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Every once in a while I see the claim that lifespan of a laptop is more or less the same, no matter how often it is used. How far is this from being true? Is it true that the difference in lifespan is not significant one?

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    The answer here may depend significantly on definitions. Do you consider a laptop dead if the hard drive dies? Or one of the RAM chips? Or the screen? How many stuck pixels will you tolerate before you consider the screen to be dead? Do different types of components affect the definitions (e.g. SSDs vs. Spinning hard drives)? – Ladadadada Mar 27 '14 at 14:19
  • Define "significant" - what is the expected lifespan? I have seen laptops die after a year, after five years, even after twenty years of service (really); before they stopped working, they were in all kinds of conditions - from "like new" to "barely working". Also, various components degrade differently - is a computer with a replaced battery, replaced heatsink, replaced CPU, replaced RAM modules, replaced WiFi antenna, replaced keyboard, a replaced touchpad and a replaced media daughterboard still considered the original, even though it's clearly "working"? – Piskvor Mar 27 '14 at 15:25
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    @Piskvor in the context of this site, significant means "statistically significant". In other words is there some form of statistical correlation between hours of use and breakage/repairs/etc. – Sklivvz Mar 27 '14 at 15:35
  • @Sklivvz: Ah, good point, thanks for pointing that out. – Piskvor Mar 27 '14 at 15:37
  • According to our Privileges section, you should only use comments to request clarification from the author or leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving his post. Review the When shouldn't I comment? section and avoid off topic comments. – Sklivvz Mar 30 '14 at 12:42
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I'm taking a practical rather than theoretical approach so I'm going to define "lifespan" as:

The lifespan is the period from the first time the laptop is used after initial sale, to last time the laptop is used by anyone.

The lifespan, using this definition, can be affected by usage. Break this down by the reasons why the laptop ceases being used:

  1. Mechanical failure causing end of use (Note: Almost anything is technically fixable, but to calculate the lifespan we are looking at events which result in the laptop not repaired, whether for economic reasons, unavailability of parts, user not being aware of repair options or anything else):
    1. Accidents. I'm making an assumption that a laptop in use is at higher risk of being dropped, liquid damage, etc.
    2. Fans, dust and other cooling problems: Increased use causes more dust be drawn into the system which causes heat related failures in many different componants. Fans also have a limited lifespan, affected by usage and further affected by heat.
    3. SSD lifespan is limited by write-cycles. Many modern SSDs will outlast their host computer, but none the less, the lifespan is affected by usage.
  2. Software faults causing end of use (Note: Software faults can always be resolved by a competent person, but in the real world laptops do get replaced for this reason, thus affecting the lifespan):
    1. Viruses, malware, etc. A laptop can only be practically attacked while turned on, so the chance of malware is drastically increased by usage.
    2. User initiated software problems i.e. the user deleted something vital or caused a performance problem by installing software. I would guess this is the more frequent cause of replacement of 3-5 year old laptops.

Note: I'm not including theft here. I think risk of theft might increase with use, but a stolen laptop is likely to remain in use, just with a different user
mmary:

TL;DR Yes, the lifespan of laptop does depend significantly on its usage.

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    You forgot mechanical wear: I've seen many cases of the hinges connecting the screen to the base unit being the reason for a laptop to go out of use. – Twinkles Apr 30 '14 at 14:04
  • You also forgot to mention battery wear. Li-ion batteries lose capacity over time, regardless of whether they're used or not, but high usage (and certain usage patterns such as deep-discharges) speed the process up. Additionally the recent trend has been for non-replacable batteries, or at least ones that require disassembly to replace. – GordonM Nov 11 '16 at 17:00
  • Technically, CPU's have a lifespan too due to things like atomic-level degradation of the logic gates, but this is not usually a limiting factor. Even if you run a cpu hot and at a higher than allowed voltage 24/7 (hot being one of the biggest factors) it'll still last 5-10 years. (see serverfault.com/questions/64956/…) – Cody P Nov 11 '16 at 17:36
  • I think you'll find that most laptops (and desktops) have a 'lifespan' that's not determined by component failure, but by "Gee, I want a shiny new one!" I have never known one to actually fail beyond simple repairs like replacing a backlight or cooling fan - and indeed, I'm writing this on a 10 year old Thinkpad :-) – jamesqf Nov 11 '16 at 18:31

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