Planned Computer Obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is the idea that computer manufacturers deliberately design hardware to force customers into continual replacement.

Does planned computer obsolescence exist? If not, recent manufacturing quality (or lack thereof) certainly leads to that impression. I am positive that computer printers made fifteen years ago last longer than those made today. Cases in point: the high percentage of ancient HP LaserJet printers I encounter, bless their little electronic hearts. On the other hand, newer printers of all brands, especially the low-end models, seem to suffer a less-than-two-year lifespan.

Computers are the same. That $500 PC… well, you may get what you pay for in a few years. Then again, you could buy a $5,000 PC and have the same experience. In general, Macs seem to resist planned obsolescence more readily, perhaps because Apple’s stranglehold on the Mac hardware market limits competition. Even so, design decisions like the Intel Macs force customers to invest in new hardware.

Sometimes you have no choice but to follow the industry’s “rip and replace” mantra. A recent flaw in the wireless security protocol WPA may soon mean that if your wireless access point is more than a few years old, you will have to replace it or risk being hacked. But it’s not always feasible to spend yet more money on another piece of equipment when you feel like you just bought the one you have.

What can you do? Don’t worry if your computer isn’t the latest and greatest. If it does what you want, fine. If it’s slow, try software repairs before resorting to a new system, or see if you can upgrade rather than replace. Not only will this curtail planned obsolescence, but it’s better for your budget as well as our ewaste-encrusted planet.

Next month I’ll share with you the biggest secret in the tech world, Should You Buy PC Or Mac? If you have any computer questions, click Comments below this article, and be sure to sign up for the email version of Tech Tips for bonus tips and product reviews.

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