A new client contacted me recently to ask if I could resolve an error with his MSN software. In addition he was getting some error messages which indicated some possible operating system corruption. I wrote back to ask him how old the computer was. The answer shocked me: it was from 2000, but he had upgraded the Operating System to Windows XP.
This computer is so old that Windows XP didn’t even exist when this computer was built! That is to say, an operating system that is old enough that MS is going to retire iy in April 2014 was the upgrade!
The client responded that he had only upgraded to Windows XP a couple of years ago. In my opinion, the tech who upgraded that ancient machine to XP did not do that client a favor.
An old computer cannot run modern programs with any degree of speed because modern software is designed for fast, multi-core processors and lots of RAM; not to mention the hard drive capacity is teeny-tiny, meaning we’re constantly cleaning it out to make enough room for Windows to run. If I work on that computer, what will happen is that one thing will lead to another, and between the old hardware and the outdated operating system, before you know it I’ve spent way more time than expected fixing all the problems that inevitably crop up (kind of like with an old car). Then I start to feel guilty that I’ve spent so much more time than anticipated because of the age of the machine, so I end up giving the client a big discount on my work. The end result is that I am not getting paid for my time, and the client is still stuck with an ancient machine.
A computer that old is a time- and money-pit. It’s like buying a really old house, but without the charm. There are no hand-crafted banisters or thick walls to make up for all the time and money you spend rewiring the electrical system and patching up the pipes. There are just headaches with no real upside. And eventually that computer will die and have to be replaced anyway. Maybe it will last another year, maybe even a few, but that’s a year or two or three of torture and wasted money and productivity trying to keep that thing going.
So in these cases we advise the client to buy a new machine. To get something really top-notch and future-proof you usually have to spend a chunk of change. But if you want something substantially better than what you have without breaking the bank, even the cheapest Dell laptop will be light years faster and more reliable (and require less maintenance) than your decade-old machine.