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Study: Older PCs may not be cheaper PCs

Keeping older desktop systems around longer may not save businesses all that much money, according to a new report from research firm Gartner.

Keeping older desktop PCs around longer may not save businesses all that much money, according to a new report from research firm Gartner.

Typically, businesses have maintained PCs for three years, but cost considerations have spurred them to hold onto the systems for months or even years beyond that point. Gartner now says, however, that using desktops for four or more years may only result in shifting expenses from direct-cost categories, such as hardware, software and information systems labor, to indirect-cost categories such as lost end-user productivity and downtime.

That's because the average annual total cost of ownership (TCO) for a PC kept for three years is roughly the same as for a PC kept for four to six years, but there are changes in who absorbs those costs: the enterprise or the end-user, the firm said Monday in a report titled "Desktop TCO for Years 4, 5 and 6: Someone Has to Pay."

"Prior to making life cycle decisions, enterprises must fully understand productivity, opportunity and migration costs and come to terms with who is going to incur them," Michael Silver, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

Gartner analysts recommend a four-year desktop life cycle for mainstream workers and three years or less for high-performance users. Five years is possible only in cases where the application load is limited and does not change. Keeping PCs longer will probably result in greater hardware and operating system diversity.

Although some basic PC implementation costs are included in calculating TCO, major operating system migrations are not. If migrations costs are higher for a particular user because of the shorter life of a PC, total costs may increase.