And which is the most frequently removed and replaced? I'm guessing the GPU but want to make sure. I'm in the process of getting some ideas for my computer. If I get a top of the line mobo, i7 CPU, 16GB of ram, and 800+ PSU, would any of those things have to be replaced in 5 years? I'm not a frequent upgrader and would like the only thing that I would need to worry about for a long time to be my graphics card. Could I get away with it with those specs?
It kind of depends on the circumstances. Whether there are any demanding games I wish to play, or whether I run into a good deal that makes me want to make the upgrade.
For me, the better way to think about it is the viability of each component over time.
Do not be too afraid to upgrade though. A lot of times, you are better off in terms of both money spent and the performance that you get over the years, by buying bang-for-buck components and upgrading them in a couple of years. By then, there are more gains to be had (at relatively low cost) and you will likely be better off then getting some 600 dollar videocard in an attempt to keep running new demanding games on it for 5 years.
For example, I built my PC somwhere halfway through 2010 when the i5-760 got released. As you see most of the time, the CPU that you get is viable a lot longer than the GPU when it comes to gaming. I started with a HD 5770. In late 2011 I upgraded to a GTX 560Ti. Since I sold the 5770 for 60 euros, and bought the 560ti for 200, it was a 140 euro upgrade. Now, with BF4 on the horizon, I had the opportunity to get a GTX 760 for just 160 euro, and sold my 560 ti for 80, which is another 80 euro upgrade.
So with spending around 200 euro, I have had a system always capable of playing demanding games on high graphical settings since 2010. My current setup will probably last me another 2 years if I wanted. Even though I might swap out the CPU and mobo at some point if I see a good deal. But with just the GPU swaps, I reckon that my system would be perfectly fine for newer games from 2010 until 2015. Even with the upgrades I made, the overall cost of my system over all that time is still easily under 1000 euros in total (keep in mind that when it comes to PC hardware, the euro and the dollar have pretty much the same value).
I5 760 | GTX 760 | FILCO Majestouch 2 tenkeyless | Zowie FK | Asus Xonar DGX | Sennheiser HD 518 | Samsung S24A350H
Thanks for the answers guys, that was helpful. I have one more, when you do usually feel it's time to upgrade? Console gamers have a 7 year track with their systems. Now for a PC gamer that doesn't mind falling into the kind of settings console games provide, could they get away with 7+ years also? Or do you guys usually consider upgrading the moment you DO start falling into mid settings? Assuming there's nothing wrong with the hardware or any defects or things like that.
I only upgrade when there's something out there that I can't play at playable settings. My previous computer last me over 6 years this way. I expect to get at least a few more years out of my current computer. I might upgrade the GPU at some point, but I doubt it.
Just as a side note to the question in your OP, you don't really ever need a top of the line motherboard. Anything in the $150-180 range will already do everything that 95% of users need.