Technology Explained

8 Practical Steps to Fight Planned Obsolescence

Bertel King 26-04-2017

Planned obsolescence is a two dollar name for the act of deliberately building products not to last. Rather than creating something that we can use for as long as possible, companies make decisions that shorten an item’s life 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 . This is often a strategic decision that turns a one-time customer into a repeat buyer.


Some of us are deeply bothered by this. We miss having the option to use the same TV for ten or twenty years. Then there are those of us who don’t particularly mind, for tech advances so rapidly now that we only want to keep a purchase around for a couple of years anyway. And it’s not like the necessary research is cheap.

Realistically, most of us fall somewhere in the middle. There are some products we tend to replace often, but there are others we would like to see last as long as possible. Just because you replace your laptop every year, that doesn’t mean you want to regularly replace your fridge as well.

However you feel about planned obsolescence, here are some strategies to extend the life of the things you own.

1. Repair What You Can

When a product isn’t working correctly, two options often come to mind: return or replace. After a certain amount of time, the option to return goes away. But you may not have to run to the store for a replacement. Sometimes you do have the option to repair what you’ve bought.

Many of today’s gadgets are designed to keep us out What Is the Right to Repair and Why Should You Care? When old technology broke, you could fix yourself. If that failed, you could find a repair shop. With newer products, those options are disappearing. Let's talk about the importance of the Right to Repair. Read More . They lack screws, are held together by glue, or have warranty policies that end if you tamper in any way. Some require parts that only the manufacturer knows where to find. But some gadgets aren’t that hard to get working again. If you aren’t yet familiar with, check it out. The site is a true resource.


After you grow accustomed to fixing your own things, you may feel inclined to join the growing number of advocates trying to enshrine our right to repair into law. You may want to do so even if you don’t get your hands dirty yourself. After all, how many of us prefer taking our cars somewhere other than the manufacturer for repairs 5 Ways to Save Money on Car Repairs and Avoid Mechanic Rip-Offs The smallest repair on your car can cost a whole lot of cash. These five car information tools can help you understand and car better and save money in the process. Read More ?

2. Avoid the Latest Trends

Developers don’t expect a fitness band to stand the test of time. A smart thermostat may have some failsafes to keep the device working without an internet connection, but much of the functionality is gone. For cutting edge electronics, longevity often isn’t even an afterthought.

No one really knows what smart homes will look like five years from now. Many companies involved with creating that future are moving forward with the dream of locking us into their ecosystem Ecobee3 vs. Nest Thermostat: A Head-to-Head Comparison Did you know that a smart thermostat can boost your home value? It's one of many reasons why a smart thermostat is well worth the initial investment. But which one should you get? Read More , guaranteeing their economic success for the foreseaable future. They would prefer we buy their hardware and replace it every few years as new software updates render old models obsolete.

How many of the first-generation Android Wear watches Which Android Wear Smartwatch Is Best For You? In the market for an Android Wear smartwatch? Let's compare all the options available now and make the decision easy. Read More are still in use? All of them cost enough to start a small collection of traditional watches (assuming you aren’t going for premium brands). My $250 Moto 360 became buggy in months, and the software it runs is now out of date. Besides, I can’t use it anyway now that I don’t run Google software on my phone How to Use Android Without Google: Everything You Need to Know Want to use Android without Google? No Google, no problem. Here's a guide to going Google-free on your Android device to regain privacy. Read More .


Therein lies another risk of many “smart” products. You often can’t use them if you switch to an unsupported operating system or device. Want to install a custom ROM How to Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device Ready to revitalize your Android phone or tablet? Installing a custom ROM is the best way to do that -- powering it up with even better performance and features. Read More  or simplify life with a flip phone How to Turn an Android Phone Into a Dumbphone in 8 Steps Are you glued to your smartphone? Try making it simpler, like a dumbphone, using these tips to declutter and disconnect. Read More ? You will be stuck interacting with your smart devices from a PC, if you’re still able to manage them at all.

3. Make Your Own Gadgets

Many of the new products coming to market don’t offer new functionality — they offer a nice package. They’re presenting a way to do something that consumers can get up and running for minimal effort. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, so to speak, you can obtain similar results without giving up your data or being left with a product that doesn’t work after a year.

The Raspberry Pi is so small and affordable that people are sticking them in places you would never cram a traditionally PC. You can even use one to create a wearable 5 Wearable Projects You Can Build With a Raspberry Pi Have you ever thought about wearing your Raspberry Pi? Well no, of course you haven't. After all, you're perfectly normal. Read More . With an Arduino kit and the right skills So You Just Bought an Arduino Starter Kit. What Now? So you just bought your first Arduino starter kit -- or you're planning on buying one soon -- but you don't know where to begin? Don't worry! Read More , you can create your own automated solutions. If you have kids, passing these skills onto them can set them on a more creative and inventive path through life. As for us adults, it’s not too late to make this change ourselves.

4. Reuse What You Have

While you’re making your own gadgets, take a look at the ones rotting away in your junk drawer. Many of those items are no longer good at serving their original purpose, but they can have a second life as something else.


A smartphone doesn’t need cellular service or updates to serve a sound recorder, remote control, or any number of creative uses 10 Creative Ways to Use Your Old Smartphone Why sell or throw away your old smartphone when there are so many ways for you to reuse it? Some of those reuses might be more creative than you thought. Here are some ideas. Read More . Try turning an extra tablet into a security camera How to Use an Old Smartphone or Tablet as a Security Camera Learn how to easily set up your Android device to act as a home security camera! Read More . Have a phone lying around from before the smartphone era? You can use the parts to make a smartwatch! Admittedly, that takes a lot more effort than any of the other options I just listed, but that’s not a barrier if you’re interested enough.

5. Ditch Proprietary Standards

Phone chargers often outlive the phones they come with. That’s because most of them adopted the MicroUSB standard Understand USB Cable Types and Which One to Use Why are there so many different USB cable types? Learn the differences between USB connector types and how to buy the best cable. Read More years ago, and they’re still useful today. An old phone charger can charge everything from your current phone to your Bluetooth speaker or wireless gamepad. This saves money and reduces waste.

Have you ever wondered why each laptop uses a different power adapter? There’s no functional reason for this. Companies simply see this as an opportunity to make more money. It may not matter if your last three laptops all came from the same manufacturer. If you want a second charger lying around, you have to buy a new one.

The industry hasn’t abandoned this tactic, but there is hope. A number of laptops now draw power via USB-C What Is USB Type-C? Ah, the USB plug. It is as ubiquitous now as it is notorious for never being able to be plugged in right the first time. Read More . Despite using the same plug, these cables aren’t already interchangeable. Nonetheless, USB-C powder adapters still have a better chance of working with your next laptop than some proprietary cable.


Don’t limit yourself to charging ports and cables. When given a choice, pursue the open standard. Look for memory storage, file formats, and accessories that don’t limit you to one device or brand.

6. Use Free and Open Source Software

Commercial apps typically have an expiration date. Once a developer stops actively supporting a piece of software, the clock starts ticking. It may work on the current version of your operating system, but bugs may appear once you move to the next release — if the program runs at all. Since the code is locked away, no one except the developer can tweak the software to run on newer machines. This problem is especially rampant on mobile devices, where apps can come and go overnight.

Free and open source software plays by a different rulebook. The source code that makes these programs run is available for anyone to look at. Even once a developer abandons a project, someone else can pick up the baton. Applications often spread to as many operating systems as possible, so you’re free to use whichever you want. FOSS apps free you from vendor lock-in What Is Software Vendor Lock-In? (And How to Avoid It) Software vendor lock-in is considered by some to be a big infringement on your rights as a consumer. But what is it? Why is it so bad? And how can you avoid it? Read More . Your data and freedom to choose remain yours.

7. Shop Second-Hand

Thrift stores offer some of the cheapest prices on PCs you can find. Sure, this hardware is old, but it may be all you need to meet your needs Should You Buy Second-Hand Tech? The Pros and the Cons Tech is expensive, so buying second-hand is always an option. But is it a good idea? We take a look at the pros and cons of buying pre-owned gear. Read More . These are more than handy for pulling up information online and banging out a few documents. And they’re a great way to introduce kids to computing without stressing over whether they will damage something that costs you hundreds of dollars.

When you buy a used PC, that’s hardware saved from the landfill and given a new lease on life. Running Linux, that machine can last for many years to come Defeat Planned Obsolescence with Linux and Open Source Software Unlike a 5-year-old PC, a 5-year-old smartphone can barely run any modern apps. But there is a way to enjoy the benefits of technology without buying new hardware: embrace Linux and free software! Read More . Old tech works pretty good second hand. Buying (or selling) some of the latest tech used can come with more risks Buying Used Smart Home Technology? Be Aware of These Risks When it comes to smart home appliances, there still aren't established standards about what to do with used devices. Unfortunately, a "factory reset" might not be enough to ensure your security. Read More .

8. Do Without

You can always opt out. Tired of feeling like you need to replace your TV every few years? Hate the idea of contributing a new smartphone to the landfill every few years? Hate the idea of putting apps on your wrist or wearing a tracker that won’t let you switch phones? Then don’t.

It really is that simple. Sure, depending on where you live, you can’t go without owning a car. But few gadgets, or even most appliances, are absolute essentials. You can live a satisfying life reading books, playing board games with friends The Best Family Board Games You've Never Heard Of Have your board game nights fallen into a boring rut? Here are the best family board games that everyone will enjoy. No Monopoly required. Read More , and learning how to paint. With just the smallest amount of planning, you don’t need a phone or app to go out to dinner. You can find the nearest park or movie theater without looking up the information from your car. Is your life really made better by being able to play videos merely by speaking the words out loud. Doesn’t a remote control already make it easy enough to waste all day in front of a screen?

Commercials would have us think that we can’t live without buying one more thing. Silicon Valley is packed with companies claiming to benefit society and improve the quality of human life. Is any of this true? The negative impacts of over-convenience and over-stimulation are not hard to find 5 Ways Technology Might Be Feeding Your Depression Technology can worsen depression. With tech enveloping our lives, we should be more aware of technology's potential impact on us. There are some things you can do to lessen the burden. Read More . You won’t just make a run around planned obsolescence by opting out, you may be making the kind of change that leads to a richer life.

Planned Obsolescence Isn’t Inherently Bad

But we do need to re-evaluate our expectations.

An old MP3 player from 2006 can still play music. An old cell phone can still place calls. An old newspaper or magazine still tells the news, even if it’s no longer current. But a seven-year old smartphone can’t complete most of its original functions. Is this truly a step forward for technology?

We buy houses expecting them to last for decades. You can learn how to fix and extend the life of different parts of your home simply by watching YouTube 17 Easy Home Repair Tips You Can Learn From YouTube Anytime You can take care of minor home repairs yourself, instead of paying the handyman. These YouTube videos have all the DIY tips, instructions, and list of tools you need to get everything fixed. Read More .

In the tech world, this is akin to buying or building a desktop PC. Due to the rate of technological change, your rig won’t last decades, but it can stay relevant longer than a laptop or tablet incapable of upgrades. Should we accept gadgets that offer the allure of new features but sacrifice the longevity and durability of the generation that came before them?

Even if you’re fine with replacing gadgets every other year, or you lease rather than own as a way to keep up with the latest models, consider the environmental price that the entire ecosystem pays to support our drive to turn nonrewable resources into throwaway products. Then there are the ethical questions raised by sweatshops built to satisfy our demand for low prices.

The solution may be one where we lease tech products from manufacturers through a monthly or yearly subscription. When new models are released, we trade in our existing devices back to the manufacturer, who then recycles the materials to make more devices. This way companies still bring in the high profits that incentivize them to push forward with bold, creative new tech. Plus the arrangement is more transparent about our lack of true ownership over many modern service-based products.

What do you do to resist planned obsolescence? What changes would you make to the way we invest in technological advancements? This is a complex topic, so I look forward to your insightful comments!

Image Credits: Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock

Related topics: Open Source, Smartphone Repair.

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  1. Michael
    February 4, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    A factory trained computer service engineer, with 40 years of hands-on experience, has discovered a solution to planned obsolescence in personal computers and printers, etc. The solution is a simple process, that anyone can perform, that resolves nearly every symptom this service engineer has ever seen. A running list of 58 common symptoms have been resolved so far on computers made by all manufacturers, with DOS thru Windows 8.1 operating system environments, so far.

    A partial list of symptoms resolved by this process includes motherboards that fail to pass POST and fail to boot good hard drives with good system files on stand alone and network workstation desktops, laptops and network servers. Also resolved are video boards that are dead or fail to provide video output, network cards that don't work, floppy/hard/CD/DVD drives with constant or intermittent failures and completely dead laptops/desktops. Even multiple printer problems have been resolved.

    As hard as this is to believe, it's true. References showing results of using this cost and time effective process to repair parts/systems for computer repair companies are available. More info at It's the way this process is performed that proves that it is a fix for planned obsolescence in computers and printers.

  2. Eddie G.
    May 2, 2017 at 4:54 am

    The tech industry aside from the advancements made in science and bio-engineering are full of companies that just want your money. I stopped using proprietary software in 2002/'03 and never looked back. I STILL own my laptops and desktops from the 2008/'09 era and they work just fine. We as a society are led to believe that if you don't get the latest and greatest, that we're somehow missing out on something. Granted 4K displays are wonderful to look at, but your eyes?...can only see a finite number of colors and hues. And when you think about it, your browsing, chatting, video-calling, and reading on the internet isn't any faster, your machine could be lightning fast, but your ISP determines your speed, and they're not giving that away cheaply. As for "Hi-Def Radio" don't make me LAUGH! THERE'S NO SUCH THING!. Its a marketing ploy to get you to spend more for something that doesn't exist!

    Bear with me and hear me out:

    No matter the age, no matter the race, no matter the gender. Your EARS can ONLY hear a range of sounds from "low" to "High" (this is why we can never hear a dog whistle!'s "Out Of Range" for our ears) so why do these companies think they can tout Hi-Def Radio as something "better" all it sound sources that have been "equalized" with precision so that your lows sound deeper, and your highs sound crisper. And that's IT! But if you walk into a BestBuy or any place that sells car audio or home stereo equipment the first thing they'll direct you to is the "Hi-Def" satellite / radios.

    All that aside. I've watched people shell out HUGE amounts of money for Apple desktops and have them become passe and "old" within a few years! And when you compare them to the newer versions the only things that change are the size of the displays, the size of the hard drives and maybe an increase in RAM. (Which is a whole other kettle of fish!) I was given (given!....I would NEVER buy one!) an iMac from the 2007/'09 era, and the saddest part about it is that it can ONLY go up to 6GB of really? the grand scheme of things SIX GIGS was all you could put into this thing? Needless to say the first thing I did upon receiving it was to wipe it clean and install Linux on it. Its been humming along ever since....and I have no intention of scrapping it until it dies completely.

    I own Lenovo T410 laptops from the 2010 era that are running Linux just fine. And unlike the poor saps who continue to upgrade their hardware because Microsoft tells them to?...I can keep these devices running Linux for as long as the developers of the OS continue to support it..(which so far?...seems like FOREVER!) People ran out and upgraded their entire computing systems because Windows XP was reaching End Of Life, and the newer OS wouldn't be able to run on that hardware. But if you installed Linux it?'d still HAVE the machine, AND you'd have saved a TON of money. I guess there are "sheeple" that will buy anything as long as it makes their life a little easier, but I'm not one of them.

    On the matter of smart homes? I don't want one. I'm not interested in having my fireplace, kitchen lights, or jacuzzi start up remotely. I'm not interested in having my fridge, microwave, washer & dryer, all talk to the wireless speaker/microphone in the middle of my living room. I don't want a 4K "smart" TV in my home. Its not that I'm against technological advancement, but I don't want anyone or any THING to invade my privacy, and if you think that little "Alexa/Echo"..."Cortana"....or "SiRi" device ISN'T listening even when you're not talking to it?..then your sadly mistaken. I see nothing wrong with a 55" inch....flat panel....1080p TV with NO SMART technology in it whatsoever gracing my Family Room's wall. I see no harm in turning on my TV and scrolling through the options of RoKu. I have no problems whatsoever WALKING to my fridge and checking to see if I'm out of milk....or listening for the washing machine to finish. I think people have become complacent to the point that they're willing to give up their very liberty in order to say they have something in their home that can do this-and-that for them! I for one like doing things "the old way". Some will call me a relic, others a recluse or hermit. But I'm not someone who enjoys having their life "taken over" from them by machinery. If you ever want to really see what humankind can become when they rely too heavily on machines?....go get yourself the DVD of this movie called "Wall-E" those fat blob-like creatures that are trapped in their hover-chairs because they've lost the ability to fight gravity enough to walk?...those are US!

    And on that note?...I'm DONE!!

    • The Global Village Idiot
      May 2, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Here, here! Buy that man a drink.

      • Bertel King, Jr.
        May 2, 2017 at 9:18 pm


    • S. Wiles
      January 16, 2020 at 5:48 pm

      Nicely Put!!! Great writing on an interesting subject. Thank you for sharing your views.