Yes, You Can Make Your Tech Survive Obsolescence

First we buy a gadget. For the next few years, the manufacturer releases an occasional software update that fixes bugs and protects us from vulnerabilities. One day, those updates stop coming. According to conventional wisdom, that’s the time to buy a new device.

But what if it isn’t?

The truth is, upgrades needn’t be so automatic. We can often delay them if we follow some best security practices and take control of our personal tech. After all, it’s unrealistic for everyone to upgrade on a tech company’s schedule — some devices, including expensive Android phones, cease getting software updates after only two years. Not all of us have the time or money to buy new products that regularly.

At the same time, we don’t want to hold on to our gadgets so long that they become vulnerable to bugs, cyberattacks and other flaws. Software upgrades are typically necessary for those reasons. Everybody needs to be able to use technology safely to live and work, said Hilary Shohoney, the executive director of Free Geek, a nonprofit that repurposes outdated machines for schools and senior citizens.

“We have to ride the line between what the reality is for a lot of people and recognizing that everybody has to engage in the digital world,” she said. “It’s not a fair thing to say you need the best computer to get the best security.”