Is It Cheaper To Replace A Hard Drive Or Buy A New Computer

Replacing a hard drive is always cheaper than buying a new computer. It’s an excellent way to extend the life of your computer. By replacing the hard drive, the life of your system can be extended by one to two years. Replacing a hard drive is an excellent way of speeding up your computer and extending its life at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new computer. However, you should always carefully consider the age and condition before making a final decision.

Replace a Hard Drive or Buy a New Computer Cost Comparison
Computer New Computer Cost New Hard Drive Cost Percentage of Replacement
Low End laptop $700.00 $100.00 14.00%
High End Laptop $1,500.00 $200.00 13.00%
Low End Desktop $700.00 $100.00 14.00%
High End Desktop $3,500.00 $200.00 6.00%

Is it cheaper to replace a hard drive or buy a new computer

Replacement hard drives costs are going to vary depending on the type of hard drive purchased. And if you can catch one on sale even better. The cost used in the table above is a rough estimate but in the ball-park. So the next big question is what type of hard drive should I purchase as a replacement and what are the advantages? To better understand and answer this question I need to discuss the types of hard drive replacements and the Pros and Cons of each. I am not going to go back too far in time because it’s pointless. Discussing older hardware and diving into the history and how hard drives evolved to what they are today is not the topic of this article. Basically there are 3 major types of hard drives. And chances are you are looking to replace your old hard drive which is most likely mechanical drive with a solid state hard drive. The table below shows the basic types of hard drives and the Pros and Cons of each.

Types of Hard Drives Replacements
Hard Drives Pros Cons
Mechanical Cheap Old technology, slow, moving parts
Solid State SSD Low cost and fast, no moving parts Superseded by newer and faster NVMe
Solid State NVMe Cost more but much faster, no moving parts Cost much more

So as you can see a mechanical hard drive is old technology. It’s old and slow. It has moving parts that can breakdown over time and fail. And since it actually has to move internally to read and fetch data it is very slow as compared to the newer solid state drives. Solid state drives have no moving parts thus are not prone to failure like mechanical hard drives. If you are experience slow boot up times and or slow loading programs or saving data then you mostly likely have a mechanical hard drive. So upgrading to a solid State hard drive will drastically improve performance. That brings me to another discussion on the differences between solid state drives. What is the difference between NVMe and SSD drives?

Replacement NVMe and SSD computer hard drives

NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express and is newer technology than SSD. Both NVMe and SSD are solid state drives but the way they transfer data is different. And this is a big difference. NVMe drives are much faster than regular SSD drives. A standard SSD drive uses what is called a third generation SATA interface which uses the 8b/10b encoding to transfer data between storage (the drive) and the computer. The fastest data can travel via a SATA interface is 6.0 Gbit/s or 6 gigabits per second. And of course as you know by now the NVMe is much faster. But how much faster and is it really worth the extra cost? All good questions.

The NVMe interface was built specifically for solid state data retrieval. This technology is very efficient at accessing data (from the drive) and leveraging data transfer speeds that SSDs are not capable of. NVMe drives transfer data at a rate of 32 Gbit/s per second. That’s over 5 times faster than an SSD. So by replacing your old hard drive with a new NVMe drive you are going to see a huge difference in data transfer speeds. This means boot up times are going to be almost instantaneous as well as program load and data saves. Your computer life could easily be extended by 2 years or more. Now all this sounds really good and you are just about to rush out and purchase a new NVMe drive. But wait, there is more you need to know about NVMes. There are two types of NVMes and you need to know which one to buy. And this depends on your motherboard. Most NVMe drives use what is called a M.2 form factor to plug into. And the M.2 slot is on your motherboard. Many older motherboards do not have the M.2 slot. So, if you do not have one then you are going to need an NVMe drive that is designed to fit into a standard PCIe motherboard slot exactly like a graphics card. A PCIe slot is called Peripheral Component Interconnect Express and is used to connect high speed components to your computer or motherboard. Every modern computer has several of these PCIs slots.

Should I replace the motherboard too?

So the next question is why not just go ahead and purchase a motherboard that has an M.2 slot? Well, if you change out the motherboard you are now having to also change out other components in which increases the cost and thus does not make if cost effective to replace your hard drive. This this case it is better to purchase a new computer. If you purchase a new motherboard you are now going to need new RAM and most likely a new CPU. As you can see costs are escalating fast. Not to mention your new motherboard may not fit into your cold computer case!

So now let’s get back to the question is replacing your old mechanical hard drive with an SSD or NVMe? Which option is better. Well now that you know more about NVMes to answer that question you will need to know if you have a M.2 slot or an open PCIe slot on your motherboard. And if you do then it’s going to be cost effective to purchase an NVMe drive. However if you do not then the other option is to purchase an SSD and use the SATA interface which transfers data at a slower speed.

Now, can you really tell the difference between NVMe speeds and SSD speeds? Well, it depends. Boot ups are going to be faster with an NVMe but having to wait another second or so while your computer with an SSD boots up is not that big of a deal. Well, may be, right? In all likely hood the real answer to this question is depends on what you are using your computer for. If you are a hardcore gamer then an NVMe is the only way to go. If you are editing videos or doing 3D modeling then an NVMe is the only way to do. But if you are doing office work or surfing the internet and checking email and maybe playing a game or two then a SSD will work just fine.

Replace the hard drive or buy new conclusion

There are a few costs not mentioned yet. I don’t know if you would call them hidden costs or what but they are worth talking about. The first cost that comes to mind if you are replacing your hard drive is who is going to actually do the work? If you are, then it’s no extra cost to you but if you are going to pay someone you need to figure in that cost. In most cases even if a computer repair shop does the work it’s still going to be worth going the replacement route.

Now, on the other hand if you decide to purchase a new system then you may need a new operating system and other programs that may not transfer over to your new computer. This can bring the cost of your new computer up and should be considered before buying a new PC.

As a general rule of thumb laptops have a 3 to 5 year life span depending on how they were handled. If they were treated rough, then less then 3 years is the norm. If they were babied then they could be good for 5 years. But in the end laptops usually die much sooner than desktops due to heat. They just can’t cool the electrical components as well as a desktop. And heat is one of the biggest enemies of computers. Desktops generally last longer around 5 years or so. And again this is due to desktops can disperse heat much better. My laptops, I start looking at news ones at about 3 years. And that is because I take really good care of mine so I am anticipating at least 3 years of good service. As for desktops, I expect at least 5 years from mine. And that is because I am purchasing high end top of the line components and it’s well taken care of. You can do some simple things to prolong the life of your laptop or desktop. One of the best things you can do is to dust it off. Clean the computer fans and intake screens of dust. As I said before heat is your computer’s biggest enemy and by cleaning the air intakes and exhaust with a compressed air can allows air to circulate and cool down your computer. As always I hope this article was of value to you. Please comment below on your experiences. I would love to hear what you did or your thoughts on if you replaced your hard drive or if you purchased a new computer. 

If you liked this article, then you should read my other article on this site called “Is it worth replacing a laptop hard drive?” You might be surprised at the answer to the question.

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