How the upgrade cycle changed from the 2000s to the 2010s


FPS Junkie
Aug 20, 2020
Just as the release cycle of games slowed down (cash grabs like FIFA and co. notwithstanding) the upgrade cycle seems to have gone through a similar transition from the dawn of the millennia into the second decade. But how much did it change?

I've started recording my HW upgrades a few years ago and was able to piece together a pretty complete and accurate history from memory and partial evidence going back all the way to my first PC. So based on this data, let's see how upgrade habits have changed between the first and second decade of the new millennia.

Predictably the GPU upgrade cycle changed by the least amount: From 12 to 15 months

During the 2000s, I've upgraded my GPU 10 times, and on average one setup would serve me for 12.6 months. With the longest serving setup being used for 2 years. (Radeon 9800 Pro)

For the 2010s, this trend only slightly slowed down to 9 upgrades, and I used each configuration for an average of 15.4 months. The longest serving GPU was used for 2.5 years. (Radeon HD 5850)

The MB use cycle become almost twice as long from 19 to 34 months

I've replaced my motherboard which usually meant a brand new build also, 6 times in the 2000s, with the long service award belonging to the ASUS P5N-E SLI with 24 months. However I went through the entire last decade using only 4 different boards. Each lasting for an average of 34.4 months, almost 3 years, 2.9 to be exact

And finally the CPU upgrade cycle shows the largest change from 16 to 32 months

2000s: 8 CPUs, each lasting on average 16 months. Longest used CPU with 24 months was the Core 2 Duo E6300.
2010s: 4 CPUs, with the first one barely lasting into the 2010s, skewing the statistics to 32 months, if I don't count the CPU which was replaced in the first few months of 2010, this would go up to 36 months, as in a 3 year upgrade cycle. Longest serving CPU was the core I7-930 with 39 months to its name.

With the GPU market being as it is, I predict the video card upgrade cycle will go the same way into the 2020s, with GPUs not being replaced more often than 3 years if that, with my current GPU already being well into its third year of service, and I'm not predicting an upgrade in the foreseeable future.

For reference, my entire upgrade history.
The upgrade cycle has definitely changed. Sadly. My newest box is old tech.
I upgrade nearly every generation with rare exceptions. I've done this since the mid to late 1990's. I did run a Core i7 5960X for about 4 and a half years as everything in the mainstream segment and the jump to X299 was initially underwhelming. Still, I upgraded my GPU's almost each generation in pairs since SLI became a thing again.

I tend to buy into a platform or GPU architecture early and I do skip the refresh if it doesn't have something significant to offer over its predecessor. Broadwell-E had no appeal over Haswell-E. I skipped the GeForce 8800 Ultra as it was a small increase over the 8800 GTX's I already had.

Here is my CPU progression. I've owned a lot more than this, but this is the history of my primary gaming rig.

Intel 386 SX 16MHz
Intel 386 DX 25MHz
Cyrix 486 DX2 66MHz
Cyrix 486 DX2 80MHz
Intel 486 DX2 66MHz (Actually faster than my Cyrix 486 DX2 80MHz.)
Intel 486 DX4 100MHz
Cyrix 5x86 133MHz
Cyrix/IBM 6x86 PR166+
Cyrix/IBM 6x86 PR200+
Intel Pentium MMX 233MHz
Intel Pentium Pro 180MHz (x2)
Intel Pentium II 266MHz
Intel Pentium II 300MHz
Intel Pentium II 333MHz
Intel Pentium II 350MHz
Intel Pentium II 400MHz
Intel Celeron 300A (x4) (Attempting to get one that would overclock)
Intel Pentium III 450MHz
Intel Celeron 366MHz (x2)
Intel Celeron 533MHz (x2)
Intel Pentium III 800MHz
Intel Pentium III 1,000MHz (S370 Coppermine)
AMD Athlon 1.2GHz (Thunderbird)
AMD Athlon 1.33GHz AXIA (Thunderbird)
Intel Pentium 4 2.0A (2.0GHz)
Intel Pentium 4 2.4C (2.4GHz)
Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz
Intel Pentium 4 3.0C
Intel Pentium 4 3.0E
Intel Pentium Model 550 (3.4GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (Clawhammer)
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (Newcastle)
AMD Opteron 246 (x2)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9775 (@4.0GHz) (x2)
Intel Core i7 920 (C0/C1 stepping)
Intel Core i7 920 (D0 stepping)
Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition 980X
Intel Core i7 3930K
Intel Core i7 5960X (@ 4.4GHz)
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X
Intel Core i9 9900K
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
Intel Core i9 10900K
Intel Core i9 12900K

And here is my GPU progression. Same thing, I've omitted GPU's I've owned in other machines.

Diamond SpeedStar 24 Tseng Labs ET4000 ISA
ATI 512k VGA
Cirrus Logic CL-GD5420
Diamond SpeedStar 64 Cirrus Logic CL-GD5434 PCI
Diamond S3 Vision 964
Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 S3-ViRGE PCI
Diamond Stealth 3D 3000 S3-ViRGE/DX PCI
Diamond Monster 3D 3DFX Voodoo1 4MB PCI (combined with above)
Diamond Monster 3D II 3DFX Voodoo2 8MB PCI (combined with above)
Diamond Monster 3D II 3DFX Voodoo2 12MB PCI x2 (SLI) (combined with below)
Diamond Fire GL 1000 Pro 3Dlabs Permedia2 AGP
Matrox G200 4MB AGP
Matrox G200 8MB AGP
3DFX Voodoo 3 2000 AGP
3DFX Voodoo 3 3000 AGP
Diamond Viper V330 nVidia Riva 128 AGP
Diamond Viper V550 nVidia Riva TNT AGP
Diamond Viper V770 nVidia Riva TNT2 Ultra AGP
Herecules Geforce 2 GTS 64MB AGP
PNY Geforce 3 Ti500
PNY Geforce 4 Ti4600
PNY Geforce 4 Ti4600 (To replace the above that I smoked while overclocking)
ATI Radeon 9600Pro
ATI Radeon X800Pro
PNY Geforce 6800GT AGP
EVGA Geforce 6800GT PCI-Express x2 (SLI)
BFG Geforce 7800GTX 512MB PCI-Express x2 (SLI)
BFG Geforce 7900GTX PCI-Express x2 (SLI)
ATI Radeon X1950XTX PCI-Express x2 (Crossfire)
EVGA Geforce 8800GTX x2 (SLI)
EVGA Geforce 8800GTX x3 (3-Way SLI)
EVGA Geforce 9800GX2 (Quad-SLI)
BFG Technologies Geforce GTX 280 OC x2 (SLI)
ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 CrossfireX (Sold both cards and went to GeForce GTX 280 OC 3-Way SLI)
BFG Technologies Geforce GTX 280 OC x3 (3-Way SLI)
Diamond Multimedia ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB
Galaxy GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB x2 (SLI)
Diamond Multimedia AMD Radeon HD 7970 x2 (CrossfireX)
Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 4GB
EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 4GB x2 (SLI)
EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 x2 (SLI)
EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti x3 (SLI)
NVIDIA Titan X (Maxwell) x2 (SLI)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti x2 (SLI)
GIGABYTE RTX 2080 Ti Aorus Xtreme 11G
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 FE w/Bykski Waterblock

If you notice, there isn't a lot that I skipped. I bought the midrange Radeon 9600Pro to replace my second dead GeForce 4 Ti4600. During this time I had more interest in cars and didn't spend as much on computer hardware. So I skipped the GeForce FX series and didn't bother buying a really high end GPU like the 9700Pro or later 9800Pro. It's about the only time I ever had something midrange versus high end in my personal rig.
Ugh, the AIW 9700 Pro was awesome. I still have mine
AIW cards were trash. There I said it. When I was working part time in Comp USA's tech shops circa 2003, I had to install a number of them. The drivers for those were hot garbage. The hardware was cool when it worked but the software and drivers were among ATi's worst endeavors.
I never had an AIW, only the VIVO models. Then I switched to a dedicated TV Tuner card, which made life much easier. It was a pain always having to buy video cards that had video digitizing capability. You didn't see bad drivers and software, until you use a dedicated TV Tuner. I even had a Satellite reciever in my PC at the dawn of HD broadcasting. I was there receiving the first 1080p test broadcasts in Europe. Oh the good old times, when normies were arguing "your eyes can't see higher than DVD resolution anyway"
Become a Patron!