The Perth laptop formula: Repair or replace?

You’ve got a laptop that needs repairing – is it worth keeping or should I replace it with a new one?

Rule of thumb for replace vs repair

If a new one is less than twice the cost of a broken one, get a new one. You’ll get a new warranty and twelve months’ peace of mind. But wait, there’s more.

You will need to reinstall all your software from discs or downloads. Do you have all the discs and licenses? Definitely? If not, you’ll have to buy the software again. Microsoft Office costs around $400 so if you don’t have the original disks, re-do the calculation, adding that cost to the purchase price.

So:

REPLACE if
BRAND NEW LAPTOP + replacement software < 2 x repair cost. 
But wait, there’s more.

Value your time

Rough estimate, assuming you’re super-efficient and live next door to the Apple Store: two hours to research and buy.

Average time to set-up a new laptop with all your data, network connections, printer connections and such: 4-6 hours. So maybe seven hours all-up. What’s your time worth? Well, it should be worth more than your hourly rate of pay and at least half what you bill your time at, so if you’re on $80K a year, we calculate that at a minimum $60/hour.

So the formula might be:

REPLACE if
BRAND NEW LAPTOP + new software + $420 < 2 x repair cost.

A couple of caveats:

Shiny new laptops aren’t great for the environment

You already knew this: less new laptops = less toxic waste. And please don’t throw your old laptop into landfill. Computers in the bin are an environmental disaster. We send all our broken components to an electronic waste service for recycling.

Repair/replace decisions are different for gamers

If you’re a gamer, you’re probably excited about incremental improvements in processing speed; you will get that from a new one. Everyone else should chill. Your performance on a spreadsheet is not going to vary with a new box. Workplace laptops have barely shifted in practical performance.

Old high performance laptops vs new cheap ones

Don’t confuse the two. Specifications matter, and if you’re pricing a new one, make sure it’s as good as the one you’re discarding. New high performance laptops are expensive. Generally the equation here is a few hundred to fix versus (at least) a couple thousand to replace.

Is the laptop running slow

If your laptop is five years old and chugging along, what would you pay to have one that runs lightning fast? $250? Let’s modify your formula:

REPLACE if
BRAND NEW LAPTOP + new software + $420 < 2 x (repair cost + $250).

But there’s another way of doing this. If you’ve got an old budget laptop you should get a GO FASTER quote for a new Solid State drive. These are dramatically quicker than what you’ve got. That quote may include more RAM.

In that case:

REPLACE if
BRAND NEW LAPTOP + new software + $420 < 2 x (repair cost + GO FASTER QUOTE).

Often people forget how long it took to get the laptop to the point where it’s completely customised and personalised. It becomes an extension of your personality and your productivity. That counts for something.

A new screen is way, way cheaper than a new laptop

LCD screen replacements are very cost effective these days, even with high-priced laptops like HP’s X360 range or Lenovo Yogas. It’s far cheaper to replace the broken screen than replace the notebook and only a couple of hours turn around.

Don’t get ripped off

Managed IT services are notorious for spruiking ‘replace over repair’. Why? Well, they have no infrastructure in-house to work at a motherboard component level. And if they sell you a new laptop they can also charge for time spent transferring data and setting up the laptop. If instead, it’s ‘repair and return’, there’s no interruption to client workflow and no extra income for the IT consultants. Clearly, we’re in the business of repairing – it’s in our interest to keep that cost down so you don’t replace. However, we regularly advise people that it’s time to kiss your loyal friend goodbye.

Hope that helps you make your decision. We’re happy to help with further advice.