Repair or replace my laptop?

Here’s the repair or replace rule of thumb: 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 just a minute. 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 is less than twice the repair cost. But wait! 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, at a minimum $60/hour. So the formula might be: REPLACE if BRAND NEW LAPTOP + new software + $420 is less than twice the repair cost.

A couple of after thoughts: One: the environment. 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.

Two: 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.

Do you have a high performance laptop? Don’t discard it lightly. Compare it with a new high performance laptop. They are expensive. Generally the repair or replace 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 is less than twice the (repair cost + $250).

And 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 is less than twice the (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.

Replacing an LCD screen is very cost effective these days, even with high-priced laptops like HP’s X360 range or Lenovo Yogas. It’s far cheaper to repair than replace and only a couple of hours turn around. Whose interests are being served? 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. Hope that helps you with your ‘repair or replace’ decision. If your case is more complex we’re happy to help with advice.