How Apple’s iMac broke my 18-month PC upgrade cycle

“I have a confession to make. I have not adopted the post-PC mindset. Sure I have smartphones and more tablets than any rational human should need. But when I do real work, I rely on desktop computers with tons of RAM and really fast storage,” David Gewirtz reports for ZDNet. “And for the past decade or more, every 18 months or so, I’ve needed to upgrade to a new machine.”

“It’s been like clockwork. I buy (or configure and build) the fastest, most robust machine I can find, spending far more money than I like, go through all the hassle of moving all my work, storage, configurations, applications, and love to the new machine,” Gewirtz reports. “Then, right about month 15, I come to the realization that I’ve used up that once new machine and need more power. By month 18, I’m swearing up a blue moon, and decide once again to cause damage to my wallet and upgrade once again. Many of you might not understand the need for so much power, but the sort of work I do (which ranges from programming to giant PowerPoints to simulating entire networks of computers with up to sixteen live, active VMs) eats horsepower for breakfast.”

“I fully expected to be an early Mac Pro buyer, but… the iMac proved to be the better purchase decision for my needs. I decided that since the Mac could run Windows software (either in a VM or a dual-boot variance), I’d replace my 18-month old trusty Wintel box with a Mac,” Gewirtz reports. “Now two years and two months old… It’s rock solid. I have no expectation of needing to replace the machine, possibly for at least another year (if not longer).”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Welcome to the light, David! (Posted via a 27-inch Mid 2011 iMac that works even better that the day it arrived, thanks to OS X 10.11.2.)

Your 18-month upgrade cycle problem was, of course, due to Microsoft’s Windows and the dreck produced by race-to-the-bottom PC assemblers.

TCO, baby, TCO!

Total Cost of Ownership: Apple iMac vs. Windows business-class all-in-one PC – October 17, 2013
Enterprise Desktop Alliance: Apple Macs cost a lot less than Windows PCs to manage – March 9, 2010
Apple’s Mac clearly fits the enterprise, whether Apple wants it or not – November 20, 2009
Enterprise should take a long hard look at Apple’s Mac OS X Snow Leopard – November 12, 2009
How Apple’s Mac once again became red hot in the enterprise; 80% of businesses now have Macs in use – October 22, 2009
Survey: 73% of businesses more likely to allow employees to use Macs within next 12 months – October 12, 2009
eWeek: Apple’s Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard offers enhancements for Mac business user – September 02, 2009
Longtime Windows sufferer tries Mac, dumps Windows, switches business to Mac, sees productivity soar – April 22, 2009
Mike Huckabee praises Apple; dumps Windows PCs after 22-years, switches to Apple Mac (with video) – January 12, 2009
Boom! Largest automobile processing company in North America dumps Windows PCs for Apple Macs – July 16, 2007
Japan’s Aozora Bank dumps 2,300 Windows PCs for Apple Macs – April 03, 2006
Pfeiffer Consulting: Mac vs Windows: Total Cost of Ownership, Productivity and Return on Investment – March 30, 2006
Windows to Mac switchers: recommendations and Total Cost of Ownership analysis – September 29, 2005
Security expert sums up first month with Mac: ‘much safer, more secure, more productive than Wintel’ – June 02, 2005


  1. And in case David is reading this, when you think your iMac is getting too slow, just make sure the memory is maxed out and replace your hard disk drive with an SSD. Boom, instant incredible speed boost, and another 3 years of life for your iMac.

    1. We have used both Macs and PCs — mostly Macs — since 1991 and have never replaced any of them on an 18 month schedule.

      The wise computer buyer selects/builds a machine that will allow you to grow & update over time. Back when Apple was happy to allow that to occur, it was fun and easy. Apples were built to allow for internal expansion. OWC and others made it simple to swap out anything, not just drives and RAM. Out of pure greed, today Apple sells desktop Macs that are essentially non-upgradeable.

      That is why it is very likely that the next Mac in this household may have to be a Hackintosh. Cook and Ive think that trash cans and flat laptop-based desktop systems are good enough. They are wrong. Apple is undermining itself offering stupid fashion instead of substance. And now that Apple thinks iOS and single-port MacBooks are good enough for business users, one has to shudder to think how many external adapters and expansion boxes the MacBook users will have to carry with them. There was a day when Apple offered a kickass 17″ MBP that allowed the road warrior enough power to do some serious computing work. Relatively speaking, Apple doesn’t offer any advantages in performance anymore. None.

    2. The article indicates that when David bought his IMac, he maxed out the RAM to 32GB and 1TB of flash storage. SSDs are slow compared to flash storage due to the SATA bottleneck, so that would be a downgrade.

      BTW I think this article is funny. In the other article posted today, people were complaining about how Apple uses outdated Intel processors in its computers. How Tim Cook should be fired etc. Yet demanding customers like David are getting better satisfaction and longevity out their “outdated” Macs. Go figure.

  2. Mine is a 2012 model which currently I see no sign of needing to upgrade any time soon – unless it breaks to the point where a repair would be too costly. I think this is a problem Apple might begin to face – which is why I’m surprised they haven’t started including features like Touch ID, new hardware that people don’t have.

  3. I just had to suck it up and replace my 2009 iMac because I was limited on expanding RAM.

    I don’t know what I’m going to do when I finally have to replace my 2011 17″ MBP. Working great for now with a SSD upgrade.

    I think 6-7 years is probably pretty average for the usable life of a Mac. Just think how much worse shape the PC industry would be in if there was a similar lifespan for PCs.

    1. I have to admit, my 2007 24″ Intel iMac is getting slow enough to bother me. But I don’t use it nearly as much anymore since I got an iPad 3. So, I will probably just keep using it until it breaks.

    2. I agree that Macs have a long life-span and Wall Street hates Apple just for that reason. Wall Street loves companies that constantly churn short-lived products. These people are so damn stupid because they’re ruining the ecology trying to force companies to constantly use up natural resources. It’s also a burden on the consumer to need to constantly replace some product when they can be doing other useful things with their hard-earned money. I know my Macs always last a minimum five years and I think that’s great. Even as an investor I don’t want Apple to build products that fail prematurely just to sell more products. Wall Street needs to take some moral responsibilities.

      It made me sick to hear how Wall Street was criticizing Apple for building iPads that last consumers a long time so their upgrade cycles became longer. Honestly, what is the matter with these people who are running Wall Street? It’s like they don’t understand anything but high sales all the time. Do they themselves enjoy replacing their own home products constantly? These people are idiots.

      1. Right on. Excellent post. Wall Street translated: “It is a negative that their products aren’t junk that need to be replaced quickly.” That makes tremendous sense!

        However: My wife and I bought an new iMac about four months ago. Our reactions are that the hardware is spectacular, meaning easy set up, fast for anything, incredible screen to look at, great looking generally. Visitors react to it like it is a piece of rare art. The software is another story. The “Mail” is garbage. A slow, glitchy mess. Pathetic. Safari is even worse. It crashed, before we abandoned it, maybe twenty times per day depending upon usage, obviously. Somebody will likely post that it is our fault somehow. Latest version, latest operating system, whatever? Hate to say it, but happy Chrome users now. We are Apple stock holders, professionals, multiple degrees, but not tech people in any way.

        We love you, Apple, but get it together!

  4. It is exactly why Apple is doomed!!!

    They should, like the rest of the cheap tech industry, make product that don’t last. Product that are obsolete within 18 months. The stock would rise soooo high!!!!

    Bah, I have the first unibody gen and, after a refresh cycle with maxed ram and SSD in the DVD enclosure, is good for another 3 years…

  5. I and a long standing friend of mine were recently comparing our history of computing devices.

    We each started off with a Commodore KIM, single board minimal computer in the 70’s and quickly graduated to British Acorn computers ( Acorn went on to become the ‘A’ in ARM ).

    The big difference came in 1990 when we went down diverging routes. I got a Mac LC and he went for a PC with a 386 CPU. Since then, my Mac desktops have been a beige Mac G3, an iMac G4 and a 2009 iMac. I have also had a very small number of laptops and iPads, but the desktop has always been my main computer.

    His original 386 system cost him about 12% more than my LC with it’s monitor and at the time he bragged about how much better value his system was. He’s lost track of exactly how many PCs he’s had since then, but can account for at least nine, but most likely had more.

    Every one of my Macs was either sold as a working device or passed on to relative to be used as a main computer. The only one of his PCs that he managed to sell was a top-end PC that was specced for video editing, but he sold it soon after because it wasn’t capable of doing video editing in any meaningful way, even though my iMac G4 was much cheaper and I’d been using it for video editing for a year before he bought that PC.

    He still insists that Macs are overpriced, even though he’s spent a hell of a lot more money than I have and has had a lot of downtime too. He also suffered significant breakdowns which meant that he failed to meet deadlines for clients and lost them as future customers. I’ve never had any failures at all apart from peripheral devices and of course have never had to deal with viruses or buy A/V software.

    I can clearly remember each of my four desktop Macs, while most those PCs of his are just blurs in the past.

    I know that I keep my desktops for rather longer than most, but I don’t think that the longevity of my Macs is particularly unusual.

    1. Yes and no is my reaction to your interesting post.

      If one truly wants to be at the cutting edge of computing power, graphics and customization….macs cant offer that yet.

      If one needs no customization…. And is content with 79-80% ish of cutting edge performance ..then Macs offer a much better longrun value and security.

      And there are definitly way more people out there in the 2nd catagory.
      But most cant see past their nose and sticker price. They dont comprehend the overall aggregate value of What macs offer..

  6. There are no “giant PowerPoints”. My Prof was the same – putting several giant high-res pictures of 200 MB or more on a single slide … and then projecting it at 800×600 pixels. Each slide took 10+ sec to load instead of being instantaneous. The right way to do it is of course to scale down the pictures to something like 640×480 so they are only a few kB and load in a fraction of a second. It tells you everything you need to know about a PC user that you need to know when they talk about “giant PowerPoints” …

  7. “Now two years and two months old… It’s rock solid. I have no expectation of needing to replace the machine, possibly for at least another year (if not longer).”

    Shoot man! That’s nothing!!! My MacBook is pushing 8 years (granted I upgraded the memory and replace an ailing HD about three years ago.) It’s slow at times but very usable. And, my iMac is pushing 5 years old (it’s getting slow, but I think a replacement SSD drive will fix that for about $500.

    OK, Im’ not a power users. But, my Windoze machines were usually replaced at 3-4 years because they just became too slooooooooooooowwwwwww to be usable.

    My Macs are great!

    1. My 2009 iMac was getting painfully slow. I suspect the hard drive was getting flakey. Anyway, I replaced it with a new Retina iMac with SSD, which is the fastest computer I’ve ever had.

      Then opened up the old iMac, replaced the hard drive with a SSD, and fresh-installed the latest OS X. After an upgrade costing under $100, it feels almost as fast as that new iMac. It’s probably good for another 6 years.

  8. 18 months, wow, never thought about doing a replacement that quickly. 5.5 years on my current iMac. After a couple years did RAM upgrade – mostly because it was so cheap – and after another year put in the SSD and the computer was like new. Another couple years before I see a need for replacement. Thanks Apple!

  9. There was a time when I purchased a new PowerMac each time a new model was released. But ever since transitioning to Mac Pros, my upgrade cycle has slowed dramatically. I’m still on a 2010 Mac Pro and have no need or desire to upgrade for the foreseeable future.

    1. Of course, why would you replace the last great workstation Apple ever made? The 2013+ trashcan Mac Pro is a disposable device, like most of Apple’s new hardware.

      Unfortunately, if you need bleeding-edge hardware to keep up with the industry, the internals of the 2010 Mac Pros are largely obsolete. Let’s hope OWC or somebody offers a complete overhaul kit to install the latest Intel Skylake architecture, current PCI internals, and current GPUs.

  10. It sounds like he’s still running Windows (?), but it’s running like a champ on the Mac. People often forget that a computer is hardware + software that work in unison. Weakness in either area can affect the whole thing.

  11. At work there’s a standard three-year replacement cycle, but our Macs are still going strong four years on. At home, I’ve got machines from 2009 and 2011, and they’re all great. Just updated the 2009 Mc Book Pro with a SSD drive, and it’s amazing how much better is runs.

  12. Which brings me back to my permanent complaint. Share of Sales is not the same as Market Share. The only way to find out real MS is to cary out a careful market survey and find out how many Macs vs PCs are out there still operating. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mac’s MS is vastly higher than that reported for PCs.

  13. My parents just got a new 27″ iMac after deciding that their 2006 (!!) model was getting a bit slow. 9 years on a single computer, without any hassles hardware-wise. And nearly no hassles with software.

    They decided to spend up on a better model iMac because hey, the bits you spec out now will make the machine last longer. I hope the quality of the 2015 models is close to those a decade ago.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.