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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. 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 that you should be avoiding. A long-lasting PC starts and ends with good maintenance habits, especially when you build the PC yourself. Once you’ve done that, check out these tips on how to extend the lifespan of your PC parts.
There are several reasons why you should upgrade your motherboard, 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.
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 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.
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.
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. 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 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 or when buying a solid state drive.
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. How much do you need? Well, it depends, 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.
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. 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.
Otherwise, make sure you’re connected to a surge protector — or better yet, consider using an uninterruptible power supply.
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, 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.
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 is a long-term, high-load activity that you shouldn’t do on a normal computer. Overclocking PC components 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.
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 and whether or not you should care about the Intel Kaby Lake. If your GPU dies, here are some things to know before buying your next graphics card.
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.
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!