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Many people cannot get through a single workday without them. Some use them for gaming, shopping, socializing, and even dating. Computers have become such a part of our lives that we are willing to endure lengthy hold times, tech jargon, and software download agreements to ensure a PC and Internet connection are running properly.

With an average cost of around $275 for a lower-end model and around $1,600 for something with higher performance capabilities, computers have found their way into the homes of millions of Americans. From 1984 to 2011, U.S. Census data indicate the percentage of households owning a computer rose from less than 9 percent to over 75 percent. This increase directly correlates with availability and increase in Internet usage.

Computers have also seen a significant price drop over the past several years. In 1996, you were looking at a cost of around $3,500 for a model with a 100 MHz processor, 1.2 GB of hard drive, and 12 MB of RAM. Your monitor was around 15 inches in size and features like a CD-ROM were still considered pretty flashy. Today, with our touchscreens, terabytes of RAM, and high-definition monitors, it’s tough to even think about a computer with such little power.

Because parts have become less and less expensive and there are so many computer sellers out there, the price of a PC has reduced based on simple principles of supply and demand. With computers being relatively inexpensive, what is the best action to take in the event of a PC breakdown? When should you buy a new PC?

1. Virus

If your computer ends up with a virus you cannot repair on your own, the cost of professional service ranges from around $150 to $200. To determine whether it is worth it to purchase a new one, you’ll need to find out the depreciated value of your PC. To do this, you can use an online tool such as’s appraiser or you can depreciate based on your computer’s age. Based on the online appraiser tool, a 2010 model HP laptop with a new price of around $640 is worth between $180 and $188 in good condition. If you were to get a virus on this machine that you cannot fix, the machine may be, in essence, totaled.

Therefore, in year one, they lose 20 percent of their value and in year two, they lose another 32 percent. After year three, assets like computers lose an additional 19.2 percent of their value and in years four and five, your PC loses another 11.52 percent per year. This leaves a remaining 5.76 percent of the original value during year six and potentially during later years. Therefore, if you purchased even a $1,000 PC five years ago, it may not be worth fixing in the event of a computer virus that needs professional attention. Depending on its condition and specs, an HP Pavilion laptop from 2009 or 2010 may have a depreciated value of a little over $100.


2. Obsolete in terms of processing

Oftentimes, computers need minimum specifications to run specific software and work systems. If you are a telecommuter who runs several systems at once from your PC, you need enough computing power to manage all of your tasks. If you find your computer freezing or running slowly, it may be having difficulty performing its functions, and this can impact your productivity. Most employers will indicate the minimum specifications a computer must have in order to run all of their needed systems. However, only having the bare minimum may cause a bit of lag, as well.

If you use your PC for gaming, most games specify the exact processing power a computer needs to play a game optimally. Resources such as System Requirements Lab’s Can You Run It tool will examine your PC to find out if it is capable of running a variety of PC games. Speed tests and ping tests are also helpful, as they help determine your Internet speed and the quality of your connection. Be sure to review the site and read all terms and conditions prior to using these or any other online resources.

3. Usage and preferences

Sometimes, a computer just no longer fits your needs. For instance, a desktop PC may not be right for someone who computes on the go and enjoys mobile applications. It may be time to invest in a tablet or hybrid tablet-laptop.

You may want a PC that easily syncs to your other devices, like your tablets and phones, or an all-in-one PC with a touchscreen may be better for your needs. With all of the options out there now, you may just see something you like and find it for an affordable price.