What's your Computer's Shelf Life?

2009 I got a top of the line ADK PC for my studio. By 2011 the Techs were referring to it as “one of the older models.” By 2013 they said I should replace it. By 2016 they said it wasn’t worth working on!!

So I got another top of the line ADK PC. Same cycle. 2018, the conversation referred to my unit as “aging.” It’s in the shop now because of some kind of RAM instability. The tech is saying I might have to replace the MOBO. BUT, since the current MOBO 5th generation, a NEW MOBO now 10th generation will require a new processor. That could be a $1,000.00 REPAIR!!! I need the PC to work. So, I have to fix it. But it made me wonder.

Are you guys replacing your computers every 3 to 4 years? What do you do with the old, still working, ones? Are you replacing all of the peripherals too? That’s a lot cash outlay for what seems to be a relatively short life cycle. Or are you buying/building less expensive computers, making the update/upgrade more palatable?

(sorry for all the text…)

The computer I’m on now was built January two years ago. First gen AMD Ryzen but about 10 months after it was released. I would expect this computer to last at least another 5 years with some upgrades if necessary. As far as computational power goes in my case any future CPU would have to be able to run on my current mobo which is also “first” gen Ryzen so I’m not sure if there’s a BIOS for the current or next gen CPU for it. This means I may have to stick with it, which is fine. I’m still playing around in Resolve so if I get any type of work in it I may have to get a new machine, but likely not soon. I would really expect the next computer I build to be essentially a monster, because even the modest machine I have now feels like it does the job pretty darn well… at least for now.

The previous computer lasted about 10 years. Quad core AMD. I will say however that I waited because I didn’t have enough work at home to justify a new build and if I had then I probably would have replaced it 2-3 years earlier.

The difference between the two was significant. I needed more power for iZotope RX mainly. Playing back tracks was fine, but not being able to run the latest RX in realtime started getting annoying. But once I made the change everything else made a difference as well. I recently got a 1TB m.2 for a new ‘work drive’ and it just feels much snappier.

I definitely feel like a computer built within the past couple of years should last at least through the middle of this decade even with some more demanding software. Of course, this assumes we’ve chosen what’s appropriate for what we do. Anyone who needs far more power than I do could get any number of current CPUs that are great. And by the last few years I probably exclude your 5820K actually.

The one before the previous one I gave away. Just put an ad up on craigslist and some dude came and took it. I’ll probably do the same for the previous one. Obviously I keep and destroy drives.

Upgrading peripherals is something I don’t do unless I need it. My PSU stays until it needs replacement for example. Same with drives unless I need to adjust for some reason.

I’m a software engineer, an innovation one who works in cutting edge high performance computing. Composing music is a hobby for me and generally speaking modern music software places almost no real demands PC processor except the real time performance aspect - those pesky VI’s you are actually live playing.
I say this so you know where I am coming from when I talk about PC performance -> Unless something breaks, there is no real reason to upgrade a computer for music purposes. It if its working for you, just keep going with it until it breaks, or you fancy a new one. Even breaking is likely to be cause by a driver no longer being supported rather than physical hardware over a 10 year period.

When I was younger, that’ll be 30+ years ago, I used to upgrade every 18 months. Even at the computer prices back then it was cost effective to do it for work because the performance difference due to clock speed was so much greater. For the last 15 years a performance reason for an upgrade has not existed and my upgrades are now 7 years apart for PC based workloads (like running Cubase). The performance difference just isn’t that great. Note that with music systems, performance isn’t directly proportional to increasing core count which is where modern processors need to go to increase available performance (clock speed increase is now very difficult to achieve in a meaningful way cause quantum mechanics…). Of course if you were video editing or primarily loading up a lot of tracks that ASIO Guard can use then more cores is awesome. But most people on these forums note the extra cores aren’t as well used as they expected.

Bottom line, if you are happy with performance, it works, and the drivers are still working for you - no need to upgrade IMHO.

Would an “Off the rack” gaming PC be overkill for audio needs? I’m not sure I want to buy a custom made PC anymore.

I was just comparing prices and specs between a Gaming PC and another Bespoke Audio PC. Top of the line i9 Gaming PC( Intel i9-9900K 3.6GHz, 360mm AIO Liquid Cool, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11G, 1TB SSD, 16GB DDR4, RGB, AC WiFi, Windows 10 Home 64-bit ) with all the bells & whistles topped out at $2600.00.

The bespoke audio PC (i9 9960 16 Core Processor, 2TB SSD, 64 gigs of DDR4 Ram Quad video card output options Quiet Mid-Tower, Tons of connectivity for all modern Audio/MIDI interfaces THUNDERBOLT 3.0,Dual Layer DVD+RW or Blu Ray Windows 10 Pro 64 bit Fully customizable to suit your needs 2 year Warranty LIFE TIME TECH SUPPORT) was just shy of $5600.00!

I usually ended up spending $4k for each of my Media PCs and they seem to be finicky as hell! While all of my office PCs work day in and day out without a ripple. I’m starting to think a “good family Buick” is preferable to the “Ferrari’s” I’ve been buying, especially if I’m only getting 4 years out of them! :unamused:

Well, we all prioritize differently. I’d rather build than buy a gaming machine if I’m going down that road anyway. But regardless, you’re looking at far more cores for the bespoke, and on the gaming machine you’re paying extra for that video card which is more a gaming/video work card. So if it was me having 2-3k to spend I’d buy a Ryzen 16 core system any day over the above, with a more moderate video card. Any savings I’d put into more memory and storage.

But not everyone is into building and not everyone feel comfortable with AMD. You also get life time tech support with the bespoke which can be valuable.

One thing I’ll say though: You should probably consider how that support has functioned in practice over time. At least a couple of years ago Dell had business workstations with a support plan that seemed excellent. I actually considered it for my laptop. I think they have 24-hr on-site service or something crazy like that. So not only can you call in and talk things through, but if a component is shot they’ll send a guy out to fix it or replace the computer… I think

So to me support has always been in the context of “what can break?” and “how is that solved?”. If it’s components then having phone support changes nothing. Me being in NYC means I can get components at a store same day, or same or next day with Amazon, and since I assembled the computer I feel comfortable swapping parts. Of course not everyone does, and there are more things to be aware of at the start of building etc… and you’re on your own (excluding forums and the rest of the internets)…

So… I don’t know man. Possibly a tough choice. I know what I’d do, but that’s just me.

This is businsess right? I mean you’re investing this using business funds and writing it off?

Yeah, it’s business and I can write it off. I’m not comfortable trying to build PCs. I did build one back in 2003 with a friend who build and services PCs. So, I felt only slightly nervous building that machine. The only reason I attempted it then was so I’d feel comfortable swapping parts if I had to, in order to limit downtime. I replaced video cards, power supplies, hard drives, cables and RAMM. But the tech changes sooo fast, I can’t keep up! The service center repairing my PC now is 15 minutes away, they do good work and their very clear in explaining what the problems are. But they are NOT CHEAP! Meanwhile the closest Audio PC Builder to me is in Connecticut! Online service is brilliant,(as you said) AS LONG AS IT’S NOT A COMPONENT ISSUE.

I have been battling this current issue a solid 2 and a half months!!! This all started when the center display went out. Instead of figuring it out with online service, I lost my entire OS! It was in the shop for 7 days ON RUSH REPAIR. It took weeks to get all of my apps talking to all of my files again. Meanwhile the center display is still out! So I’m back to trying to figure it out. With nothing left to check, we (the bespoke builder, the local tech and I) all agree to just replace the video card. I put it in and the PC won’t boot. I put the old one back in. Too late, the PC won’t boot. Now it’s back in the shop, since Wednesday on RUSH REPAIR AGAIN!

The tech said the RAMM is inconsistent, only 16 of my 32Gbs is functioning properly. So, I might need a new MOBO, which means a new processor, blah, blah, blah! It’s not like I don’t know how to follow instructions. So, WTF?!!? If these guys are having so much trouble sorting this out, there’s no way I could be expected to. Hence, I’m at the mercy of PC builders. It looks like my only safety net is to have 2 matched PCs, so that one will be working at all time. Now, I’m looking at a SERIOUS EXPENSE! THAT’S why I was considering a gaming PC or SOME version of a “Buick” that I might be able to afford. Just looking for options here.

I understand.

It is a bit weird though. I mean, if you pay a premium for a premium machine then I would honestly expect it to last longer than it has for you. What did you say, four years? That doesn’t seem right to me. Not that you won’t outgrow it, you might, but components shouldn’t really fail within that time frame, and if they do it shouldn’t be that much of a hassle to fix. I had my previous machine go belly up at one point, and I swapped out the video card and PSU and it was fine. Any more than that would be very strange to me. It’s almost like you have an electrical issue in your setup somewhere (like a power brick that’s bad or something).

Anyway, yeah, don’t know what to say really. I just do it myself.

Actually, come to think of it; for 5600 you probably get two identical machines of equally good performance if you build it yourself (or get game rigs) - meaning one instant spare should something go wrong. I mean, it’s really that much money…

What kind of load will your machine carry (tracks, plugs, video, etc.)?

Here was my “quick” review on performance a couple of years ago when I got it:


Mind you, I do post and don’t need low latency, and my TV jobs never get crazy large. So for me really the only concern is running iZotope realtime without too much problem. I am about to upgrade to the iZotope Post Production Suite (today probably) and that’ll include the new Insight meter that is a bit heavier on the CPU judging from what I’ve seen on other computers. Anyway, I’ll probably know better in a couple of days. I have a few shows that need work and I just got a new monitor so I’m guessing tomorrow will be a day of set-up and so forth and then I’ll do actual work Monday.

If there’s something you want me to try specifically I’d be more than happy to.

I’ve been using PCs and MACs since DOS (That ages me a bit eh!). Mainly heavy duty graphics/photography work.
MACs last longer, or rather, are more usable for longer. It’s usually the software that pushes, outdates the hardware.
My 13 year old iMAC 24" died on me a month ago. Replaced it with a A$400 27" that’s 9 years old. I was able to clone my whole system using Time Machine backup from the older machine and put the whole thing almost seamlessly on the 9 year old - (even though it runs a later OS). Then I was able to revive the older machine using Time Machine. ($80 external HD for the back-ups the best 80 ever spent!)
Though the HD is a bit suss I think. Better get out the Torx driver and rip it apart! (Don’t throw anything away!)

As you can see from ny sig, my computer is pretty old but it is powerful, I don’t need a gazillion cores to run hundreds of plugins, just raw clock speed to run processor heavy plugins, I use TC powercore cards for most of my effect ( have full licenses for most,including the multi DSP Virus, replacing these would be cost prohibitive) the TC cards use negligible CPU resources and I have yet to find reverb in software that can compare with the TC, or mastering that can rival MD3.

I tried Win 10 but my most resource hungry softsynth (Arturia Buchla Easel) red lined constantly even at largest buffer, in a stripped down windows 7 I can run up to 8 versions of it at 0.8ms latency (not that I do but it is a good test, try with ‘Catty’ preset, it seems to be the greediest).

There is no need for me to upgrade, My processor is watercooled so I can max overclock it, I have spare M/boards and 3770k processors waiting and until my TC PCI card that holds my licenses gives up the ghost, I won’t.

I’m still using my pc from 2009. It started as a i7 920 with 8gig of memory. When I upgraded from SD2 to SD3 last year it started to feel a bit old even though overlocked to 3.2gig. I managed to get a 960 cpu and 12gig memory (mine takes triples) for around £50 on eBay. Overclocked to 4gig now stable. So I think since I did the upgrade last year I will get two years out of it which makes me due a new one next year. Oh I did the ssd drive a few years ago which made a big difference. I think my worry is I spend a lot and not get a big performance boost from a new pc

I bought a 2018 Dell XPS for $2200 that turns out to have impossible issues for audio work.

In 2012 I bought a Macbook Pro for $2000 that I couldn’t get used to at the time, but I’m trying again now that I’m abandoning Dell.

With the 2012 Mac, I’m screwed between software I love and hardware I have, requiring drivers that are not old enough or require too new of an OS. I honestly don’t want to spend another minute trying to bridge all the compatibility gaps to make this 2012 work, if there is another OS upgrade I have to make for one thing and everything else stop working.

If splurging on the modern Dell supercomputer got me an unusable pain in the ass (dropouts from latency that can’t be fixed)…
what do I really need to have a good Audio work PC these days?

I’m not comfortable with “building” a PC.
This is out of pocket, not for business.

A custom Audio PC from a specialized builder is going to be another $2500 - $3000. I’m afraid of out of the box “gaming” PCs because they might (?) overcommit to graphics performance when I really just need recording and DAW function.

Not sure what my question is really but I’m having issues :stuck_out_tongue:

My last dedicated audio computer (5960x cpu) lastet 5,5 years until it recently did not boot anymore. First thought it is a hard drive failure (SSD), then I checked the bios until I realized it might be the motherboard. So I am in the process building a new one, even that I would have wished my previous one would have lasted another 1-2 more years.

I had my last one professionally built and before that I always bought PCs from dell or hp that weren‘t meant for audio work only. Those usually only lastet 4 years, because afterwards it was impossible to run my projects smoothly due to performance issues. I would always recommend a professional build, despite it‘s higher price it has also longer longevity and higher overall performance.

I have used my last CPU about 4 years by updating time to time it was great experience to have it and use it after that i shift to laptop from desktop