6 Signs It’s Time To Upgrade Or Replace Your Mac

By | May 11, 2022

It is important to know the signs of poor computer health. Some of these can be fixed with software and others require a trip to the service point. And sometimes you have to admit defeat and admit it’s time to go out for something else.

When a computer reaches a certain age, the costs involved in repairing or maintaining it often outweigh the benefits of putting your money in a new model.

Today we’re going to take a look at some of the warning signs, what you can do about it, and consider the right time to say goodbye to your old mac.

You Keep Running Out of Space

Despite Apple’s best efforts to add autosave optimization to Sierra, many of us still see the “Your computer is running out of space” message every day. For laptop owners, this problem is compounded by the reliance on solid state drives, which provide excellent performance and peace of mind but lack capacity.

There’s a lot you can do to add more storage to your MacBook. This includes replacing your optical drive with an SSD, getting imaginative with your card reader, or simply embracing a stack of external drives. The two most effective things you can do from a software perspective are move your media library elsewhere and store device backups externally.

Assuming you’ve tried all of those, you can always replace the drive with something larger in capacity. In my case, it would be something like a $600 1TB replacement SSD from OWC, a pretty big upgrade from my current 256GB. But $600 for a laptop that’s five years old, with lots of dead pixels, a dodgy Bluetooth chip, and outdated hardware just isn’t worth it to me.

If the cost of upgrading storage seems steep given the age of your machine and the cost of replacing it, it may be time to move on. Make sure you big the storage next time!

You Can’t Upgrade to the Latest macOS

This is easy. Whenever Apple releases a new version of macOS, they revise the minimum system requirements. If an upgrade is deemed too demanding for an older machine, it will be removed from release. At the time of writing, High Sierra is awaiting its release and will be compatible with:

  • MacBook Pro or Air: 2010 or later
  • MacBook: Late 2009 or later
  • iMac: Late 2009 or later
  • Mac Mini: 2010 or later
  • Mac Pro: 2010 or later

Running an older version of macOS isn’t a big deal, but it can cause problems if you want to use apps that depend on modern releases. You can usually find legacy software for older OS versions, but from Apple’s perspective, your machine has reached the end of its lifecycle.

You will also be missing out on the latest and greatest features included in the release. A few years ago it would be something as mainstream as iCloud or the Mac App Store. These days things like being able to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch. The lack of security updates is probably the biggest direct threat.

Software incompatibility and lack of security updates are a concern, but you can probably live without most of the latest and greatest macOS addons.

Hardware Is Not Good Enough

4K video is no longer flickering far on the horizon, and even if you don’t publish in full 4K, you can still benefit from higher resolution footage. While most five-year-old laptops can handle full HD video, things slow down when you double the resolution.

Proxy editing – the process of transcoding footage for speed during the editing phase – can be very helpful, but only expensive video editors like Adobe Premiere can do it. For high-performance 4K video editing, you will need to update your machine. Even photo editing can take a hit when moving from 10MP images taken with your old camera to 24MP RAW that exceed 25MB each.

A RAM upgrade can provide some relief, but you will be limited depending on the age of your machine. For MacBook Pro owners who bought their machine after 2012, the RAM is likely soldered directly to the mainboard, so don’t bother. Check iFixit for more information on your specific model.

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This is probably the most justifiable reason to buy a new machine, outside of a massive hardware failure. If poor performance means your Mac can no longer serve its purpose, you should consider a new machine.

Battery Life Is Not Like It Used To Be

All rechargeable batteries lose their capacity to charge after some time, referred to by the manufacturer as a cycle. Each time your battery is fully charged and discharged, it counts as one cycle. According to Apple, “Your battery is designed to maintain up to 80 percent of its original capacity at 1,000 complete charge cycles.”

You can check the condition of your battery by holding down the option key and clicking the Battery icon in your menu bar. To take a more detailed look at your battery health, click on Apple menu > About this Mac and select System Report in the window that appears. Scroll down to Power and you will see the current number of cycles logged for your battery.

Batteries are inexpensive to replace, and for around $90 you can buy a replacement. You’ll find instructions for installing your own online, and all you’ll need is a set of Torx screwdrivers, an anti-static strap, and some patience. You can also take your computer to a service point to get the job done.

Apple will repair and replace the battery in most MacBook models for between $129 and $199. Your local computer store will probably do it for less, including parts and labor, but not necessarily Apple-certified. If you’re sure you’re unlocking your machine, your best option is probably to replace it yourself.

Probably the cheapest way to breathe new life into a MacBook that no longer charges, but don’t expect any performance crashes.

Your Mac Falls

Just before AppleCare for my MacBook Pro ran out, I took it to Apple for one last service. There was a clicking problem with the trackpad, they isolated the problem, and agreed to replace it. They ended up replacing the entire mainboard simply because that’s how the 2012 Retina Macbook Pro was built.

Maybe your power adapter is flickering in a certain position – you could change the cable, but you probably can’t do much about the ports. Broken keys can be replaced, but keys that no longer register keystrokes will likely require replacement of the entire keyboard (and if it’s anything like the trackpad, the entire mainboard too).

And then there are the other parts that seem to fail one by one: a card reader that no longer reads a card, an optical drive with a useless laser, a speaker, a cracked screen, or a sudden rash of dead pixels. As the list starts to grow further, the money spent on repairs will likely go even further when it is spent on new machines.

Old computers are a bit like old cars. You know that the passenger-side electric window isn’t working and there’s a previous owner’s Maroon 5 CD stuck in the stereo, but you could limp without those features and still go from A to B. At some point something will stop working that requires real attention, and that’s when you need to decide whether to repair or scrap.

A long list of small problems can quickly become big problems. Don’t cough up expensive repairs when a replacement engine will perform better and last longer.

Major Software Problems Often Occur

Major software issues are related to your Mac’s daily performance. If the OS crashes frequently and becomes unresponsive, if you see on-screen gibberish and graphic artifacts, or if your machine shuts down on its own or restarts randomly; You may have an underlying hardware problem.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to reinstall macOS to diagnose the problem. This should be at the top of your list after you’ve tried all the usual tricks for diagnosing and fixing frequent software problems: resetting your SMC and PRAM, clearing enough room to breathe, and uninstalling annoying kernel extensions.

If nothing else works, it’s time to reinstall macOS from scratch. You can back up your personal documents with Time Machine, then plug in the bare necessities again until you’re happy the problem is software based. If you are still experiencing the same problem, then it is time to consider replacing the engine.

A fresh macOS installation can indicate whether your problem is software or hardware based, at which point you can take it to a service point for a proper diagnosis or look for a new machine.

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