Should You Upgrade or Replace Your Older Mac?
Since you're here, I'll assume you have a low end Mac (any Mac or clone that doesn't have a G3). There are many factors to consider in deciding whether you're better off upgrading your current Mac or buying a newer computer.
If we had the money, the choice would be easy: buy the fastest Macintosh made (or an iMac for its good looks). But this is the real world, and we all have budgets.
Step One: Identify Your Computers Limitations and Your Unmet Needs
What are the limitations of your Mac? Can you address them without replacing it? Here are some examples of hardware limitations:
The beauty of the Macintosh is that, with a few exceptions, your old peripherals will work with a newer Macintosh (the iMac being a blatant exception to the rule). Some other exceptions: pre-ADB keyboards and mice, pre-SCSI and a few older SCSI hard drives, accelerators, some older scanners, SIMMs, and NuBus cards.) An investment in a new SCSI hard drive, Zip drive, scanner, trackball, sketch tablet, or monitor continues to provide value even if you buy a newer computer.
Step Two: Consider the Cost
A few upgrades are no-brainers. Memory is cheap. The old 30-pin SIMMs are still easy to find - and cheaper than ever. Upgrading a IIci from 4 MB or 8 MB to 20 MB should cost under $80. A $150 accelerator may make a lot more sense than a $1,300 computer (assuming a tight budget). (For current memory prices, visit Ramseeker.)
But if you're considering more than one upgrade, add up the cost. How much for more RAM? a larger hard drive? that accelerator? a faster CD-ROM? Add up those numbers. If they're over $500, figure out what your Mac could be worth if you sold it - or as an extra Mac around the house. Add this to the upgrade cost.
For instance, I had a Centris 610, the cheapest version without ethernet. I've already upgraded to 24 MB RAM and 1 MB VRAM, but needed a bigger hard drive, more RAM, and ethernet. And I really would like a CD-ROM player.
We'll compare this with the Umax J700/233, which was on close-out for $800 in June 1998.
Adding up the numbers convinced me that I would be far better off with the Umax J700. It's probably ten times faster than the accelerated Centris would have been, has accelerated video (not a Centris option), and can be upgraded with a G3 daughter card in the future.
On top of that, when I received the computer, I discovered it came with a 56k modem. I don't need two, so I sold it for $50, reducing my net cost to $620.
And other close-outs on remaining Umax, Motorola, and Power Computing equipment can be equally attractive.
Weigh your options. If it would cost $600 to bring your aging Mac where you want it, maybe upgrading isn't the best decision. Your monitor will probably work with a new Mac or Maclone (even the iMac can support a large external screen). So should most or all of your external accessories.
If your Mac is in good shape, you can probably sell it for a reasonable price. Throw in several hundred dollars more and you'll have a brand new computer that would run circles around anything you could do to beef up your aging Mac.
And there are other possibilities for your old Mac, such as turning it into a file server, print server, or internet gateway if you have several computers at home.
Another thing to consider is the used computer market. If you have an LC II, finding a nice used Quadra 605 or Centris 650 might be just what you need for the next year or two. Quadra owners can often find a great deal on a first-generation Power Mac with plenty of RAM, a larger hard drive, and CD-ROM. And the price can be very competitive with adding an accelerator plus RAM, CD-ROM, or hard drive to your aging Mac.
If you think a used Mac might be for you, check out Best Buys in Used Macs.
Step Three: Take the Plunge