Maybe you have an older computer and want to know how much longer you have left before needing to upgrade. Or, perhaps you’re looking to get into PC gaming and want to know the typical gaming PC lifespan or how often you should upgrade before committing. Either way, knowing how long gaming PCs last gives you an idea of when you might need to consider getting upgrades.
With basic maintenance and little-to-no modifications, a gaming PC usually lasts 7 to 10 years. After that, you may start to notice performance dips or your system becoming less and less able to play new games that require more powerful parts.. This lifetime will be extended if variables like dust, thermal paste, and routine stress test to compare performance over time.
The good news is that custom gaming PCs have greatly increased in dependability and simplified the overall experience. But the age-old question with any piece of technology is “How long will my tech last before I need to upgrade and what are the signs my PC needs upgrading?” Well, we will need to look at gaming PCs’ longevity from two angles: quality and performance.
How Long a Gaming PC Typically Lasts
Depending on the quality and support of the hardware, gaming computers last anywhere between 7 to 10 years. That said, this is not how long it takes for a generation of PC components to fall off in performance which usually only takes 3 to 4 years.
While a majority of computer hardware is built to a standard on the manufacturers end, there are factors that attribute to how long components in a gaming PC can last.
Each of a gaming PC’s components play a part in how long your system lasts. So, let’s break down each part to see how long they all last and what elements affect your gaming PC’s lifespan.
CPUs (Central Processing Units) last anywhere from 6 to 10 years. It is arguably the most core component for an operation system and by relation is subject to the most heat dispersion.
The CPU itself will heat up to anywhere between 30 and 90 degrees Celsius and then cool down to ambient temperatures. While this does not cause immediate damage to the CPU, the silicon transistors that your CPU consists of degrades over time with thousands of thermal cycles occurring. The heat is caused by the large amounts of electrical power the CPU consumes, and the more stressed the CPU, the more damage it can undergo. But, this damage is certainly not something that you need to worry too much about, as many modern CPUs have built-in protections that will prevent any serious damage from occurring.
Overclocking removes some of these protections though, so the extra performance almost always comes at the expense of longevity. If your CPU has experienced catastrophic damage, you’ll probably experience blue-screens or random shutdowns while using it heavily, and you should contact support to get this resolved.
The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is similar to the CPU as it lasts a similar amount of time; between 6 to 10 years. On standard PCs, the GPU is onboard the CPU silicon, and shares power and memory resources with the CPU.
In a gaming computer though, the GPU is housed in an additional PCB that gets slotted into the motherboard and contains its own power and memory resources.
A graphics card tends to also consume a lot more power which is why they usually come built with beefy heatsinks and 2-3 fans to keep everything nice and cool. Graphics cards will operate between 30-80 degrees Celsius though, with modern GPUs automatically scaling up and down their performance based upon how cool they are running. This means that a graphics card running at 60C while playing a game will perform better than the same one running at 80C. High temperatures and general degradation caused by extended use over many years will also damage a GPU similar to a CPU.
One way to mitigate this is to make sure your fans are running properly and ramping up when the temperature rises. GPU damage commonly causes screen flickering, weird artifacts, or even full crashes in the worst cases.
A motherboard is one of the most robust components in a computer, by this association its anticipated lifetime is tied to the CPU which can be significantly shorter at 6 to 8 years due to BIOS support dropping after a certain time period. It is the backbone of everything inside a computer, and the quality of the motherboard can affect CPU performance.
The motherboard is responsible for taking power from the power supply and delivering it to the CPU and RAM. If a motherboard cannot keep up with the power demands of the CPU, the CPU will have to throttle its performance.
The part of the motherboard that will experience the most wear over time is the Voltage Regulation Module (VRM). These are the components responsible for filtering and delivering all the power from the power supply to the CPU. These components are rated to work at temperatures up to 105C or even 125C. They do not produce a lot of heat though, which is why they usually will only have a metal heatsink attached to them and not require an active fan.
The rest of the motherboard has many other components, so make sure to be careful when working with it so you do not snap off a capacitor or some other small component.
Power supplies are some of the most reliable components in gaming PCs that can be carried over from old computers quite easily, and will often last between 10-15 years, though most warranties run out after five.
The Power Supply Unit (PSU) is the part of the computer that takes the AC power from the wall and transforms it into DC power for your computer to use. These are usually very efficient at doing this, so they don’t need much cooling, though almost all power supplies come with a fan just for when the computer needs a lot of power.
The efficiency of most PSUs are actually tested and verified to be at a certain threshold, and you can look up how efficient your PSU is by finding the 80+ sticker on it and checking its efficiency curve online or in our article about how PSUs work. Modern power supplies also come with over-current, reverse current, and over-voltage protection too, which will help protect your CPU, GPU, motherboard, and hard drives from damage if one component fails spectacularly. This is important because a poor power supply that doesn’t do this can catch fire and explode, which is very catastrophic.
The Random Access Memory (RAM) are modules slotted into the motherboard. As they are tied to the motherboard's compatibility, RAM can last anywhere from 6 to 8 years or to the motherboard's lifetime. When plugged into the motherboard, they are secured down by clips which help prevent them from falling out of their slots, but these use silicon transistors like every other component, meaning that heat and electrical stress can damage them in the long run.
On the upside, RAM seldom uses a lot of power and therefore produces marginal amounts of heat. They also come with metal heat spreaders to help dissipate heat to air coming from your fans. Without fans in a computer case, RAM will overheat more often, and product failures can result in blue screens and program bugs.
For gaming PCs, Solid State Drives (SSDs) and Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) contain all the data you save and want to maintain each time the computer is powered on and off. These storage drives last anywhere from 5 to 10 years in most use cases. Most drives are warrantied for about 50TB of data written to them each year, with the manufacturer warranties lasting 2-5 years depending on the quality/series of the drive.
Every storage device is rated and warranted for a certain amount of data written and read. These are the most sensitive components, though, and are often the first to fail. Drives should be treated delicately. For both storage drives, power failure or surge can immediately cause damage to the storage cells and corrupt saved data. This will often cause Windows to be unable to load or work properly. Getting a magnet or speaker too close to a drive will cause data corruption.
Computers with hard drives need particular care as they spin very quickly and need to be precisely balanced to work. Sudden jolts, bumps, or drops can damage the internal platters and cause data loss. Just ask Yahoo, who lost hundreds of terabytes of data when they transported hard drives through a parking lot between buildings, where the cart shaking over the asphalt caused damage to them. When a computer is left in peace, though, both hard drives and SSDs can last for many years.
The bottom line is that your PC could last 7-10 years without any issues if you treat it well. The recommendation is to take 5-10 minutes monthly to dust off the computer and double-check fans to ensure they don’t have too much dust build-up. Consider heat the enemy of your PC’s longevity, where the lower the temperatures, the longer the life of the computer.
Performance Factors of Gaming PCs
On the topic of performance, it’s no question that PCs have been getting better and running faster every year, with new parts constantly coming out.
As a result, while a gaming desktop with the newest hardware may physically last up to 10 years, their peak performance drops off after only 3 or 4. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you can’t play all the newest games after that point; just that you might not be able to play the biggest and latest games at the highest settings anymore.
For PC gamers, it’s always a losing battle to get the best PC ever, as the goalposts are constantly moving. On the upside, though, computers in the past 10 years have all reached a point where most software is compatible with almost all hardware, so you won’t have to worry about buying hardware that’s incompatible with certain software.
Of course, newer hardware will run faster and more efficiently than older hardware. Hopefully, you’ll realize that having the latest and greatest is just a silly bragging right, though, as the performance is often not that much better to justify constant upgrades. Let’s dive in a bit deeper and check out two different games.
Players Unknown Battleground was an instant hit in 2017 when the game first came out and has seen a lot of performance optimizations since its release.
As an example, let’s look at how PCs from the past five years would perform with a brand new system. To gather the performance numbers, we used an AMD Ryzen 5 3600, 16GB of RAM, and a collection of GPUs from various years, consisting of a GTX 960, GTX 1060, GTX 1660, and GTX 1660 Super. We did our best to ensure a level playing field so PUBG was played on the same PC. The desktop computer we use is the base Apex Streamer. We measured the average frames per second (FPS) throughout a game, from drop to death. In short, the more FPS your computer produces, the more responsive the game will feel, and the smoother the video game will appear, which improves your overall experience.
GTX 1660 S
As you can see above in the chart and graph, older graphics cards of the same price class will perform worse in games compared to modern games.
We’ve specifically isolated the graphics card as the component to test, as for 90% of games, the graphics card your computer has will determine how well your game runs. You’ll notice how graphics cards from five years ago are about 50% faster than modern graphics cards, though the GTX 1060 graphics card from just three years ago is only about 17% worse.
Though both can be noticed in-game, upgrading a five-year-old computer will be much more night and day than upgrading a 2-year-old computer. This is not indicative of shifting price classes, so upgrading from a $1,000 PC 3 years ago to a $2,000 computer today will make a more noticeable difference. From the graphs, it’s easy to see that over about 4-5 years, graphics cards double in performance for the same price bracket. This is corroborated by our data with PUBG as well.
Game developers constantly push PCs to the limit to create the most immersive and visually stunning experience possible. With the advent of new game consoles on the horizon, the standard for PC games will rise that much higher, which is awesome for gamers.
Unfortunately, that also means that those great, old gaming PCs from five years ago will start to struggle with new games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Call of Duty.
That's not to say your PC will not be able to play the latest title at all, though. The tolerance for lower FPS will vary from person to person, but as games advance, the same hardware won’t be able to push the same frame rates that you’ve grown accustomed to.
Having a Freesync monitor that adjusts its refresh rate to match my graphics card’s output greatly helps, as I never experience any hitches, stutters, or screen tears.
How Long Do Gaming Prebuilds Last?
For multiple reasons, gaming prebuilds can last much longer than those assembled at home.
Processes like defective part testing, refined QC processes, and precise BIOS setting modifications, almost all of Apex Gaming PC’s are built for the long run.
In addition to our build and QC process, our RMA department has access to on-hand older generation hardware to swap nonfunctional parts up to three years after the hardware release and offer alternative options if those parts are no longer supported by the manufacturer.
Do Gaming PCs Last Longer Than Consoles?
PCs offer a more giant support net for constituted service compared to their console counterparts. Standard parts are compatible with over 20 years of standardized connections and compatibility standards for gamers and creators alike. Both have the potential to last if taken care of accordingly. However, a PC has more of an interactive media base if you're looking to learn the ropes, making it a great alternative to a console.
Summary of Gaming PC Lifespan
Your PC will likely last you anywhere from seven to ten years from a longevity standpoint and four to five years from a gaming standpoint. Our general recommendation is to look to upgrade at least your graphics card after about five years of your initial purchase, as most likely, two generations of graphics cards have come out and most likely doubled your current performance.
Your CPU and other components are less important in playing video games than the graphics card. However, game studios may make even larger jumps with the next generation of PC hardware and consoles. You’ll want to upgrade next year to experience next-gen games with real-time Ray Tracing, which look amazing but require specialized hardware.
If you’re looking for a custom gaming computer with specialized hardware to perform your best, give us a call.
That is the blessing and curse of technology: it always gets better.
Written By Davis Ranney
Edited By William Wilson
Last Edit: 12/28/2022