Does it really matter if we don't upgrade our PCs anymore?

Mike Halsey MVP
Apr 6, 2011
Updated • Apr 6, 2011
Windows, Windows 8

There are all manner of images, screenshots and leaked details coming out now about Windows 8 and we already know a lot about what Microsoft want this product to be.  We know it's going to be smaller, quicker and more agile than even Windows 7 was able to be.  It's going to have to run effectively and without lag on lowly 1GHz ARM processors, though admittedly Microsoft might specify a dual-core minimum.  We also know that it'll install in around 10 minutes flat on a standard PC.

So if you're thinking of buying a new PC, the question to ask yourself now is should you really bother?

Windows Vista caused no end of problems when it was launched back in 2006 and forced many people who were using it to upgrade to better and faster hardware just to get it to work.  With Windows 7 Microsoft fixed all the problems and gave us an operating system that would work happily, though a little slowly on a 1.6GHz Atom processor.

We can see now that with Windows 8 not only is the bar being lowered ever further when it comes to performance, but that the OS will be giving us more.

Traditionally if you wanted an operating system that would run efficiently on older hardware you had only one choice, GNU/Linux, but it's now clear that this is a market that Microsoft are going after, and going after agressively.

It's not that Microsoft want to attack Linux, that's probably the last thing on their minds.  It's clear that low-power processing is where the computing market is going and for most every day computing tasks these devices are usually perfectly adequate.  Microsoft have simply seen which way the wind is blowing and, in an uncharacteristic display of flexibility and innovation, have decided to jump aboard the bandwagon.

So where does this leave everyone with a PC at home?  Should you indeed think about buying a new PC at all when the times comes to replace yours?

There are different options for this.  The first is that if you are a PC gamer the answer remains a resolute yes as the latest games will still demand Core i5 overclocked power to run effectively.  If you're not a gamer though then you could easily find that Windows 8 is even faster and more responsive on your existing computer hardware than Windows 7 (though we have yet to see any actual performance benchmarks).

The third and most compelling reason is that the whole tablet market is evolving still and by the time Windows 8 launches in all its tablet glory we'll be looking at a whole broad range of innovative devices, some with one screen, some with two, some like a book, laptop, netbook or tablet, some with keyboards, flip down, fold out, and some without, that there will undoubtedly be a new way to interact with our computers that suits us!  Frankly, this one has been a long time coming and it's about damn time.

When Windows 8 launches the world will be more than used to tapping away at a keyboard that's connected to a large box in a corner of the room, or even in it's own room, that requires it's own piece of furniture and that, frankly, is becoming more and more loathed for this very reason year on year.

If you're planning on buying yourself a new PC, or even a new laptop in the coming year my advice would be to hold fire and wait.  Before the end of this year we'll see what Microsoft will really have to offer us with the next version of Windows and they're certain to demonstrate the OS running on a wide variety of form factors.  There are exciting times ahead and it's now just not the right year to buy a new PC.


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  1. Dan said on April 9, 2011 at 1:10 am

    Sorry jesus, but I’ve used Linsux on and off for almost a decade, and I still prefer Windows as my primary OS.

  2. jesus said on April 8, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Install Ubuntu and you’ll forget about windblows. I’ve been using linux for 5 months now. Started with puppy linux, but after upgrade to Ubuntu there is no turning back. It blows windows out of the park.

    1. Womble said on April 9, 2011 at 3:26 am

      I don’t think I would be blaspheming if I said what on earth would Jesus know about I.T.?

  3. Womble said on April 7, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I’ve been trying to convince myself to upgrade my aging conroe 3ghz for a year now but I always end up talking myself out of it because I never really feel restricted by my current CPU anymore.

    For most of us the days of having to read system specs on software are gone. as a result? the markets are shifting focus to cloud centric hardware and software instead.

  4. Ross said on April 7, 2011 at 7:48 am

    I feel very pushed by the industry into liking tablets. I too have grown not only used to but dependent on lots of screen real estate, and a tablet is JUST TOO SMALL. STOP telling us tablets are the future. Just because your money is invested there doesn’t mean we need to believe you.

  5. fokka said on April 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    i think the assumption is not quite right. you can look at it as there were two types of performance: os perfomance and applikation performance.

    vista was a resource hog and needed good hardware just to run nicely itself. win7 changed that and runs great even on older hardware and win8 will probably even improve on that.

    but no matter how fast the os runs on your machine, it doesnt make your programs run faster, because ultimately they are just as fast as the hardware is.

    so if you need application-performane, you still need a fat sytem, like you stated with your gamer example, even if win8 itself is blazingly fast on a tegra2.

    for the average user a lightweight os is still great because they dont need to invest in new/expensive/loud hardware to run their browser/word/player.

    in the end i dont think costumers will stop investing in new hardware, they will only invest in thinner, more efficient, quieter hardware (laptops, tablets) than before.

    just my 2c.

    1. fokka said on April 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      forgot to say: for my purposes the pinnacle of (cpu-) performance was reached years ago with the 2ghz core2duo. its fast enough for everything i throw at it and i’m happy. i think today even a i3 ulv would do.

      the only department still lacking is the storage, because in (most) laptops you have to decide if you either go with a “slow” but big and cheap hdd, or invest in a small, expensive but fast ssd. but once 250+gb ssds get affordable even this shortcoming is remedied.

  6. Dan said on April 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    The OS may become lighter and quicker in the future, but it’s the applications that will determine whether one needs to upgrade or not. Adobe products, MS Office (or LibreOffice), etc. aren’t getting any lighter, they may in fact become much heavier as the years go by. The cloud is still a bit too unreliable to be seriously considered. MS should advise program developers to lessen the bloat if it wants Win8 to be as nimble as advertised.

    BTW, I’ve already jumped the gun and bought a netbook/ultraportable PC. If the promises of Win8 do come true, then I might be able t get by with this hardware for the foreseeable future.

  7. kalmly said on April 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    “When Windows 8 launches the world will be more than used to tapping away at a keyboard that’s connected to a large box in a corner of the room, or even in it’s own room, that requires it’s own piece of furniture and that, frankly, is becoming more and more loathed for this very reason year on year.”

    Oh, really? I love my home office, away from noise and distractions, my two screens, and yes, the black box that sits on its own desk, and sitting down in front of it all in a comfortable, adjustable chair.

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