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How do I future-proof my computer?


Could you have future-proofed this classic Macintosh computer back in the early '90s to anticipate today's computing trends and technologies? Probably not.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Here's a good idea: Instead of getting a computer that's going to be obsolete and make you look like your grandmother in three years, how about you decide to upgrade -- or even build -- your own computer that will last eons and eons?

You might already realize why no one has fully latched onto this particular plan. Future-proofing your computer essentially means making sure it has an amalgamation of the latest technology and hardware that will (hopefully) make it last longer (and require fewer upgrades) than buying a new computer every few years. But is it really possible to future-proof your computer? If it is, how can you do it -- and why isn't everyone doing it already? In the next couple of pages, we'll discuss what future-proofing is and if there are some effective ways of going about it.

The short answer is ... kind of. There are some ways to future-proof your computer, but watch out: Nothing lasts forever. Technology that's cutting-edge -- especially parts like your motherboard and processor -- will probably have a pretty long life. That's because these big components are more slowly adopted and thus less likely to become outdated fast. If you're researching trends as well, you can find motherboards and processors that will be able to support software for a long time, even as the software itself requires more resources.

Keep in mind that this applies mostly to those building their own PCs or adapting one. There's a strong argument to be made that premade computers -- your Macs, your Dells -- are a very reasonable deal, even from a future-proofing point of view. Buying really expensive, state-of-the-art parts is going to set you back a lot of money initially. Whether you'll really make up the cost from the out-of-the-box computer is not a foregone conclusion, which leads us to a few reasons why you really can't future-proof your computer in a lasting, meaningful way. Just as that little voice in the back of your head warns you, nothing lasts forever. Actual future-proofing would require an accurate fortune teller who could predict what kind of technology will be necessary and in-demand three, five, ten years from now. It's simply unrealistic to guarantee the potential of computer hardware.

The general consensus seems to be that spending a reasonable amount on what you need and then upgrading components (or computers) is more practical than spending an absurd amount on a possible trend.