Last Updated: November 2020
If you are anything like millions, if not billions, of people around the world, you probably own a laptop (and if you do not own one, then you have probably used one). Chances are you are reading this on your laptop.
The thing about laptops is that most of them are not built to last. With constant updates, and advances in technology, new models are being released each year to kick the previous model into oblivion.
How long your laptop lasts mostly boils down to:
- The type of your laptop (consumer-grade, business-grade, or gaming laptop).
- The brand of your laptop (some are more reliable than others).
- What you are using your laptop for (light office/student work or heavy-duty video editing and CAD modelling).
- How you treat your laptop.
So, let’s guesstimate how long your laptop will likely last.
- How Long Do Consumer-Grade Laptops Last?
- How Long Do Business-Grade Laptops Last?
- How Long Do Gaming Laptops Last?
- What Causes Laptops To Break?
- Signs That You Need A New Laptop
- Most Reliable Laptop Brands
- Do Macs Last Longer Than PCs?
- How Long Do Laptop Batteries Last Before Needing Replacement?
- My Lenovo ThinkPad T440p: 6 Years Later
How Long Do Consumer-Grade Laptops Last?
Consumer-grade laptops are the laptops which you will use around the home. You might use this type of laptop for surfing the web, sending emails, light work and it might be used by an individual or a family.
Consumer laptops generally come with a one-year warranty, and if you were to open them up (which I do not recommend doing unless you know what you are doing), you would often find second- and third-tier components inside. However, a more expensive consumer laptop may have similar quality parts to a business-grade model.
You also need to know that the laptop you buy this week may not be exactly the same as if you had bought it a week later.
Different components are often made by different companies, and while the specs are the same, the parts inside may vary slightly.
Generally speaking, if you spend less than $700, you can expect your laptop to last between 2-4 years, and, if you spend $700-$1,300, you can expect the laptop to last up to 5 years.
This is a general estimation, and your laptop can fall short or surpass those numbers.
How Long Do Business-Grade Laptops Last?
Business-grade laptops usually come with a three-year warranty. If you want something which you can work on, you want to know that it will last and you want a safety net in case it does not.
These laptops have better parts than consumer laptops, and they are consistent.
They are built to be workhorses. Where consumer laptops will have a plastic casing, you will often find metal or carbon-fiber-reinforced casings in business laptops. They often have shock-resistant features to add to the durability, and can withstand being bumped, knocked, and dropped (though, please don’t put that to the test).
In essence, they are built to last.
Pay $2,000 or more, and you can have a laptop which could last you for 7 years. Pay more than $3,000, and that laptop could last for up to 10.
How Long Do Gaming Laptops Last?
Okay, so you a gamer, a different breed of laptop user. You are not like the other users, and neither should your laptop be.
If you like to play the newest games on the highest graphics settings, then you can expect your laptop to have a shorter lifespan. As games are demanding more of your hardware, your laptop has a hard time keeping up.
Of course, if you don’t mind lower resolutions and slower FPS rates, you’ll be fine for longer.
If you buy a mid-range gaming laptop, with advances in graphics and complexity of games, you can expect that laptop to last only a few years before it becomes obsolete.
If you want your laptop to be able to handle the newest games in a few years’ time, then you need to spend considerably more.
A $1,000 laptop will give you about 3 years. Spend up to $2,000, and you can get up to 5 years. Splash out and fork out over $3,000, and you can still be playing, 5-6 years later.
Of course, you want to factor in whatever else you are going to be doing with your laptop. You can also factor in graphics settings. Our estimations are based on the highest graphic settings, which give the best in-game experience but, you can also choose to use lower-quality graphics, and get a couple more years out of your system.
What Causes Laptops To Break?
Drops, knocks, spills, bumps, dents, heat, cold, pressure, and plenty more.
Of course, you are going to look after your laptop.
Unfortunately, no matter how good you are to your device, there are some parts which have a shorter lifespan than others.
- RAM, motherboards, and batteries are prone to failing more often than other parts.
- Some components, like keyboards, screens, and storage drives will last if you invest in quality, so do just that.
Signs That You Need A New Laptop
You could try and get a few more years out of your laptop, but that is only going to lead to frustration. If you invest in quality, you are going to have a lot of years with your laptop but, when it starts to fail, it is time for a new one.
Here is how to know when it is time for a change.
1. Everything Gets Slow
Just like in old age; everything begins to slow down. When applications take forever to open up or your laptop takes hours to boot (it might seem that way), then it can be time to upgrade to a newer model.
2. You Can’t Install The Latest Operating System
When Microsoft or Apple release a new operating system, the minimum supported specs are always turned up a notch. You might not need the newest operating system available, but it does make your computer feel modern and the upgrades are usually worth it (usually). If your laptop cannot support the latest operating system, then it is probably time for an upgrade.
3. The Display Is Not What It Used To Be
Do you find yourself squinting at the screen or playing with the visual settings? You may need glasses, or you may need to upgrade. I will let you decide. Also, laptop screens tend to fail more often than their desktop counterparts.
4. Regular Crashing
No, your laptop crashing is not something which only happens to you. It happens to a select group of people, and those people are in need of a laptop upgrade.
Sometimes updating the drivers solves the problem, but most of the time crashing is a sign of failing hardware, overheating and incompatible drivers. Viruses can cause crashes, too.
5. Battery Doesn’t Last
When we get old, our energy reserves get drained. We cannot go for as long as we used to. The same is true for our laptop. If only we could upgrade ourselves.
Most Reliable Laptop Brands
When it comes to choosing the longest-lasting laptop, there are some which last longer than others. There are some brands out there which, when bought, will give you a laptop which will be very durable and reliable.
So, who would we recommend?
Lenovo’s ThinkPad series and convertible laptops offer a new way to work and play while still being reliable and durable. They are great for working on and have created some powerful laptops which are excellent for gaming.
Their software is what you would expect from most modern laptops: high-quality, and their hardware components are built to last.
Dell has been making computers for a long time and is another recognized brand. They became famous for their desktop computers and now have a solid line of laptops. They range from budget options to more expensive and powerful models (we always recommend making an investment in quality).
No list of laptops would be complete without Apple. They make robust laptops which stand the test of time. They are well known for their amazing displays, constant innovation, and powerful processors.
With the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, they have choices for business users and personal users.
HP is another big name in the world of personal computing. They have a massive range of home and business laptops at affordable prices and packed with lots of performance. Start with a high-end one and never worry about having to upgrade for a good few years.
They have great personal computers and devices for business users too.
A powerhouse in the computer world, you really cannot go wrong with a Microsoft laptop. They are powerful, have great displays, and come with lots of great pre-installed software and quality hardware.
They continue to lead the way when it comes to laptops and, with laptops like the Surface Book and Surface Pro, they have laptops for everyone.
Samsung has been innovating for years when it comes to electronic devices. They have a great range of phones, tablets, and laptops. The laptops have a ton of performance, and they come affordably priced.
We like the large screens and the quality of the display on the screens.
No matter which laptop you decide to buy, always make sure that you are making a wise investment. That one on sale, or the cheap one in WallMart, might sound like a good deal but how long is it going to last?
Do Macs Last Longer Than PCs?
The lifespan of any computer depends mostly on its construction. That said, MacBooks typically last longer than PCs thanks to their internal compatibility. The individual components and drivers of a MacBook are all made by Apple, so they are designed to work together. A PC is a mix of several brands and manufacturers, and might run into compatibility issues and inefficiencies, shorting the time before a laptop-killing error occurs.
PC manufacturers are trying to mitigate this by developing their own set of maintenance programs and customizing OEM drivers. The successfulness and the time frame of support depends from brand to brand, but from my experience, Lenovo tends to do the best job.
How Long Do Laptop Batteries Last Before Needing Replacement?
The battery on your laptop is usually one of the first things to go and, while this can be overcome by having your laptop plugged in constantly, you want to invest in a laptop which has a sizable battery that will last over time for the occasions when you cannot plug it in.
The lifespan of your laptop battery will depend on many factors. The chemical composition will dictate how long the battery lasts, and the battery capacity will decrease as the battery ages. You will also notice that different programs and applications will drain the battery in different ways. If you are streaming videos, you will use more battery power than if you are using your word processor.
The typical laptop battery has 500 charge cycles. This means that you can discharge and recharge the battery 500 times before the capacity begins to diminish. Based on the regular use of a laptop, your battery will start to diminish after 1-2 years of regular use.
How To Check Your Laptop’s Battery Capacity
So, how do you know when your battery is starting to lose capacity?
Well, there is software out there which will help you to determine your battery’s current capacity, starting capacity, and the wear level.
A simple Google search will throw up many free pieces of software which you can use, and there are no real stand out winners. However, the one I like best is BatteryInfoView. It’s a simple and a user-friendly piece of software that will let you know exactly the condition of your battery is.
Once you have installed the software, a simple scan with it will give you detailed information about the life of your battery. This is great if you are able to replace your battery and can do so when the time is right, without having to replace your laptop.
When To Buy a New Battery?
The life of your battery is not something which we often think about when we are using our laptops, but most modern laptops will tell us when it is time to replace the battery. Replacing the battery can add new life to an old laptop and can keep it going for a year or two without having to replace the laptop.
Both Windows and macOS laptops (along with other operating systems) have the functionality to alert you when the battery is close to the end of its life.
With Windows, when the battery reaches a predetermined capacity, a warning will appear in the icon tray which you can clock on for more information. The icon will alert you to the capacity of your battery and suggest that it is time for a new one. It will also let you know that the laptop could shut down at any time when on battery power due to this capacity.
With macOS, you can find out what needs to be done with your battery by clicking on the battery icon in your menu bar. If you do not see any message, your battery is fine. If the battery is getting old, you may see the following messages: ‘Replace Soon,’ ‘Replace Now,’ or ‘Service Battery.’ Replacing or servicing your battery can add years to the life of your laptop
Of course, there will be times when your laptop cannot give you this information. If you find that you cannot be on battery power for very long, or if the computer shuts down when on battery power, then it may be time to invest in a new battery or laptop.
My Lenovo ThinkPad T440p: 6 Years Later
I bought my Lenovo ThinkPad T440p in 2014. It cost around $1,300 USD (that’s about $1,400 USD in today’s inflation-adjusted money) and it’s a business-grade laptop, engineered for performance and durability.
I love it.
When I was looking for a laptop, I wanted one which I could use daily, use a lot, and would last 5-8 years (hopefully more). My personal checklist included:
- A reliable brand
- Business-grade model
- A user-replaceable external battery
- Socketed CPU
Choosing A Reliable Brand
I previously worked as an IT technician at a large IT company and, from experience, I realized that Lenovo laptops were generally very reliable.
Lenovo has always boasted about quality and reliability, especially with the ThinkPad line of computers. The ThinkPad hardware is tested against 12 military-grade requirements, and more than 200 quality checks are performed to ensure that they run in extreme conditions.
I’m not sure if you know this, but all laptops in the US segment of the International Space Station are Lenovo laptops!
If Lenovo is durable enough for the military and outer space, then they are durable enough for me.
As I mentioned, business-grade laptops enjoy a 3-year warranty and, if something breaks, you get priority support. When your business relies on a working computer, you can’t afford to wait for long repairs. Lenovo also allows users to replace a faulty part without voiding the warranty.
The hardware in business-grade laptops is the highest possible quality, and the casing is made to withstand accidental falls and rough use. On selected ThinkPad models, Lenovo uses carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, which makes it extremely durable.
Another important aspect is safety. Business laptops come with a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip, which enables Windows OS users to use the BitLocker encryption software to encrypt the hard drive. It is used to authenticate your encrypted computer and give you access to all the encrypted data when the device trying to access it is identified as trusted. For a laptop that’s used for business purposes, this is a must, and I just had to have it.
Note: MacOS and Linux operating systems offer software-based encryption, so if you’re using one of those operating systems, you can enable secure data encryption on any laptop.
With business-grade laptops, you also get a longer battery life and more ports to hook up your external devices.
User Replaceable (External) Battery
Even back in 2014, there were many laptops in which the battery wasn’t user-replaceable (often referred to as ‘non-removable batteries’). As laptops got thinner and lighter, manufacturers started integrating them in a way which would not allow users to change the battery. If your battery malfunctioned or if it degraded, you had to take your laptop to a computer repair shop where they would replace the battery for you. This cost money and time.
Nowadays, some laptops have ‘non-replaceable’ batteries. Essentially, if your battery dies, you need to buy a new laptop. Talk about planned obsolescence.
I didn’t want to deal with any of that and, luckily for me, the T440p had an external battery which I could replace. When my battery dies, I’ll simply swap it out in a matter of seconds. Sure, this makes my laptop look bulky and old-fashioned, but, for me, it’s a worthy trade-off.
In 2014, when I was buying my laptop, a new trend of CPU integration was already gaining momentum. Again, for the sake of making laptops thinner and lighter, manufacturers started soldering the CPUs to the motherboard. This meant that the CPU was permanently fixed and it wasn’t upgradeable, not even by a professional.
Luckily for me, in 2014, Lenovo didn’t take this path (they did a year later with the upgraded T450 model). My T440p laptop came with a socketed CPU, which meant that I could upgrade it when needed. I bought my T440p with an Intel Core i5 4200M processor, which was, at the time, a solid mid-range processor, but I knew that in the long-run an upgrade would be needed.
Upgrading the CPU on my T440p only takes about 10 minutes, and the upgrade will extend the laptop’s life by at least three more years.
What Have I Upgraded?
The original specs of my T440p were:
- 1600×900 pixel mate display
- Intel Core i5 4200M CPU
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 500GB 7200 RPM hard drive
- Intel HD Graphics 4600 + NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M GPU (1GB)
- DVD reader & writer
Right from the start, the obvious bottleneck was the 500GB HDD. Opening software or video and music files weren’t much quicker than on my older Lenovo ThinkPad E430. So, after a few months of usage, I changed the HDD for Samsung 840 EVO 500GB SSD. This was a breath of fresh air. The laptop became considerably faster, and I could not wipe the smile off my face for probably an hour!
The Samsung 840 EVO 500GB SSD now has 20TB of data writes, and it is running as smoothly as it did on day one.
8GB of DDR3 RAM was enough for a while but, after I started using more RAM-hungry software, including a virtual machine, I upgraded to 16GB of RAM, which is still plenty today.
I knew that the DVD unit was going to be more or less useless, but there was no way of buying the laptop without it. So, a year after my purchase, I decided to swap the DVD unit with an HDD/SSD caddy. The HDD/SSD caddy isn’t from Lenovo (an original costs a whopping $99), but is, instead, a $30 3rd party adapter. I was a bit uneasy about this decision at first, but then again, I didn’t want to pay $99 for a very simple piece of technology and hardware. Luckily, this 3rd party caddy adapter works just as good as the original.
I’ve put a Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD in the caddy and expanded my total storage space to 750GB. This 850 EVO SSD now has 15 TB of data writes and works flawlessly.
Both SSDs are consumer-grade, however, if you don’t use your drives for heavy video editing or as a data server, consumer-grade is good enough. Both disks should handle over 100 TB of data writing with no issues.
This was the last component that I upgraded. In early 2019, I bought the Intel Core i7 4910MQ @ 2.9GHz CPU on eBay for $100. It was originally in a Dell XPS laptop, which was being sold in parts. With CPUs, it’s easy – they either work, or they don’t. So, if you get a working product, it’s good as new.
The Intel Core i7 can handle a lot more than my old Intel Core i5 could. The multitasking experience is much better and, when benchmarked against modern CPU’s, it compares extremely well.
With these upgrades, I believe that I have extended the usable life of my computer for another 3-5 years.
How I Use My Laptop
My laptop is mainly used for work. I boot it up at 9 AM and don’t turn it off before 9 PM. The screen turns off after 10 minutes of idling, but the laptop is ready to be used at all times.
I have a set of programs that are open at all times. These are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Word, Excel and GnuCash.
Next to these, depending on what I am working on, I use other resource-heavy software for video editing (OpenShot & Camtasia), audio editing (Audacity), graphical design (Affinity Photo & InkScape), and VirtualBox for running virtual machines.
From time to time, I also play some games like Xenonauts and Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 (oldies but goodies) on 3840 x 1600 resolution (I have a Dell U3818DW ultra-wide 38” monitor attached to the laptop).
At the moment, no matter what I throw at my computer, it can handle it.
My T440p is 6 years old and, by taking good care of it and with some simple upgrades, it’s a still a modern and capable machine.
Will My Laptop Last For 10 Years?
From a hardware point of view, I honestly don’t expect anything to break in the next 4 years. After all, I’ve seen plenty of 10 year old Lenovo laptops, and I have a ThinkPad E430 (consumer-grade laptop) at home, which is now 7 years old. It still has all the original hardware, except for the storage drive, which I replaced with an entry-level 250GB SSD from Kingstone.
The E430 still works very well, and the SSD has brought fresh life to it. It runs Windows 10 Pro edition and is used by various family members for surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, light work, etc. It’s still a fast machine for everyday use, and I haven’t heard anyone complaining about it being slow.
So, with that in mind, I fully expect my more powerful T440p to last another 5 years. At that point, I’ll definitely need to buy a new laptop, but I’ll keep the T440p as a media and file-sharing server. I’ll most probably replace the Windows OS with Linux Mint Xfce or Linux Zorin OS, which are both lightweight Linux distributions and can run on computers as old as 15 years.
However, if the T440p breaks down sooner, I’ll update this article to let you know.