly worse than RAM modules in terms of lifespan under perfect conditions. In 2013, the best models had failure rates as low as 0.98% per year while the worst models had failure rates in the 3–4% range.

pc-parts-failure-power-supply

Under average intended use, a PSU should last a long time — at least five years, possibly up to 10 years if you’re lucky. But if you start putting the power supply under high loads over long periods of time, it can be overstressed.

Tips for Prolonging Lifespan: As always, start with a high-quality model from a reputable brand. A lot of generic models are overrated and don’t have much tolerance for stress. Poor build quality can also lead to faster aging and early death.

The only effective way to prolong the lifespan of a PSU is to cut back on high-stress activities. For example, cryptocurrency mining What Disadvantages Are There To Bitcoin Mining? What Disadvantages Are There To Bitcoin Mining? Several times since the beginning of this decade, Bitcoins have been slowly but surely been causing a (good) disturbance in the way people think about currency. If you don't know yet what Bitcoins are, then... Read More is a long-term, high-load activity that you shouldn’t do on a normal computer. Overclocking PC components Overclocking For Gamers: Everything You Need To Know Overclocking For Gamers: Everything You Need To Know Here’s every a gamer needs to know about overclocking – and how to do it. Read More is another way to tax your PSU.

5. Cooling Fans

You probably haven’t given your PC fans much thought. They spin up when you need them, they spin down when you don’t. You likely don’t even realize when one of them stops working. Fortunately, cooling fans are cheap to replace.

But the fans used to cool CPUs and GPUs? Not so cheap, not possible to replace, and if one of those fans goes kaput, the CPU or GPU itself will likely follow soon enough due to overheating.

Why They Die So Quickly: This one’s really simple. Just as with hard disk drives, cooling fans are mechanical — they have moving parts that are susceptible to general wear and tear. Over time, as the fans spin and spin and spin, they’ll be more likely to break down.

pc-parts-failure-cooling-fans

But this process is accelerated by dust and particles that can build up on the fan blades and within the rotating mechanism. When exposed to heat and moisture, the dust can even get caked on and turn into gunk, which could cause more friction and stress.

Tips for Prolonging Lifespan: Standalone fans — the kind you mount onto the computer case — are cheap enough that you can replace them as they break and it will only be a minor inconvenience.

But for CPUs and GPUs, you’ll want to keep those fans going as long as possible. Clean out the dust on a regular basis to keep it from caking on. Once it’s caked, cleaning becomes much harder. How often? About once a month should be good.

If your CPU dies, read our guide to choosing the right Intel Core processor Intel Core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7: Which One Do You Really Need? Intel Core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7: Which One Do You Really Need? Shopping for a new computer but confused by whether to get an Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor? Here's everything you need to know in layman's terms. Read More and whether or not you should care about the Intel Kaby Lake Intel's Kaby Lake CPU: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh Intel's Kaby Lake CPU: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh Kaby Lake is Intel's next processor. How much does it improve on the Skylake processor? What are the drawbacks and limitations? Here are four things you should know about it. Read More . If your GPU dies, here are some things to know before buying your next graphics card 5 Things You Have to Know Before Buying a Graphics Card 5 Things You Have to Know Before Buying a Graphics Card Here are five key points to keep in mind before you buy your next graphics card, otherwise you may regret your purchase. Read More .

It’s Inevitable: PC Parts Will Fail

In 2013, the average failure rates per year for each of the above components were:

  • Motherboards: 1.90%
  • Power Supply Units: 1.50%
  • Solid State Drives: 1.27%
  • Hard Disk Drives: 1.07%
  • RAM Modules: 0.76%

Practice good habits and you’ll wring out as much value from each component as you can. If one part seems like it’s going to die soon, don’t be afraid to replace it. Just be sure to ask yourself these questions first 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Upgrading Your PC 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Upgrading Your PC Thinking about upgrading your PC components? Great! However, before you do, there are a few important questions that you should ask yourself. Read More .

Which computer parts have failed the most often for you? What do you do to keep your parts in tip-top shape? Would you rather replace the PC altogether? Let us know with a comment down below!

Image Credit: Open grave by Michael Wick via Shutterstock, Open Hard Drives via Shutterstock.

  1. Simon
    August 28, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Sandy Bridge and SSD user since early 2012. Except for the PSU, which broke down twice in two years (but I managed to repair it both times) everything is working more than just fine. Same CPU, same mobo, same RAM as in 2012. I upgraded to a higher capacity SSD meanwhile, but my first ever SSD bought in 2012 is still working flawlessly in my parents's desktop PC.

  2. Ahmd
    August 27, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    I've bought my motherboard and ram in 2011 and still using them without a problem.

  3. oliv
    June 16, 2016 at 6:45 am

    Motherboard

  4. Ray
    June 15, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    For the normal PC user and not the builder, I would have to say that in my opinion, keeping it clean will do the most preventive good, along with working fans. Even the working fans are useless if they're covered in muck.

    • Joel Lee
      June 19, 2016 at 3:47 am

      Thanks Ray, I agree 100%. A little bit of preventive work can extend the life of a PC by quite a long time. Dust leads to heat, heat leads to component breakdown. It's so easy to avoid, we just tend to be lazy about it. :(

  5. Kelsey Tidwell
    June 7, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    As my previous post was somehow discarded mid-transmission, I'll be concise:

    Motherboard: Make sure the one you purchase has Japanese capacitors. They're the most reliable.

    System Fans: Buy ball bearing fans instead of sleeve bearing types. They last longer and are quieter. A little more money, but it's way cheaper than a burned out processor.

    • A41202813GMAIL ..
      June 8, 2016 at 10:33 am

      Whenever You Use The DOLLAR Symbol Here In MUO, The Post Is Submitted To Prior Moderator Approval.

      Unfortunately, Lately There Is No Warning And People ASSume The Post Was Lost.

      • Kelsey Tidwell
        June 9, 2016 at 12:33 am

        Thank you. This commenting system should come with an operator's manual.

        • A41202813GMAIL ..
          June 9, 2016 at 1:02 am

          Welcome.

  6. Kelsey Tidwell
    June 7, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    MOTHERBOARDS: A major failure point on motherboards are the capacitors. Little miniature soda cans sitting here and there. So when shopping for motherboards, ALWAYS buy ones with Japanese capacitors. They are the highest quality versions available, and you'll pay more for boards built with them, but one motherboard is always cheaper than TWO motherboards. :) Minimize the likelihood of failure this way.

    That being said, you still have to do due research when sourcing a motherboard. I generally will home in on several through computer build article recommendations, and then read every single review on them on Amazon, NewEgg, etc. Not every review will be real or accurate ("This board is crap! Can't say why, but it's CRAP!!!"), but you'll be able to get the picture if you read enough reviews.

    No matter what kind of system you're building (or repairing) it goes without saying that the highest quality recommendations will be from gaming system builders.

    SYSTEM FANS: My thoughts on fans are that you can never have enough. There's a trend nowadays toward fanless silent systems, which is good from a noise and power draw perspective, but the enemy of computers will always be heat. I could care less if I spend $5 more a month on a power bill because of extra fans turning when it saved me a few hundred in repairs due to heat issues.

    Most systems now have built-in variable fan speed control, so they only really hit full blast under a high system load. What generates a full load? Usually gaming. And gamers have either a headset on or the speakers turned up, so...fan noise? Not an issue.

    Most important point though is to spend just a few bucks more and buy ball bearing fans instead of the cheaper sleeve fans. If you have to save money, do it in the case or in some other non-system-killing area. Reliable cooling is the life of your system!

    I have 14 fans in my current desktop (it's in a refurbished 20 year old extra tall tower), counting the ones in the graphics card and mounted to hard drives. No, the sound isn't distracting because they are speed controlled and/or larger, slower rotating fans. Would I care if they were loud? Not really. It's the sound of system reliability.

    • Joel Lee
      June 14, 2016 at 3:53 am

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Kelsey! Lots of great advice in there and I tend to agree with your reasonings, especially the point about fan noise. I'd rather have a loud and cool system than a hot one that's silent!

    • Bob Getsla
      June 19, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      I would add another suggestion -- put your system up on a pedestal such that it is at least 6 inches above the floor. If you can keep your system even further from the floor, DO IT. The reason is simple, the closer your system is to the floor, the more dust and lint will get into it, and the more likely it is for them to clog up heat sinks and fans. And you don't even want to think about what might happen inside your power supply if it happens to collect a bunch of dust and lint.

      I like to put a cinder block or two under a tower system. That keeps the air intakes further from the floor, and as a side benefit, you won't have to reach so far down to plug in a thumb drive or use the DVD drive. The nice thing about cinder blocks is they are strong and cheap, so raising a heavy tower 6 inches from the floor is easy. You will be amazed at how much less dust and lint you will find inside your tower computer if you raise it up off the floor.

      Another suggestion is to make sure the air intakes and exhausts are completely open. That means placing your tower a foot or more away from any walls, and making sure there is plenty of air circulation behind the machine. I know there is a tendency to push it back close to the wall, but that tends to block the flow of warm air out of the machine. The last thing you want is warm air circulating around and getting back into the machine's air intakes. The result of that will be a number of needlessly hot components inside, especially your CPU, GPU, hard disk drive(s), and power supply. All of these components are more likely to fail if you do not keep them as cool as possible.

      When you do get around to cleaning your machine, be sure to safely power it down and then pull the power cord. Wait a few minutes, and then remove the covers so you can access the inner workings of your machine. Be sure to use an anti-static wrist strap and be sure to connect it to your computer's frame as well as your wrist when you open up your computer's case. Use a dish or other open container to hold all of the screws and other parts you remove, so they don't wander away. You do not want to have a screws or covers left over after you have cleaned and reassembled your machine.

      You should consider using a new (or at least clean) and dry 1 inch or 1-1/2 inch wide paint brush together with a vacuum cleaner (with the long thin crevice tool on the hose) to suck up the dust you break loose from inside your machine with that clean paint brush. This is much cheaper than using "canned air" to remove dust, and the dust loosened up by the paint brush tends to stay remain inside the vacuum cleaner, rather than moving from one side of your computer to the other. Try to use an all plastic brush. If there are any metal parts in the brush, carefully cover them with plastic or paper tape, so if you do happen to bump something with the metal part of the brush, you won't risk shorting any part to any other part through the metal in the brush.

      When you are finished removing the dust and lint from inside your machine, be sure to re-install all of the cables and other parts exactly the way you found them. (You can use a digital camera here to great advantage to supplement your memory of how things looked at various stages of disassembly) because some of those parts may have been used for multiple purposes. I have seen ribbon cables used to connect disk drives to motherboards that also happened to function as guides for the air flow inside the machine once all of the covers are back in place.

      This probably sounds harder and more complicated than it actually is. But I suggest you give yourself plenty of time, and use a digital camera liberally to document the placement of parts before you move them. That way, you can be sure they go back where they belong before you button up the case.

      In another galaxy far, far away, I keep some of the electronics in a TV station working, and this technique is among my methods of choice for keeping Murphy from getting into the act at precisely the worst possible time.

  7. Davin Peterson
    June 7, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I had a Dell 4600 years ago and one day its motherboard suddenly died. I later found out that Dell had problems with motherboards dying in this model PC.

    • Dave
      June 8, 2016 at 2:29 am

      ha, I initially read that you had a Dell........4600 years ago. Time travelers DO exist!

  8. A41202813GMAIL ..
    June 7, 2016 at 3:09 am

    What About CPUs ?

    Thank You.

  9. Adrian
    June 6, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    In my experience they don't make motherboards like they used to. Gone are the days when you'd get 5+ years off of a motherboard (I still have a 16 year old Pentium I system running Windows 98 and YES...it works).

    Nowadays, they appear to use very low quality components, especially the power regulators and capacitors. If you get 1-2 years consider yourself lucky.

  10. likefun butnot
    June 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    In my experience, RAM is exceedingly unlikely to fail once it's been installed. Not to say that it never happens, but it's actually a component least likely to die.

    The author neglects to mention discrete graphics hardware, which is something that dies all the damned time. Graphics chips often have under-specified or failure-prone cooling systems and with very few exceptions, the life of graphics hardware will be measured in minutes once it's no longer being cooled properly.

    Likewise, notebook batteries and transformers fail with some regularity, as do DC jacks inside laptops.

  11. me
    June 6, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    for hdd and ssd or any storage:

    THE BEST ADVICE:

    Have a current working backup copy!!!!!!!

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