How Long Does a Gaming PC Last?

How Long Does a Gaming PC Last?

Many of our clients ask us, “How long will this gaming PC last?”. Gaming PCs have come a long way in the past ten years. Some may recall the old PC vs Mac commercials in which Apple would make fun of the poor reliability of PCs and their terrible experiences. The good news is that 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?”

Well, we will need to look at a custom gaming PCs’ longevity from two angles: quality and performance.

Quality Factors Affecting Gaming Computers

CPU

Starting from the heart of a PC, Central Processing Units (CPUs) are one of the most important parts of a PC. Luckily, most CPUs will have a lifespan of 5-10 years depending on a few factors. CPUs undergo countless cycles of thermal heating and cooling during normal use. This occurs every time you power on your PC and power it off. 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 your CPU 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. 

GPU

The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is similar to the CPU in that it is one of the most important parts of a PC. 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 discrete 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 worse cases. 

Motherboard

A motherboard is one of the most robust components in a computer. 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 Supply

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. Power supplies are some of the most reliable components that can be carried over from old computers quite easily, and will often work for 10-15 years, though most warranties run out after 5. 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. 

RAM

The Random Access Memory (RAM) are PCB sticks that will plug into the motherboard, just to the right of the CPU. 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 though, RAM almost never 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 produce failures that can result in blue screens and bugs in programs. 

Storage Drives

For gaming PCs, Solid State Drives (SSDs) and Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) contain all the data that you save and want to maintain each time the computer is powered on and off. Every storage device is rated and warranted for a certain amount of data written and read from them. For most drives, they 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. 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. Even 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 in order 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 shaking of the cart 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 former lasting 5-15 years on average while the latter will often last more than 10 years.

The bottom line is that your PC very well could last 7-10 years without any issues if you treat it well. Ensuring your PC is cool by dusting it out on a regular basis will go a long way when it comes to longevity. Houses with pets, smokers, or lots of dust should be especially diligent in cleaning their PCs. The recommendation is to take 5-10 minutes once a month to dust off the computer, and double-check fans to make sure they don’t have too much dust build-up. Consider heat to be 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 run faster every year, with new parts constantly coming out. For PC gamers, it’s always a losing battle of trying 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 PC we used is the base Apex Streamer. We measured the average frames per second (FPS) over the course of 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.

Settings

GTX 960

GTX 1060

GTX 1660

GTX 1660 S

Low

66

99

113

121

Medium

60

95

108

119

High

54

91

99

111

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 be the determining factor in how well your game runs. You’ll notice how graphics cards from five years ago are about 50% as fast as modern graphics cards, though the GTX 1060 graphics card from just 3 years ago is only about 17% worse. Though both can be noticed in-game, upgrading a 5-year-old computer will be a much more night and day difference compared to upgrading a 2-year-old computer. This is not indicative, though, of shifting prices classes, so upgrading from a $1,000 PC from 3 years ago to a $2,000 computer today will make a more noticeable difference. Checking out a performance breakdown of over 41 different graphics cards from the past decade, you can see how older graphics cards handle Doom Eternal, an intense modern shooter. From the graphs, it’s easy to see that over about 4-5 years, graphics cards approximately double in performance for the same price bracket. This is corroborated by our data with PUBG as well.


Game developers are constantly pushing 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 games is just going to raise that much higher, which is awesome for gamers. Unfortunately, that also means that those awesome gaming PCs from five years ago will start to struggle with the 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. Personally, I have a PC that is approaching 4 years old now. It’s certainly not an average PC with an i7-6700K, GTX 1080, and 32GB of RAM, but I have no trouble playing modern titles. Having a Freesync monitor that can adjust its refresh rate to match my graphics card’s output greatly helps, as I don’t ever experience any hitches, stutters, or screen tears. 

Bottom Line: How Long Does a Gaming PC Last?

Your PC will likely last you anywhere from 7-10 years from a longevity standpoint and 4-5 years from a gaming standpoint. Our general recommendation is to look to upgrade at least your graphics card after about 5 years of your initial purchase, as most likely 2 generations of graphics cards have come out and most likely doubled your current performance. Your CPU and other components are less important in games compared to the graphics card. However, it is possible that game studios will make even larger jumps with the next generation of PC hardware and consoles, and you’ll want to upgrade your gaming PC in the next year or two to experience next-gen games with real-time Ray Tracing and 4K graphics, which look amazing but does require specialized hardware.

That is the blessing and curse of technology: it always gets better.

If you’re looking for a custom gaming computer with specialized hardware to perform your best, give us a call. Apex Gaming offers gaming PC financing for easy payment plans.

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