Whether you’re buying a single office PC or an entire shipment of medical-grade computers for a new hospital, you want to know you’re getting your money’s worth. In particular, you want to be sure that your new computers will last long enough for you to get a good return on your investment. 

However, computer lifespans are a tricky topic, as they depend on factors outside of a manufacturer’s control. The use rate, maintenance, the operating environment, and more can all affect how long a computer can remain effective. Today, we’ll examine the various factors that influence a computer’s longevity and how the unique circumstances of the healthcare world affect those factors. 

Longevity Factors for Computers

On average, a PC will last between 3 and 8 years, depending on how well it’s cared for. Laptops are not so fortunate and typically last between 3 and 5 years. This is because their batteries inevitably degrade, they cannot dissipate heat as effectively as PCs, and they are more susceptible to damage such as drops and bumps from being handled. 

Things get interesting for PCs in the healthcare world, however. While the demands of the field can negatively impact computer longevity, there are also required design features that have the side effect of boosting a computer’s longevity. 

  • Dust: Dust building up on a computer’s circuits or in its fans can impair cooling and even cause electrical shorts in the motherboard. However, medical computers are engineered with ingress protection (IP) that seals the case against dust and fanless cooling solutions that don’t spread it. 
  • Disk Fragmenting: As data is saved to a hard disk drive, it gradually gets fragmented and broken up to save space on that drive. If this data is not regularly defragmented, the computer can slow down and eventually cease functioning. However, most medical PCs rely on solid-state drives (SSD), which do not need to be defragmented.
  • Water and Humidity: Water and high relative humidity can easily damage a computer’s electronic components. Fortunately, medical environments are typically kept dry, and a medical computer’s IP sealing blocks out most humidity as well. 
  • Battery Health: For any device reliant on rechargeable batteries (such as laptops, battery-powered PCs, or medical tablets), maintaining proper battery health is critical. While all rechargeable batteries inevitably degrade over time, letting them drain down to 0% or overcharging them for extended periods will accelerate this degradation. 
  • 24/7 Operation: Leaving a computer on 24/7 wears on its components and can cause image burn-in on LCD panels. Therefore, most computer manufacturers recommend that you shut your PC off if you aren’t going to use it for an extended period (such as at the end of a workday). However, medical PCs often have to operate 24/7, as they support vital, even life-sustaining equipment. Therefore, manufacturers will use resilient, high-quality components to endure these operational requirements

Typical Signs It’s Time to Replace Your PC

Sadly, no matter how much effort you make, there will come a time when you’ll have to replace your PC. It’s important to recognize these signs and take steps to replace this faltering computer before it fails. However, the medical world again places unique modifiers on these conditions that need recognition. 

  • Slow Startup and Shutdown: A functional PC should be able to boot up and be functional within 30 seconds of hitting the power button and shut down completely within the same span of time. It may be a sign of hard drive or RAM issues if it can’t accomplish either of these tasks. A medical computer with an SSD can dodge these issues, thankfully. 
  • Noisy Fans: Noisy fans are a sign of an overworked and overheating CPU as they try to blow cool air over the failing component. However, medical computers typically don’t have fans. This means that the computer’s users should use the computer’s diagnostic systems to check on the CPU’s temperature and ensure it isn’t overheating. 
  • Can’t Update Operating System: A computer’s operating system is critical to its security and typically sees frequent updates. Being unable to update your operating system, such as it being phased out by the developer, is typically a reason for replacing the PC. Medical PCs are an abnormality: they frequently have their image “set” and don’t want their OS updated
  • Can’t Run or Update Software: Typically, computer users desire the newest and most capable software. However, medical computers face the opposite issue: they must work with old, unsupported legacy tools and software. This need for legacy compatibility lessens the requirement to work with new technology but does not negate it entirely. The march of progress inevitably means that older models become obsolete at some point.

Closing Thoughts

No tool or device can last forever; sadly, computers are no different. The mark of a responsible owner is knowing how to extend their device’s lifespan and the warning signs of one that needs to be replaced. While medical computers integrate multiple features that extend their longevity, the importance of their work makes replacing them as they begin to fail that much more important. 

If you’re looking for medical computers with long operational lifespans, contact the team at Cybernet Manufacturing. We’d be happy to discuss how our devices are engineered to be durable and long-lasting.

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