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Brett Nordquist (Customer Experience Engineer)

Buy It For Life

Written on August 19, 2016 by Brett Nordquist

A few weeks ago, I called a customer who had recently purchased a computer from us. She explained that she'd configured a new system to run Adobe Creative Cloud to support her business. I brought up her profile and noticed she'd purchased a computer from us back in 2008. I said, "Did the last computer we built for you finally stop working?" 

"No, it's working great. I just needed something more powerful so I passed it down to my mother who uses it for email and Facebook." 

A closer look at the notes on the older system showed that we'd installed a larger primary hard drive about three years ago. But outside of a few questions about Windows 7, not a single repair ticket had been opened in nearly eight years of use. 

We take pride in building computer that last, but I was still impressed her computer had given her 8 years of trouble-free service. I began to wonder what products I own that fit the profile: 

  • 8+ years of ownership
  • Daily use
  • Trouble-free operation

I spent some time walking around my home, and I realized that most of what I own is only a few years old. Turn on the TV, and we're constantly bombarded with messages that what we have is too old or just not good enough. There's usually some magic feature that will transform our lives for the better that's only found in the latest model. You need this today because it's faster, sleeker, lighter or more  powerful. 

During my search I came across products I've had for a few years, but most of them are not ones I use each day. But I did find a few: 

Timbuk2 Messenger Bag - I purchased this bag in 1999, and still use it nearly everyday to carry around my laptop and headphones when I leave my house. My bag is an incredibly boring green and brown, but I don't care. It gets the job done. 

ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Knives - I brought a set of the Four Star series knives home from a business trip to Stuttgart, Germany. That was back in 1997 and they get used every day. I've had the knives professionally sharpened a few times, and they are still remarkably balanced in my hand today. Last year I sent the tomato knife in for repair, and ZWILLING replaced it with a newer model at no charge. 

Honda Odyssey - I put just over 200,000 miles on this van over the course of 10 years. Outside of regular maintenance, it was the most reliable car I've owned. Given the long trips we take during the summer, I decided to replace it last November. With a newer Odyssey. 

Dualit Classic Toaster - My spouse couldn't believe I paid over $100 for a toaster, but this one has lasted 12 years and shows no signs of slowing down. I like that the heating elements aren't exposed so my son, who tried to extract a bagel with a butter knife, didn't electrocute himself. Get the red model if you dare. 

I've recommended each of these products to friends and family. If they finally do need to be replaced, I won't hesitate to purchase them again. 

The oldest computer I own is a Puget Systems Serenity. I upgraded the primary drive to an SSD and installed an NVIDIA GTX 960 so that I could run three monitors and play a game called Firewatch. As much as I enjoy it, it's only half way to the 8-year threshold. 

If you're like me, you might enjoy the Buy it For Life group on Reddit. I also read the Wirecutter for gadget reviews and the Sweethome for home related products. 

What products have you purchased that have withstood the test of time? 

Tags: Serenity, Timbuk2, Dualit
Martin Emmerset

Well I'm still using mine from 2011. System #69930 :-) Added Ram to 8GB, Changed Graphics to a 970, Swapped Power Supply after mysterious double failures back to back, and added a ~512GB Samsung SSD drive. But I still consider it my "old" system and I'm happy with it. Working toward a new one to try to go another 5 years as the motherboard and processor are far behind right now. Looked back on the order form and this is what I wrote:

"System will be used for Content Creation and web application development. It will also be used to play
the latest and greatest games at 1920 x 1200 resolution. System will be for Home/Home Office environment. Processor may be upgraded in the future if necessary. machine will be kept for at least 4 or 5 years so looking for longterm expansion and usability."

And that's what I got ^_^

Posted on 2016-08-21 18:09:03

That's great to hear! Looks like you made a number of worthwhile upgrades as well.

Posted on 2016-08-23 00:57:58

Great topic. Would you believe I have only had 3 computers since 1993? Okay, I also had a laptop for a short period, but it only taught me to hate batteries.

My parents introduced me to computing with a TRS80 in the 1980s and then I bought my own second-hand Commodore 128 around 1990 or so. Since I started buying new, I have purchased a computer about once every 7-8 years or so.

June 1993 - 486DX-33 - nice to have one of those fancy internal harddrives instead of running everything off floppy disks. Along the way, I upgraded the modem from 14.4 kbps to 56kbps so I could enjoy the internet in the fast lane.

July 2001 - Pentium 4 at 1.5GHz - Incredible performance update. A scientific calculation that took several hrs with my old computer only took ~15 seconds with the new machine. I think the software overcoming my poor programming was the biggest factor in that improvement.

March 2008 - Core2 processor (quad-core at 3GHz) - Got this one from Puget (system #45621) because I wanted more power. It is still my main machine. I have been running this one non-stop with distributed computing projects, so it needed a fan replacement a couple years ago and I had two graphics cards die. At some point along the way, I also replaced the main drive with an SSD and added a second harddrive for data storage. So the machine isn't exactly original, but the CPU, RAM, and motherboard have never been touched.

TBD 2017 - new system from Puget is planned. Although my current computer is running fine, the hard drive is over 97% full, and I am looking for something more energy efficient. Will this be my computer for life? Perhaps, but if history is any indication, I will be back here in the 2025-2026 timeframe looking for my next upgrade.

Posted on 2016-08-21 20:38:46

I still remember the excitement when I bought my first 486DX-33. Dual-booted into DOS or Windows 3.11. I spent most of my time in WordPerfect for DOS and Links Golf in Windows.

Posted on 2016-08-23 01:03:30

Great topic. It will be interesting to see the lists of others.

I use my Obsidian every day. It is from 2011 #82118. I upgraded to an Intel 240 GB SSD, added 16 GB RAM, a GTX 750 video card, and upgraded to Win 10. I am still running the original PSU, MoBo, fans, and CPU. This machine was built to last, and I am happy to say that it performs as well as the day unpacked it.

My experience with my Traverse 15" notebook is similar. I have not changed out any components except for upgrading to a wide-gamut matte screen that was done by Puget Systems. I also upgraded to Windows 10. I know it will last a long, long time.

As far as other things I own that are 'built for life', the top of the list is my custom built acoustic guitar. It was made by Michael Hornick of Shanti Guitars. The materials and artful construction are impeccable. It was built in 2009, and is still in pristine condition. I play it every day.

Also on the list are an old Epson R2400 printer, and a Microtek ArtixScan 1800F scanner. Both have seen heavy use. I did have to replace the power switch on the printer and have the waste ink pads replaced, but those were minor fixes on a machine that has made hundreds of prints. The scanner has been a reliable workhorse.

I do plan to replace the Obsidian at some point, and when I do, I will spec another Puget Obsidian machine--they are that good.

Posted on 2016-08-22 18:35:46

I like hearing from others what products have given them years of good use like your Hornick guitar. Something like that gets better with age.

Posted on 2016-08-23 01:05:44
John Emery

I have a Bosch jig saw that I bought in 1988, and aside from replacing the cord a few times, it has been trouble free for 28 years! My Milwaukee Sawzall is 27 years old and still working great! Just goes to show that if you invest in top level products, they will last a long time.

Posted on 2016-08-23 18:38:43

I've had great luck with Bosch products as well, but 27 years with the Sawzall is incredible. One of my worst purchases ever was a cheap (sub $100) chainsaw that didn't last two seasons.

Posted on 2016-09-06 05:46:33

It's exactly 102 months or 8 and a half years of everyday use of my white MacBook. With the original power adapter! :)

Posted on 2016-09-07 18:15:40

And forgot to mention - original battery too, which is estimated to have 93% of it's original capacity. (Although I bothered to use it most often between 30% - 80% of charge when working stationery.)

Posted on 2016-09-07 18:18:10

I'm still on a 2.4 GHz computer built for me in 2009 by Mike Chin from SPCR. It's still working great, and my computing environment has been heavenly quiet for the past 7 years. But my needs have changed recently and I will need to make an upgrade next year when Kaby Lake Xeons come out.

Posted on 2016-09-22 21:21:27