Repair vs. Replace: Time to get a new Mac?

We’re often asked when a customer should repair their current computer vs. just getting a new one. It’s a hard decision to make. If we’re able to fix it in a reasonable amount of time, we’ll always recommend not replacing. But “reasonable amount of time” varies from person to person.

Chris Eddy adds: “My standard recommendation is to keep the machine, until it fails to serve well as a tool, or is too expensive to repair. “

Here’s a case study for a recent customer considering a new Mac.

The customer had an older (2008) MacBook and wanted to know whether to upgrade it or replace it.  It generally worked fine and performed adequately for most tasks, but the customer was encountering more times when they would be waiting for things to complete, and they were concerned about whether it would be adequate for installing and using SketchUp in the future.

General Findings:

  • Cosmetically, the machine was in beautiful condition.  A backlit keyboard was not available at the time the machine was made and it’s a nice touch to have in a darkened room, but not the only reason to consider a new machine.
  • The hard drive still had about 80% of free space on it, so free disk space wasn’t a problem.  I tested the hard drive, and no errors were found within 5 minutes, which is a good sign that the machine was probably not in danger of immediate detonation.
  • The machine had 4GB of RAM in it, which is the physical maximum amount of RAM that the machine can use.
  • Current Ram usage was at about 50%, which should support SketchUp Ram-wise. Any current performance difficulties the machine currently has will not be improved by the addition  of SketchUp.


  • The customer wants to use a larger monitor than the 13″ display that this notebook machine has.   It’s a nice screen, but it’s not enough screen real-estate for future use.
  • The customer could be served by a new Apple notebook computer with an external monitor.
  • The current Macbook Air can come with an 11″ or 13″ screen size, and the current Macbook Pro can come with a 13″ or 15″ screen size.
  • Another option for this customer is to possibly get an iMac, which is an all-in-one desktop computer that can come with a monitor size of 22″ or 27″.  Both monitors are large and beautiful.
  • The choice of external monitor could be either an Apple monitor, which will be beautiful – but expensive because the Apple “Premium” is alive and well.  A large monitor from a different manufacturer could be gotten from the open market, at a lower cost and still be good quality.  Dell makes some absolutely beautiful monitors, especially the “U” line of monitors, and we get 30% discounts from Dell – which we pass on directly to our customers.

Keeping your old machine once you get a new one:

There is value in having one machine rather than two, because this is a major “life simplification”; all of your programs and your data is in one place rather than two, and you don’t have to worry about synchronizing the two machines.  If something does go wrong you can focus on one machine rather than two.  Sometimes people just want to keep their “old” machines as a backup. Or they want to keep the old machine to access old data, or keep the old hard drive to keep an archival copy of the historical record of your old data. My standard recommendation is to not keep the old machine, but do keep the old hard drive for at least a few months.  Migrate to the new machine, and enjoy it. You probably won’t ever go back to the old machine.  (If you do, you’ll soon remember why you replaced it!)


Regardless of which machine you get, always upgrade to a Solid State Drive. The SSD performs /much/ faster than a physical hard drive, and even the Fusion drive will start to slow down soon after the machine is brought home.  The SSD will provide the most consistent good performance over time, however it will be more expensive – remember the “Apple Premium”.

The new MacPro:

One possible option is the new MacPro. This is Apple’s new “Desktop” computer. (…and it looks like a small trash can!)    The MacPro is a very quick computer and can be ordered with features that will make it outrageously fast – but remember the “Apple Premium”.Mac Pro screen capture

Buying Strategy:

If you do decide it’s time for a new Mac, head to the Apple store. BUT, go there with the specific intent of /not/ buying today.  I’ve found that there is a reality distortion field within the store that has subtle influences to motivate you to want to buy a new machine right there and right now.

If you find something you like, fine, but buy it tomorrow – not today.  This is going to be an expensive purchase of a new tool, and you are going to have it for a long time. It’s in your best interests to let the thinking of this new tool “Marinate” in your brain for at least 24 hours before actually pulling the trigger and getting the tool.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years.  His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service to the Denver /  Boulder /  Front Range area.  They can provide remote service throughout North America.

About Gail P. Eddy

Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite troubleshooting and repairs for Mac's and PC's in the Front Range of Colorado, and throughout North America via our remote service. We also provide tips and review products and services to make your technology experience easier.
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