System Upgrades 2 — When to Upgrade

Upgrading a system is not simply a matter of filling an immediate need. Upgrades generally make economic sense when the need for more or faster ports has been identified, and before the computer in question is very old. In general, the technology in an upgrade should match the level of the system as a whole. For example, it obviously doesn't make sense to add USB 3.0 ports to a system that will not run an operating system needed to support USB 3.0, or to put a really fast hard drive into a slow computer.

From an end-user's point of view, it is generally not cost-effective to buy capacity that will not be used in the short term, as in the longer term that capacity will usually cost less. For my part I'm sure glad that back in 1985 I didn't pony up the additional $250 to upgrade my first hard drive from a 20 megabte unit to a 30 megabyte unit. That was $12.50 a megabyte back then; the 8 gig memory stick in my pocket today prices out at $0.001875 a megabyte. On the other hand, my camera shoots images, four of which would fill that first hard drive, so it's always a balancing act.

By contrast, from a reseller's point of view, selling upgrades ideally happens with the initial sale of a system, or within the following year and a half. It makes sense for a reseller to determine a customer's uses for a system as they buy it, and then to suggest upgrades on the spot. Also, a reseller should follow up once the system has been in use for a short while, in case it is being put to a new use that would benefit from an upgrade. But wait a little while and the reseller is best off to sell all new: the margins are generally better on the bleeding edge.

Sometimes selling peripherals drives the upgrade: digital cameras or digital video cameras might need USB or FireWire® connections; a new external hard drive might need an eSATA interface. If a customer is buying a second printer, maybe they could use a second port.

In summary, the decision to upgrade hardware is a blend of considerations: needs, changes in price, and developments in technology. Not to mention the lust for the new: sometimes we just want a new toy, regardless. Our next article will offer some tips on upgrading hardware.

"For my part I'm sure glad that back in 1985 I didn't pony up the additional $250 to upgrade my first hard drive from a 20 megabte unit to a 30 megabyte unit. That was $12.50 a megabyte back then; the 8 gig memory stick in my pocket today prices out at $0.001875 a megabyte. On the other hand, my camera shoots images, four of which would fill that first hard drive, so it's always a balancing act."