6 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade or Replace Your Mac
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It’s important to know the signs of poor computer health. Some of these can be fixed with software and other require a trip to a service point. And sometimes you’ve got to admit defeat and concede it’s time to shell out for another.

When a computer reaches a certain age, the cost required to repair or maintain it is often outweighed by the benefits of sinking your money into a new model instead.

Today we’ll look at a few of the warning signs, what you can do about it, and consider the right time to say goodbye.

1. You’re Constantly Running Out of Space

Despite Apple’s best attempts to add automated storage optimization to Sierra Clean Your Mac's Storage With Sierra or Just Use Automator Clean Your Mac's Storage With Sierra or Just Use Automator Whether you want to increase available storage using the cloud or take matters into your own hands, here's how macOS Sierra can help lighten the load. Read More , many of us still see the “Your computer is running out of space” message on a daily basis. For laptop owners, the problem is compounded by the dependence on solid state drives, which provides excellent performance and peace of mind but lackluster capacity.

mac optimize storage

There’s plenty you can do to add more storage to a MacBook How to Add More Storage to Your MacBook How to Add More Storage to Your MacBook You don't need to buy a whole new MacBook to add more drive space. Read More . This includes replacing your optical drive with an SSD, getting imaginative with your card reader, or simply embracing a stack of external drives. Two of the most effective things you can do from a software perspective are moving your media libraries elsewhere Save Space On Your Mac By Storing iPhoto & iTunes Libraries Remotely Save Space On Your Mac By Storing iPhoto & iTunes Libraries Remotely With my head held low with shame, I publicly admitted last week that I'm a digital hoarder. My once blazingly fast Mac is now left with just 100GB of a 1TB drive left. I've already... Read More and storing device backups externally Move Backups, Apps & Photos Off Your MacBook to Create Free Space Move Backups, Apps & Photos Off Your MacBook to Create Free Space If you're desperate, and you don't fancy paying over the odds for a solid state drive upgrade, here are a few ideas for further maximizing the available storage on your MacBook. Read More .

Assuming you’ve tried all of that, you could always replace the drive with something of a larger capacity. In my case, that would be something like the $600 1TB replacement SSD from OWC, a sizeable upgrade from my current 256GB. But $600 on a laptop that’s already five years old, with numerous dead pixels, a dodgy Bluetooth chip, and outdated hardware simply isn’t worth it to me.

The Takeaway
If the cost of upgrading the storage seems steep considering the age of your machine and the cost of a replacement, it might be time to move on. Just make sure you go big on storage next time!

2. You Can’t Upgrade to the Latest macOS

This is an easy one. Each time Apple releases a new version of macOS, they revise the minimum system requirements. If the upgrade is deemed too demanding for older machines, those machines will be excluded from the release. At the time of writing, High Sierra is awaiting its release and will be compatible with:

  • MacBook Pro or Air: 2010 or later
  • MacBook: Late 2009 or later
  • iMac: Late 2009 or later
  • Mac Mini: 2010 or later
  • Mac Pro: 2010 or later

Running an older version of macOS isn’t a huge issue, but it may cause issues if you want to use an application that relies on the modern release. You can usually find legacy software for older versions of the OS, but from Apple’s perspective, your machine has reached the end of its life cycle.

mac high sierra

You’ll also miss out on the latest and greatest features included in the release. A few years ago that would have been something major like iCloud or the Mac App Store. These days its things like being able to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch Unlock Your Mac Using Your Apple Watch or Android Wear Device Unlock Your Mac Using Your Apple Watch or Android Wear Device Typing a password is just so much hassle, don't you wish you could use your iPhone, Apple Watch or simply have your Mac unlock when you walk near it? Well, now you can! Read More . A lack of security updates probably poses the biggest immediate threat.

The Takeaway
Software incompatibility and a lack of security updates are of concern, but you can probably live without most of the latest and greatest macOS additions.

3. The Hardware Just Isn’t Good Enough

4K video is no longer a distant flicker on the horizon, and even if you’re not publishing in full 4K, you still stand to benefit from higher resolution footage. While most five-year-old laptops can handle full HD video, things slow down considerably when you quadruple the resolution.

Proxy editing — the process of transcoding footage for speed during the editing phase — can help immensely, but only pricey video editors like Adobe Premiere can do it. For high-performance 4K video editing, you’re going to need to upgrade your machine. Even photo editing can take a hit when moving from 10MP images taken with your old camera to 24MP RAWs that exceed 25MB each.

RAM upgrades can provide some relief, but you’ll be limited depending on the age of your machine. For MacBook Pro owners who purchased their machine after 2012, the RAM is likely soldered directly to the mainboard, so don’t bother. Check iFixit for more information about your specific model.

The Takeaway
This is probably the most justifiable reason for purchasing a new machine, beyond catastrophic hardware failure. If poor performance means your Mac can no longer satisfy the purpose, you should consider a new machine.

4. Battery Life Isn’t What It Used to Be

All rechargeable batteries lose their capacity for a charge after time, referred to by manufacturers as cycles. Each time your battery fully charges and fully depletes, that counts as one cycle. According to Apple, “Your battery is designed to retain up to 80 percent of its original capacity at 1,000 complete charge cycles.”

You can check your battery condition by holding the option key and clicking on the Battery icon in your menu bar. For a more detailed look at your battery health, click on the Apple menu > About This Mac and select System Report in the window that appears. Scroll down to Power and you’ll see the current number of cycles recorded for your battery.

mac battery cycles

Batteries are not expensive to replace, and for around $90 you can buy a replacement. You’ll find instructions for fitting it yourself online Something Broken? Learn To Fix Anything With These 4 Websites Something Broken? Learn To Fix Anything With These 4 Websites You can spend hundreds of dollars to have a professional help you out, or you can learn how to fix it yourself for the cost of some tools and a couple hours of work. Read More , and you’ll only need a set of Torx screwdrivers, anti-static strap Your Sneakers Can Kill Your Computer: How Static Electricity Works [MakeUseOf Explains] Your Sneakers Can Kill Your Computer: How Static Electricity Works [MakeUseOf Explains] Static electricity is the number one computer hardware killer, and its everywhere! Panic aside, if you do any work with computer components - even as simple as upgrading your memory - you need to know... Read More , and some patience. You can also take your computer to a service point to have the work done.

Apple will service and replace batteries in most MacBook models for between $129 and $199. Your local computer shop would probably do it for cheaper including parts and labor, but they’re not necessarily Apple-certified. If you’re confident opening up your machine, your best option would probably be replacing it yourself.

The Takeaway
Probably the cheapest way to breathe new life into a MacBook that no longer holds a charge, but don’t expect any performance bumps.

5. Your Mac Is Falling Apart

Right before AppleCare for my MacBook Pro ran out, I took it into Apple for one last service. There was a clicking problem with the trackpad, they isolated the issue, and agreed to replace it. They ended up replacing the entire mainboard simply because that’s how the mid-2012 Retina Macbook Pro is built.

Maybe your power adapter flickers in certain positions — you can replace the cable Are Cheap MacBook Adapters Safe or Worth It? Are Cheap MacBook Adapters Safe or Worth It? Is buying a third-party MacBook adapter a good idea? They're definitely cheaper, but they may not be safe. Read More , but you probably can’t do much about the port. Broken keys can be replaced, but those that no longer register key presses will likely require replacing the whole keyboard (and if it’s anything like the trackpad, the entire mainboard too).

And then there are the other parts that seem to fail one by one: card readers that no longer read cards, optical drives with dud lasers, crackling speakers, smashed displays, or a sudden rash of dead pixels. When the list starts to grow considerably, money spent on fixes will likely go further when spent on a new machine.

An old computer is a bit like an old car. You know that the passenger side electric window doesn’t work and there’s the previous owner’s Maroon 5 CD stuck in the stereo, but you can limp on without those features and still get from A to B. At some point something will stop working that requires real attention, and that’s when you need to decide whether to repair or scrap.

The Takeaway
A long list of small problems can quickly become a big problem. Don’t cough up for pricey repairs when a replacement machine will perform better and last longer.

6. Major Software Issues Are Frequent

Major software issues are related to the daily performance of your Mac. If the OS is frequently freezing and becoming unresponsive, if you’re seeing onscreen gibberish and graphical artifacts, or if your machine turns itself off or restarts at random; you might have underlying hardware issues.

It doesn’t hurt to try reinstalling macOS to diagnose the issue. This should be at the top of your list once you’ve tried all the usual tricks for diagnosing and fixing frequent software issues: resetting your SMC and PRAM How To Reset Your Mac's SMC & PRAM – And Why How To Reset Your Mac's SMC & PRAM – And Why Sometimes your Mac will act strange for no apparent reason, and if a restart doesn't work, sometimes you'll need to reset the SMC and PRAM. Read More , clearing enough space to breathe, and uninstalling intrusive kernel extensions How to Fix Your Mac's "kernel_task" High CPU Usage Bug How to Fix Your Mac's "kernel_task" High CPU Usage Bug Noticing an errant process called kernel_task eating much of your Mac's available CPU? You're not alone. Read More .

mac install language

If nothing works, it’s time to reinstall macOS from scratch How To Reinstall Mac OS X For A Fast, Squeaky-Clean Mac How To Reinstall Mac OS X For A Fast, Squeaky-Clean Mac Just like Windows, prolonged use of a Mac slows down the operating system. When you've been hoarding data and applications for over a year, the difference in performance starts to show. It just doesn't run... Read More . You can back up your personal documents with Time Machine Partition & Use Your Time Machine Hard Drive To Store Files Too Partition & Use Your Time Machine Hard Drive To Store Files Too If your Mac's hard drive is small and your Time Machine hard drive is big, it might be worth using the drive for both backup and storage purposes. Read More , then reinstall the bare necessities until you’re happy the problem was software-based. If you’re still encountering the same issues, then it’s time to consider replacing the machine.

The Takeaway
A fresh macOS install can indicate whether your issues are software or hardware-based, at which point you can take it to a service point for proper diagnosis (or bite the bullet and look for a new machine).

The Final Curtain

If you’ve accepted your fate, it’s time to move on with the purchase. You could opt for a brand new machine straight from Apple, try and save some cash by opting for a refurbished model The Top 6 Places To Buy Refurbished Mac Laptops The Top 6 Places To Buy Refurbished Mac Laptops Apple computers tend to last a long time, so you might want to consider purchasing a refurbished model to save some money. Read More or go second-hand for the biggest savings 5 Ways To Save Money When Buying a MacBook 5 Ways To Save Money When Buying a MacBook Apple’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, or “the new MacBook”, are some of the best notebook computers you can buy. But they’re also pretty expensive. Read More .

And depending on the state of your old machine, there’s still plenty you can do with it. Why not set up a file server Use Your Old Mac as a Server or NAS Drive — Here's How Use Your Old Mac as a Server or NAS Drive — Here's How If you haven't yet sorted out some network-attached storage, you might want to think about using your old Mac as a jumped-up fileserver. Read More or install Kodi 7 Essential Kodi Tips for New Users 7 Essential Kodi Tips for New Users If you're just starting out on your Kodi journey and don't have a clue where to begin, we're here to help with these essential Kodi tips for newbies. Read More ?

Will you be extending the life of your current machine with a few upgrades, or is the expenditure just not worth it for you?

Image Credit: IzelPhotography/Depositphotos

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  1. Me
    October 13, 2017 at 11:20 am

    One sure sign you need to replace your Mac is that you own a Mac. Get something better for half the price.

  2. Stephen Russell
    September 27, 2017 at 12:19 am

    Mine has page freezing & slow speeds but that could be cable service.
    Mac is last years model.
    Told to replace in 5 years time.
    Or buy a Used Mac & get Mac compatabile IE mouse & keyboard from office Depot etc & Save $$$$$

  3. Howard A Pearce
    September 19, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    I'm surprised computer speed was not mentioned - a major problem I have with my mac.
    But I am still considering the price of getting a new one and whether that would cure my problems or would even be worth the money given how infrequently I use it.
    It must be at least 10 years old