If I had a dime for every time this question comes up….
I actually had this happen with two of my cutomers today. My answer, the last couple of years, is a definite ‘it depends’. Wishy, washy, I know, but it really does have to be thought out. First, the proper diagnosis has to be made. What is the estimate of the repair parts and labor and how does the user use the computer factor in together. Next, a comparison of that number to what is available in the market for new computers. Last week, as an example, Office Depot had a decent little system on sale for $198 after rebates!!
Unfortunately, the market is making so much of the technology we buy disposable…economically speaking. When looking at individual situations, however, the repair costs usually are a little under a new system. And with the exception of the hard drive that died, or the spyware and viruses that must be removed, the system is still very usable. So it comes down to how the computer is used.
If the main use of the computer is simply Internet, email, solitaire and occasional word processing, then a Windows 98 machine is perfectly suitable for these tasks. For users who add digital photography to the mix, I think that any Windows XP machine built after October of 2001 is fine. These computers will benefit from adding RAM to the systems for under $50.
Even if a user decides to upgrade to a new system versus repair, the old computer should not be thrown out, but rather passed on to someone who either doesn’t have a computer at all or has an older one than the one being gifted.