How to keep your old desktop PC alive for a few more years

When your desktop PC is getting older, but it doesn't have the heart (or budget) to replace it, there is still a lot you can do to give it a long and satisfying life. We answer To the question from a reader who wants to know what you should include in your maintenance checklist for your somewhat outdated equipment.

The “BH” reader tells us:

I have a desktop PC that is almost 10 years old. I want to be proactive with your care, instead of having to deal with the team dying little by little.

Here a partial description:

  • WIN 10; i7 processor CPU 860 @ 2.80GHz;
  • 12 GB of RAM;
  • hard drive replaced with SSD;
  • video card updated several years ago NVIDIA GeForce GT 630 with 1 GB;

It used to be quite silent, but now it seems that a fan can be heard most of the time. Is this a warning sign? Should I consider replacing the computer due to its age, or should I replace any component? I appreciate your comments on this.

Here is the good news, BH. You have actually made all the major updates that occur to me. That is, you have placed an SSD in your system (the first thing it would do) and you have given a boost to your graphics card. (The Nvidia GeForce GT 630 is not a power, but at some point, your CPU will hamper its performance, so it would not waste on anything more impressive or expensive).

As long as your system is treating you well and allows you to do everything you want to do on it, even if you can never play in 4K, then it is configured with sufficient updates. Or, to put it another way, the next big update you would need (or would like to) do would be to replace it and build a new PC. You have maximized your current configuration (or, at least, you are very close to it).

With regard to continuous maintenance, there are many things you can do to keep your previous PC running in the best way. I have written a guide on cleaning all the dust and dirt from your system (including its fans), which you should do at least once a year. More moderately, you may also want to remove the cooler from your CPU, clean the old thermal paste and apply a new batch. (Don't use too much)

Photo: David Murphy

Very important also what you are already doing, paying attention to what your system does and what it sounds like. Since you are likely to use your computer every day, this is one of the best ways to determine if something could be going wrong, if your system usually sounds different than a few days ago, or if you notice that a particular component is playing, You may want to investigate.

In this case, if you can listen to a fan that did not sound previously, your first option is to clean it; I guess we're talking about 80mm box fans. If that doesn't solve the problem, it might be worth replacing. It's very easy to get a dying fan and replace it with a new one, and it costs almost nothing to do so.

The same goes for the fan in your CPU cooler or any of the fans on your graphics card. If they sound strange, give them a good cleaning. If they still sound a little muffled, but seem to work well and do not go slowly, they are probably fine, but this is something you want to keep an eye on. You can always replace a CPU cooler that fails. The graphics card refrigerator, if it is the culprit, is more difficult to replace (if you can do it). It is probably better to simply get a new card (or a slight update) on eBay.

In general terms, my personal advice is that I think your old computer could have a complete update. In other words, it would abandon most of its components (except the SSD) and build something new. However, if you get along with what you have, ignore my advice. Keep your system clean, pay attention to moving parts that may be aging and replace what you can. Knowing how to troubleshoot your PC and keep it in good repair is a good business for the rest of your geek life.