When Do You Know To Replace Your Computer?

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When was the last time you had to replace your computer? Did you do it because you were excited by new technology, or because the old one forced your hand? The decision to repair or replace can be a sticky one. Here’s what I’m doing about it.

My iMac is Sick

UPDATE 9/23/2015 (see below)

It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I was having computer problems and here I am again. Instead of my disk array having issues, now I’ve discovered the video card in my iMac decided to fritz out and I can’t see a thing.

Trust me, that’s frustrating for a photographer.

We can ramble on all day about this lens or that, but we eventually need to load those photos into a computer to process and deliver them. Without access to the computer, you’re workflow grinds to a halt. That’s making me sick, too.

My iMac is a mid-2011 model, so it isn’t under warranty. I took it to the Apple Store a week ago for a diagnosis and they confirmed the video card was bad, then told me it would be 7-10 days to repair due to their backlog.

I called last Friday and discovered that Apple denied my repair.


This was a paid repair. They quoted me a price and I agreed. Why not order the part, replace it and take a couple hundred of my dollars?

It seems that Apple has a policy that it will not repair computers that were modified. Yes, I’ve sinned in the eyes of Apple. I modded my computer.

Actually, OWC made the modifications for me. In addition to using their RAM and SSD, I also had them add an eSATA port to the iMac when I bought it.  At the time, I completely understood that this voided the warranty. I had no expectations of a free repair.

On the other hand, I had no expectation of being forbidden to have service because of this modification. Replacing a video board is completely unrelated to the eSATA port. Not only can I not get a repair from the Apple Store, but it seems that Apple also forbids any of its authorized 3rd party repair centers from working on my computer.

I can either do it myself or go to an unauthorized repair facility. Having watched a video showing how to take the iMac apart, I decided that I don’t want to mess with it myself. I have clumsy fingers when it comes to intricate parts and wires.

Knowing When To Repair Or Replace Your Computer

Once I got this news that the authorized path is out of the question, I took a step back to re-evaluate. Should I throw good money after bad? What if I pay to repair this iMac and something else breaks down?

That’s happened to me far too many times this year. I spent money repairing the A/C in my old SUV, only to have the repair fail and I ended up buying a new car.  The same thing happened with a plumbing issue at my home. Money spent trying to fix the problem was a waste and I still had to buy something new.

Now I’m faced with a similar dilemma. Do I spend a few hundred bucks and hope it works, or do I spend ten times as much and get a completely new iMac? After all, this machine is four years old. That’s a decent run for a PC.

The problem is that I just don’t really need a new iMac. Video issue aside, this one is a great performer.

Here are the issues you should consider as warning signs that it’s time to replace your computer.

  • Does it run the latest operating system?
  • Does it run modern software programs?
  • Does it have good performance?
  • Can you connect it to modern accessories?
  • Does it have enough storage?
  • Is it quiet?
  • Can you spend more time using it than repairing it?

If you can answer “Yes” to these questions, you don’t need a new computer.

The only one where I’m starting to raise the question is the last item. Am I spending more time using it or repairing it?

Apple Doesn’t Care

I’m a big fan of Apple. My first computer was an Apple ][+ and I’ve had several other devices from them over the years. However, Apple’s policies are starting to piss me off.

First, customer service is not top quality. That isn’t to say the people aren’t friendly. They are. In fact, they’re very friendly when they tell you to go pound sand and take your silly problem somewhere else because Apple can’t be bothered with it.

That happened with my video card issue.

It happened with my OS X corruption issue.

It happened to my wife when she discovered that everything she purchased on iTunes in Scotland is non-transferrable to the USA.  She can’t use any of it here, can’t get a credit or refund, and to add more insult, Apple suspended her UK iTunes account because she lives here now. Every penny she spent on Apple’s iTunes was wasted the moment she moved here.

That’s how much Apple cares.

All of that weighed on my mind as I made my decision to repair my iMac instead of replace it. That, along with the notion that I would spend ten times the amount on a company that won’t lift a finger to help a long-time customer.

Second, the cost difference between repair and replacement is significant. It could cost me ten times as much to purchase an equivalent new iMac. Given my other unexpected expenses this year, that doesn’t excite me.

Finally, there is an investment of time when you have to setup a new computer. My objective is to get back to work on my new projects as soon as possible, not spend more time setting up a new iMac.

That’s why my iMac is sitting in a place called UBREAKIFIX right now. Grammatically incorrect name aside, it seems that they can do the work to replace my video card for me. At least, I hope so. The technician won’t be in until Wednesday.

If there is some reason he can’t fix it, then it looks like I’m buying a new iMac. For now, the repair seems like a better choice given that everything else with the iMac was running very well.

UPDATE:  9/23/2015 – Apple Was Wrong And Still Denies Service

I received a call this morning from the technician at UBREAKIFIX. He confirmed it’s definitely the video card.  Better yet, he confirmed that it is the AMD Radeon 69z0M video card that falls under Apple’s replacement program.  According to my purchase receipt, I’m within the four year period because I bought this iMac in December, 2011. Here is a link to the replacement notice on Apple’s site.


The technician advised me to call Apple for my free replacement, as his cost and labor to correct the issue would total $900.

It’s amazing that the Apple “genius” couldn’t figure out I had the right card for the recall. I checked my serial number against the recall notice and it fits in appropriate range.

I called 1-800-MY-APPLE and they confirmed my serial number and purchase date for the replacement program.  Then Apple denied to service the issue once again. Not just because I had an eSATA part installed, but also because I have 3rd party RAM and SSD drive.

The only way Apple will repair this computer is if I restore it to the original, factory condition.  Of course, that’s impossible. I cannot remove the eSATA port that was soldered onto the motherboard, nor do I have the original RAM and SSD that shipped with the PC.

Reluctantly, I just purchased a new Retina iMac.  I’m sure it’s much nicer, but it’s money that I just didn’t want to spend right now. However, I can’t keep working without this main system. It has resources that I don’t have on the Macbook Pro.

While I remain a fan of Apple hardware, I’m finding their policies are very unfriendly to consumers and it’s going to come up anytime someone asks me for a recommendation on anything that uses iTunes or may need a repair.

When Did You Last Replace Your Computer?

Have you faced this issue lately? What did you decide and why? Let me know in the comments, whether you like Windows, Apple or Linux. Likewise, let me know what kind of experiences you’ve had with Apple’s customer service lately. Are they living up to your expectations or have they slipped a bit?

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  1. This is one reason I build my own desktop computers. Even other brands (Windows PC brands) may not have the Apple firmness but also often don’t have good upgrading paths – too few ports, not enough power, no bays for drives, etc. So, building works for me. But stray from the desktop and things are different. There’s really not a lot you can do with a laptop. Maybe add memory (maybe). Maybe swap drives. Had Adobe had CC when I bought my laptop, I’d have considered Apple. But I would have had to pay again for PS to run on Mac at that time.

    Building does make the transition to a new machine harder. Do I upgrade yet again or take the plunge starting over with something all new? Somewhere between 3 and 6 years is when that happens. Usually.


    1. Before I turned to Apple, I used to see the benefit of building my own PC. Generally, I like getting the best of breed components vs using a generic All-in-One system. The iMac is an exception for me. I’ve had a few and never found one to have a hardware problem before. Generally, I replaced them because they became outdated, not because they weren’t working well.

      This one is four years old, so it’s had a good run. I sincerely hope that the video card will be all I need, because it’s just not a good time for a new unplanned expense. I’ve had a lot of those this year and I keep thinking, “What else can go wrong?”

      If I need to get a new system, then I’ll do it. I put one of my Harley-Davidson’s up for sale and that will cover my expenses once it sells.

  2. HI William,

    If it turns out you do need a new computer, I highly recommend investing in the Mac Pro Six Core (base model 16GB RAM great!). You can run it for hours at 100%+ processing photos. My basic workflow is to run RAW files Capture 1 Pro 8 -> Apple Aperture (Pro Auto Enhance + Metadata) -> Adobe Lightroom for post-processing (+/- Photoshop). I previously used an iMac but found it ran hot under load for 8-12 hours at a time.

    High volume photography processing is joyous on this machine. Mac Pro fan impeller keeps it cool. I only got my Mac Pro three days ago and have processed thousands of photos already.

    I look forward to a followup on this blog post!

    1. Hi, Sandip

      Thanks for the comment. A Mac Pro could work since I have everything on my Thunderbolt RAID system, including my profile. Of course, that means going out to find a monitor to work with it since I’ve been using an iMac. What do you use for your system?

      1. Hi William,

        I bought only one monitor for it for now: the NEC MultiSync EA244UHD 23.8″ 4K IPS LED Monitor. It is a near Retina screen and works great for looking at hi-res photos in C1P, Aperture or Lightroom CC. I use the Mac Pro only for RAW processing and Lightroom organization. I have another computer for Photoshop and Corel Painter (iMac 5K Retina) with NEC 30″ 2560×1600 screen. Both are color calibrated. Thunderbolt 2 is an outstanding reason to invest the Mac Pro. I do not intend to upgrade to El Capitan as I want Aperture to run as long as possible. I have AppleCare for 3 years. Hopefully that is enough time to find a good middle workflow requirement.

        Cheers and Good Luck!

  3. Hi William,
    it is frustrating that a great Company cannot deliver great service.
    In terms of when I have changed last time a computer? I change the whole items in my house over time to Mac and last one 4 years ago.
    I always try to keep things as simple as possible – so no extras aside the standard or what one would be able to by.
    Why am I doing this? The reason changing to Mac was that I got sich of all these constantly ongoing updates and time wasted on maintenance for a PC. Keeping it as is and working with what you can get as standard prevents me for wasting time on updates etc. or in other words what cannot been accomplished with the standards (incl. LR and PS) is no option for me.
    Maybe to simplistic!

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