When to retire what: Guide to office equipment lifespans

Meredith Kreisa headshot
Meredith Kreisa|May 30, 2023
Illustration of computer desk and monitor with PDQ logo
Illustration of computer desk and monitor with PDQ logo

Office equipment supports your productivity, saves time and money, and keeps your company running smoothly. Unfortunately, even the best machines wear out eventually. And that leads to a conundrum as old as business itself — when to replace equipment.

The solution depends on the school of thought you subscribe to. We recommend replacing equipment before it shows signs of age so that your business runs smoothly without interruptions. But if that’s not possible due to your budget or other limitations, you should at least replace hardware once it slows down your productivity or presents security risks. Regardless of your chosen path, knowing general office equipment lifespans can enhance your IT asset management and budgeting. We’ll walk you through office equipment life expectancies so that you can plan accordingly.

How long does office equipment last?

The typical lifespan of office equipment varies depending on the type, quality, frequency of use, and proper maintenance. The IRS implemented the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) as a system for calculating the depreciation of fixed assets for tax deductions. As part of that system, the IRS estimates the following useful life expectancies:

  • Office furniture: 7 years

  • Computers and peripherals: 5 years

For those of you who tuned out as soon as we said, “IRS” (so everyone), let’s summarize: The government gives very vague equipment life expectancies. So we’ll leverage our years of experience diligently breaking office equipment to give you a better idea:


Life expectancy 

Desktop computer 

3–8 years 

Laptop computer 

3–5 years 


2–10 years 

Mobile device 

2–5 years 


3–5 years 


5–10 years 


3–5 years 

Power distribution unit (PDU) 

3–15 years 


15–30 years 

Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) 

3–8 years 


3–10 years 


3–10 years 

Fax machine 

3–10 years 

Phone system 

6–8 years 


2–10 years 

Office furniture 

7–15 years 

Keep in mind that these estimates are very general. They also assume that none of your employees have Office Space-esque rage against your printers.

How do you estimate the longevity of office equipment?

You can roughly assess how long office equipment might last by weighing information about the product itself with knowledge of your environment. Unfortunately, there is no tried-and-true formula to give you an accurate estimate. Even after thorough analysis, some hardware still grossly underperforms or bravely perseveres. But if you’re trying to make your predictions as accurate as possible, consider these factors that affect office equipment lifespans.


The product’s type, quality, and original condition are among the biggest factors in determining its life expectancy.

Some product types are naturally more durable than others. For instance, a desktop’s sedentary lifestyle and sturdy build help it hold up better than an on-the-go laptop. (Sadly, my doctor says these same rules don’t apply to humans.)

Damage is also less of a problem for some types of products than others. Case in point — if an employee spills a big bowl of chili on their keyboard, it’s game over. If they spill it on their office chair, you can probably just let them stew in their own filth until you’re tired of the smell.

Additionally, the quality of the original product significantly affects its durability. There’s a big difference between the cheapest laptop money can buy and a name-brand business model. Businesses looking to save a few bucks also frequently purchase used or refurbished equipment, which may contribute to a shorter lifespan.

Manufacturer specifications

Many manufacturers have data on how long their products last. Granted, they might give you that information in terms of hours or cycles of usage, but you can leverage that data to make your own calculations on how long the product might hold up in your environment.

Frequency of use

It’s only natural that rarely used equipment tends to hold up better than the workhorses in your fleet. But don’t get too comfortable! Unused devices can still wear out or become outdated.


You’re the experts in your environment! Look at your own history to see how long equipment lasted in the past. Don’t have an extensive business history? Ask your IT team members how long they’ve seen equipment last.

How do you know when to replace or retire office equipment?

In a perfect world, you’d replace your equipment on a schedule so that you never have to think about whether it’s surpassed its usable life. Many businesses replace one-third of their computers yearly, effectively cycling out devices every three years. Not only can this help you keep your office machines current, but it also prevents that awkward stage when you’re basically keeping a device on life support.

That said, we know some organizations don’t want to replace equipment proactively. We get it. Investing in something new is hard when your existing assets seem just fine. If you prefer to take a reactive approach, here are some signs that may indicate it’s time to replace equipment:

  • Diminishing performance metrics (processing speed, uptime, etc.)

  • Regular service issues

  • Higher cost to maintain

  • No longer manufactured or supported

  • Incompatible with current systems

  • Greater demand than the device can support

  • Warranty expiration

  • Signs of failure (noises, overheating, crashes, error messages, etc.)

  • No longer meets operational requirements

If you start to notice these signs, it’s time to chat with whoever makes the budgetary decisions about getting new equipment. Maybe bring a cold drink and your best puppy dog eyes.

How do you extend the lifespan of office equipment?

Making wise decisions and carefully maintaining your equipment can extend its usable life. Even if you plan to switch your equipment out every three years, preserving its life expectancy can prevent premature breakdown and improve the resale value, so it’s a win-win.

Careful buying decisions

Choosing the right hardware up-front ensures equipment meets your business needs. With due diligence, you can procure assets that support your business for years to come. Take into account features, cost, mobility, performance, storage, maintenance, compatibility, and warranty.


The company IT policy is your chance to give users clear and official directions. Okay, some users will ignore your policy regardless. But establishing rules for updating, maintaining, cleaning, and securing devices could prevent unnecessary damage.

Hint: You can even say that users can’t eat at their computers, which could help avert some IT horror stories.

Cleaning and routine maintenance

Clean office equipment is nicer for employees, but it can also last longer. Dust is the nemesis of computing devices. Even if you aim to keep your endpoints immaculate, internal fans pull in air. If that office air is full of dust and debris, your machines pull it in, which can lead to buildup and overheating.

Keep your office neat, and clean computer equipment using compressed air or a bit of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab or a cleaning cloth. If you plan for a computer to be out of service for a while (such as when a user is on vacation or leave), cover it to limit dust accumulation.

You can also digitally clean up your hard disk space by deleting unnecessary programs and files, emptying the recycle bin, defragmenting the disk, and performing disk cleanup. These steps free up memory to keep the system running more smoothly.


Some updates improve functionality. Others patch vulnerabilities. Either way, effective patch management can help slow your fleet’s descent into obsoleteness by maintaining system efficiency and security.


Cybersecurity and physical security can make or break your fleet, so take your protective measure seriously.

A high-quality antivirus solution, regular cybersecurity tests, and comprehensive cybersecurity training can help safeguard your systems from threats. Malware doesn’t often cause physical damage, but it can hit files hard. Worse still, ransomware could encrypt entire systems, effectively knocking out your computer equipment and data in one fell swoop.

Physical security also plays a major role. While your employees are unlikely to walk off with office desks or large machinery, they might help themselves to smaller office equipment, like their favorite stapler. And keep in mind that with insufficient building security, you also have to worry about nonemployees getting inside and posing a risk to your equipment and data. Helpful physical security measures include electric locks, a good CCTV system, and zoned access.

Surge protection

A surge protector is the obvious solution for all your surge protection needs. But don’t just plug it in and trust that that’s enough. Check your surge protectors regularly to ensure they still work. A surge can knock out protection capabilities. Many surge protectors have LED diagnostic lights to indicate that they’re functioning as intended.

Temperature control

Heat damages internal computer components, including the processor. Keeping equipment cool can significantly extend its life. Several methods improve temperature control for computer equipment:

  • Ensure the fans and heat sink work

  • Position computers away from direct sunlight and heater vents

  • Keep machines in a well-ventilated room using high-quality commercial HVAC equipment

  • Air-condition the office

  • Add fans to equipment that’s prone to overheating

Parts replacement

In some cases, replacing one component of the equipment can extend its lifespan. For instance, switching out an aging hard disk drive (HDD) for a solid state drive (SSD) can speed up a lagging computer.

However, replacing individual parts isn’t always the best course of action. In some cases, you’ll basically end up rebuilding equipment piece by piece. But it can be a temporary solution when you need an equipment upgrade but a full replacement isn’t in the budget.

Why should you replace office equipment regularly?

Regularly replacing office equipment can save you time and money in the long run. If getting fun new machines to play with isn’t reason enough, here are some other potential advantages of replacing equipment:

  • Reduce costs associated with downtime and repairs: Older equipment is more prone to malfunction and downtime. Regular maintenance costs can add up — both in terms of financial expenses and time spent. While buying new equipment can seem like a big expense, it’s often more affordable than continuing to resuscitate outdated devices.

  • Improve efficiency: Since your new equipment will probably be faster than your old equipment, users can get more done in less time.

  • Reduce security risks: Even if you diligently manage patches, older machines just weren’t designed to handle the latest security risks. And once the manufacturer no longer supports your devices, they won’t put out security patches for even widely exploited vulnerabilities. It’s like opening the doors to Fort Knox for a house party.

  • Enhance reliability: If a business-critical system goes down, your operations are affected. Replacing office equipment at the right time can help prevent interruptions to your organizational workflows.

Your office equipment served you well. Let it retire with dignity before you work it into the ground. And until that day, treat it with the respect it deserves by keeping it up to date. Sign up for a free trial of Deploy & Inventory or Connect to patch your on-prem and remote fleets. 

Meredith Kreisa headshot
Meredith Kreisa

Meredith gets her kicks diving into the depths of IT lore and checking her internet speed incessantly. When she's not spending quality time behind a computer screen, she's probably curled up under a blanket, silently contemplating the efficacy of napping.

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