Brisbane Computer Repair Technician Advice – How Long Do Macs Last

How Long Can You Expect an Apple Mac Computer to Last?

How long do Macs last is a very interesting question in today’s market.  Traditionally the longevity of Apple Macs has always been considered by many consumers to be Apple’s strength over PCs running successive versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, but is this still true?  How long can you (realistically) expect your new 2016 or 2017 model Apple iMac, Mac Pro, or MacBook, to last before requiring replacement?

Apple Mac Computer Repairs in Brisbane

We at Affordable Computer Repairs and Service also do Apple Mac repairs as well as repairing Windows-based computers.  In fact, over a third of our repair work involves Apple Macs.  Thus, we are uniquely positioned to compare both platforms and advise you how long you expect your new (or current) Apple Macs to last and remain serviceable. We base this assessment on a range of past and current repair jobs, on both older and newer Macs (typically models ranging from 2007 to 2015).  As computer repairers we get to see ‘under the hood’ of all computers and know exactly the type and quality of components used in both Mac and PC (branded and custom-built) computers.  We also know the way in which they are designed and engineered.

Based on our experience – and backed up by information provided by Apple and others – you really cannot expect that a new model Mac is going to last anywhere near as long as your old trusty Mac (circa 2008 to 2011) may well have done.

Many Apple Mac users are surprised (some even horrified) when we explain that their “recently-purchased” Apple Mac, may only have a service life of around three to four years…  This applies to iMac, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, etc.  All this depends on numerous factors.  None more so than how it’s used and maintained by the users themselves.

How Long Do Macs Last – Information from Apple

Recent information published by Apple revealed that on the whole, the company (conservatively) expects consumers to replace their Apple products than three to four years.

Although Apple only provides a one year warranty for Apple Macs (Apple One – Year Limited Warranty) this is not (hopefully and probably) an indication of their expectation of how long they expect Macs to last.

Note: Due to Australian Consumer Law, Apple is bound to comply with the minimum two year warranty period as guaranteed in the provisions of this legislation.  We suggest that you familiarise yourself with this legislation.  We recommend this in case you ever need to remind the staff in your local Apple store of the brand’s obligations to you, their customer.

Apple also refers to products that are between five to seven years old as “vintage”.  Although customers are now telling us that the staff at Genius Bar counter and Apple Care support often revise the time down to four years plus.  There is also little to no support provided for these computers.

What Can You Consider to be a Reasonable Service Life or ‘Useful Life’ of an Apple Mac

There are many reasons why the newer models of iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Airs, etc, will not have the same durability as the older models.  One of the major reasons is the standard and quality hardware components used.  Whilst it is often difficult to quantify and can be a subjective exercise, we do not believe that Apple computers are built to the same standard of quality and durability that we believe was the case only a few years ago.

It’s no different for PCs and other electronic devices either.  Let’s face it, these items are a “commodity” – an expensive one – but a commodity none the less.  High turn-over of devices and new release products keeps these companies (and the global IT industry) in business.  This is because they get you to keep spending on their latest and greatest, and increasing array of niche products.

Reasons Why Macs (and PCs) Now Appear to Have a Shorter Service Life

Compared to a few years ago, Apple Macs (and Windows-based PCs for that matter) have shorter useful service lives.  Or so Apple (and Microsoft) will have you believe.  It appears that they do everything in their power to “encourage” you to upgrade both your hardware and software.  This is because technology is advancing far more rapidly all the time, year on year.  Thus a machine built to adequately cope with a broad range of software today, may indeed not be up to the task in four or five years’ time.

As software becomes increasingly sophisticated it also becomes more resource hungry.  Especially in terms of memory or RAM.  We also now use our computers for much more diverse uses such as storing photos, other images, music, and videos.

Computer games too chew up your memory and hard disk space.  There are also far more updates and new games coming onto the market all the time.  This means that the hardware of your computer too needs to be able to cope with the additional demands of the new software.  This can shorten the ‘useful life’ of your Apple Mac and helps answer the question “how long do Macs last?”

Less Ability to Upgrade Apple Macs

The ability to undertake hardware upgrades for your Apple Mac is fast becoming more limited.  They are also more difficult and will soon be a thing of the past.  Beginning with iMacs (models after 2011) and MacBook Pros (from late 2012 onwards) your upgrade options have steadily narrowed with each successive model release.  For owners of MacBook Air devices, this process began even earlier.  For these particular computers, only the storage device or flash drive (a type of solid state drive or SSD – a PCIe device as opposed to SATA) is your only upgrade option.

The situation is little better for owners of iMacs.  For example, for 21.5 inch versions up to and including late-2013 models, RAM, hard drives and SSDs are still upgradable.  For the follow-on series of iMac models, it’s just the storage device (ie. SSD & hard drive).  It is a similar story for owners of 27 inch iMacs.  Whilst it is still possible, it is no longer as easy to undertake these tasks as it once was.  Furthermore, it is no longer anywhere near as cost-effective.

The next time you’re out shopping for a new Apple Mac, our advice is to order and buy the best spec’d computer you can afford.  Then forget about upgrading when the “budget allows” or needs dictate, down the track. It won’t work out to be as cheap or easy as you may think.  And for those with pre-2013 MacBook Pros and pre-2012 iMacs who might be thinking about a RAM or SSD upgrade, just remember that you may not be able to reuse those components in your new (replacement) computer when your current Mac finally dies.

…. But you can still Repair a Mac Computer, Right?

When considering how long do Macs last included in the equation would be the possibility of repairing components as they fail.  And yes you can still repair a Mac.  However with a number of provisos. There are all kinds of reasons why you would want to repair your Mac rather than replace it.  The initial cost of repair versus replacement is the key one for most people.  There are however other things you need to take into account.

The same kinds of considerations you have to make deciding whether an upgrade is possible and if so, whether it will be cost-effective and money well spent.  Most things can be repaired provided you have the skills and knowledge, the spare parts, the available time and the budget.  In short, “can it be repaired and does it make financial sense to do so?” Apple Macs are no different.  Whether your computer is an iMac or MacPro, a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, 3, 5 or 10 years old it’s never “cheap” to repair, regardless of whether it’s a simple or complex repair.

Let’s suppose you have a 5-6 year old iMac that requires the replacement of the logic board. The replacement part will take 10 days to arrive.  It won’t be cheap.  It will also only have a limited 90-day warranty as it is a reconditioned item. The total cost of the job is nearly 50 percent the price of a new computer with similar specifications. This is not only due to the cost of labour.  If anything the cost is going down as more inexperienced/unqualified people compete within the industry.  It is rather due to the increased difficulty to repair and the increased cost of replacement hardware components.

Cost and Supply of Mac Parts

Replacement parts for any computer aren’t cheap and Apple Macs are no different.  If anything, due to their unique, proprietary design, Apple Mac computers tend to be more expensive as well.  As your computer becomes older, new replacement components (spare parts) will steadily disappear from inventories. They will be replaced by “refurbished” or used items (salvaged from damaged or non-serviceable computers).  A scarcity of replacement parts – whether they are new or refurbished – will ensure they command a premium.

Also, many other these components have to be sourced from overseas.  This means shipping costs and currency exchange rates, leading to the kinds of costs you are likely to encounter.  Most of these refurbished or used parts come with a limited warranty (30, 60 or 90 days – maybe 180 days in some instances) with an unknown history.

As a rule, Apple doesn’t support hardware 5 years or older and “encourages” you to upgrade on a regular basis, through the purchase of new hardware.  That encouragement takes a number of forms including the continuous release of new and increasingly demanding software, including each successive MacOS release.

Used or refurbished Mac parts, including logic boards, optical drives, batteries etc can be found on eBay and we sometimes source parts from local suppliers like Applebits in Melbourne.

The Design & Assembly of your Mac also Impacts on the Feasibility to Repair

“Built-in obsolescence” is a phrase used by many of our customers when confronted with the reality of whether to repair their computer or replace it.  Apple appears to be masters of the concept but they are far from being the only ones to engage in the practice. It is widely known in the computer repair industry (but not necessarily in the general population) that Apple computers are now designed to make it more difficult and expensive to repair (and upgrade).

Unusual or unique (proprietary) designs with each product upgrade for things as simple as a screw head or a ribbon/cable connection are just some examples. Many repair jobs are now raising the question of ‘repair or replace’ much earlier in the product life-cycle than was the case – even three to four years ago.

Take a look at the different Apple Mac product lines over the last 15 years and you’ll get a sense of the product evolution taking place.  Not just in terms of the different components and technology used, but also the layout and design of a particular product.

A good example of where Apple may be heading is the latest MacBook.  This is a product that slots between the MacBook Air and the MacBookPro, and renders both repair and upgrading things of the past.  Like an increasing range of similar products (Windows-based PCs, ie. Ultrabooks included), the slim design and light weight come at a price. Designs, where style is deemed to be more important than practicality and functionality have their drawbacks.  This is particularly true when it comes to durability.

So Realistically, How Long Can you Expect your Mac to Last?

On average you can now expect that you are likely to replace your Mac every four to five years.  This may seem to some to be a relatively very short lifespan especially for those people who have spent a considerable amount of money on what they had hoped would be a durable, long-lasting product.  It may also seem a relatively short time for long-time Mac users more used to a service life closer to eight years or more on their older Mac computers.   As we said earlier, the way you use and maintain your Mac will impact on how long a Mac lasts.

Obviously if you are a ‘light user’ of your Mac you can expect a longer trouble-free run before you need to trade up, but anything older than 6 years in today’s market is going to see you perceived as a bit of a dinosaur – although there is nothing wrong with being a dinosaur by the way…

Owning a Mac has never been a cheap exercise and is unlikely to be so in the foreseeable future.  It is after all only a computer and is not designed and built to run indefinitely.  However, if you treat it well and look after it, it should last you more than a few years. This is the same for so many other goods nowadays, including electrical and household goods like furniture.

How long do Macs Last By Type of Mac

The information below on how long do Macs last is based purely on our experience as Mac repairers.  Obviously, the average length of time that a particular model of Mac lasts depends a great deal on how well the system is looked after and maintained, the type and volume of work it is required to perform and the amount of stress is placed upon it.  Stress includes whether the computer was operated in a hot, poorly ventilated environment and in the case of MacBook Pros, MacBooks and MacBook Airs, was subjected to a good deal of “wear and tear” when used a great deal for travel, etc.

How long Macs last also depends on the type and model of Apple Mac computer concerned.  Our best estimates are provided below.

How Long do iMacs Last?

Newer models of iMacs (21.5 and 27 inch from 2012 onwards) on average* should last 5 to 6 years.  Older iMacs (prior to 2012) can last longer, often between 6 to 8 years or longer.  We still undertake repairs on older model iMacs if the fault with the machine is not a major one – and depending on how ‘attached’ the customer is to their iMac.  Some customers are reluctant to upgrade to the newest model, particularly if the price differential between repair and replacement of their existing computer is too great. For others, buying a new iMac is an appealing proposition.

How Long Does a MacBook Air Last?

MacBook Airs have perhaps the shortest lifespan of all Macs.  This is due to their lightweight, slimline design which means they make an ideal device for travelling but are also less durable as a result.  Whether an 11 or 13 inch model, the design of the MacBook Air is fundamentally unchanged since 2010.  A new MacBook Air is probably only going to last 3 to 3.5 years, whilst in our experience, the older MacBook Airs (circa pre-2012) appear to have an average lifespan of around 4 to 4.5 years.

How Long Do MacBook Pros Last and Other MacsBooks?

MacBooks and MacBook Pros all seem to have similar average life spans.  If you have recently (from late-2012 onwards) purchased one of these Macs you can expect to have 4 to 5 years (or even 6 years) of use before you need to decide that it is time to purchase a new machine.

Older MacBooks and MacBook Pros appear to last longer by approximately one year so on average – up to 6 years and often much longer.

We hope that we have answered the question “how long do Macs last” and clearly explained why the length of life of Macs is now less than in the past.  If you have a Mac that is no longer working and you are contemplating buying a new computer but are not certain we offer a $75 diagnostic service.  This fee is only charged if you decide not to proceed with repair should it be not economical and therefore not desirable.

We will for the diagnostic service provide you with a quote to repair your Mac.  We will also honestly advise you whether we believe repairing is in your best interests or not.  As stated previously we are highly experienced in Mac repairs and our rates are very affordable.

How Long have Apple Users Been Concerned About How Long Do Macs Last?

This blog on ‘How Long Do Macs Last’ has become the second most frequently landed page on our website and it is being read by more and more people as time goes by.  This makes us think that Apple users out there are becoming more concerned as to the longevity of their Macs – in fact for their new Macs some seem to be balancing between the higher cost of a Mac and the seemingly not such a long period of time that Macs now last.  On the other side of the coin, we have many Windows customers who are really fed up with the unavoidable updates of the latest versions of Windows and are considering changing to Apple, and they too are asking the question, how long do Macs last?

So I did a little bit of digging and looked at some information on Google Trends.  I typed the search term ‘how long mac last’ into Google trends and it clearly showed that interest over time was very low around 2004 and has huge growth between 2008 and 2012 and is still trending upwards…

Graph from Google Trends – How Long Do Macs Last from 2004 to 2018how long do macs last affordable computer repairs and service

Conclusion

Enjoy your Mac experience.  View it as the ideal tool for work and entertainment, rather than as an expensive indulgence.  Make the most of it, treasure it and look after it.  Then you will get your money’s worth. Of course, if something does go wrong, and you live in Brisbane please contact us at Affordable Computer Repairs and Service as we are highly experienced in Apple repairs – MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Pros, MacBook Air….

how long do Macs last

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