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I had visited with my university a Greek IT company that specializes in refurbishing used computers and peripherals. The executive that toured us had mentioned that there is an EU regulation that requires companies to change their "computerization equipment" (both software and hardware) every three (or maybe it was six) months.

As a CS student, it seemed very strange to me that the EU is mandating such a short lifespan for devices that typically last for more than a year, so I pressed for more details, saying that a PC with a 4th-Gen Intel CPU (which she was talking about that time) is still very usable, and that Greek accounting laws state that the IT equipment's useful life for the purpose of depreciation is five years (perfectly reasonable). Her reply was that they can't do anything since that was an EU regulation, and that the Greek laws exemplify that the Greek state is a technological laggard.

This whole story seemed very fish to me. Is there actually such regulation?

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    He might have confused this with a recommendation to change your password every three months? – Paŭlo Ebermann Apr 7 at 22:18
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Apr 10 at 17:17
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No, there is no EU regulation mandating companies' IT equipment to be changed every three months.

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    I would normally ask for a citation, but its very hard to prove a negative... – sharur Apr 7 at 19:54
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    I can confirm that I have seen 10+ years old equipment held together by duck tape, even some mainframes that survived Y2K. – David Tonhofer Apr 7 at 23:50
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    @sharur I suppose it would be helpful (although, I agree, not necessary) to show a few places where one might look to find this regulation if it existed. – David Z Apr 8 at 4:12
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    @sharur You might be able to find either a contradictory law, or one that wouldn't exist if this one did (i.e. if you have to test IT equipment for electrical safety every 12 months, then you clearly can't be replacing it after just 3!) – Chronocidal Apr 8 at 8:08
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    @NotThatGuy Other answers have speculated about months meaning years and common company policies with regard to equipment replacement, accounting procedures, vendor support agreements, laptop battery life and PCISS - I'm surprised no-one has mentioned portable appliance testing. I've answered the question asked. And frankly the claim doesn't withstand the scrutiny of considering the consequences if this rule were real. Nor does 2 or 4 months. Some claims are 'not even wrong'. – Lag Apr 8 at 18:30
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This might be a result of misinformation accumulating along a communication chain, based originally on the fact that for laptop/desktop IT equipment, three years is a common lease length or purchase amortization time.

After three years, a leased device will be "paid in full" and purchased device will be fully amortized. Any factory warranty + optional warranty extension/support agreement will also tend to expire at about that time. Extending vendor support agreements for devices older than three years tends to have a higher price than an equivalent support deal for new equipment.

Also, for a laptop that has been in daily use for three years, it will be increasingly likely that it will need some form of service pretty soon: at least the battery will be worn out, if nothing else. So some businesses will make it a policy to replace laptops after three years of use, either as a matter of course, or "after three years of use, if you have any problem with it, it will be fixed by replacing it with a newer model." Apparently in large businesses, this tends to minimize the total cost of IT equipment + their maintenance with the current pricing models.

For enterprise-grade servers and storage systems, five years seems to be a similar milestone.

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    How does this explain the purported EU regulation? – phoog Apr 8 at 7:57
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    @phoog Basically I'm asserting that either the original poster or the executive they heard it from had mis-heard, misunderstood or got incorrect information in the first place, and the only correct part of the information was the number three: not three months but three years, not a regulation but a common practice, and the reasons behind such practices are rooted in amortization (tax write-off) laws and common pricing models of hardware leasing and support offerings – telcoM Apr 8 at 8:04
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    @phoog: I guess that "amortization rule of 3 years for capex" + " some finance regulations exist in the EU" = "EU has three something about IT equipment" = "EU mandates the change of IT equipment after 3 months". – WoJ Apr 8 at 10:44
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    I'd never heard the terms "Chinese whispers" or "the broken telephone effect" and glanced at/failed to understand the intent of the first paragraph initially. Might be worth plainly stating, "The executive misremembered..." or "The executive misunderstood..." (In the US I'd more likely say something like, "This sounds like a game of telephone" if I was trying to capture that sentiment) – Will Haley Apr 8 at 18:19
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To speculate a little, you may have mis-heared - there is indeed a practice to rotate IT equipment, such as laptops etc., every three years in many companies. However, this is not an EU law (what would be the point of mandating private companies how long they are allowed to use hard- and software that they bought?). Instead, it has much to do with taxation - at least in central Europe, after three years computers are written off tax-wise. What this means is that a company does not generate any tax benefits anymore from this investment, making it a good time to rotate the computer (and potentially sell it to a refurbisher, such as the one you visited). Of course by far not all companies follow this idea, but quite a lot do.

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  • Is write-off specific to central Europe? Are there different rates / lengths of time? – Peter Mortensen Apr 8 at 14:43
  • This is hilarious. Maybe there is a rule they have to rotate the equipment every three months? Smith gives his computer to Jones, Jones gives his to Miller, Miller gives his to ..., and ... gives his computer to Smith? – gnasher729 Apr 8 at 15:58
  • @PeterMortensen It has to do with warranty too. As software developer working for a large-ish (several hundred IT people) company, we get new computer every time our extended waranty runs out (usually a bit longer, as the bureaucracy or large-ish companies takes time to catch up) in czech republic. I'd say one of the reason is the hassle of not having some part of the hardware not under warranty and risking it failing and the ensuing problems with insurance companies AND the customers. We replace every server (or server part) at the latest when the warranty on it runs out on critical systems. – mishan Apr 8 at 16:02
  • @PeterMortensen in EU it is 3-5 years depending on the country. – fraxinus Apr 8 at 16:47
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    I think we can take these write-off periods (which I can confirm being regulation for Germany) as evidence against the existence of a regulation to change equipment every 3 months (or any other period shorter than the 3 years for laptops/PCs): since annual financial statements and tax declarations include such write-offs and inventory lists, they'd immediately reveal violation of any such regulation. (Besides the fact that it wouldn't make any sense at all) – cbeleites unhappy with SX Apr 9 at 14:55
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My suspicion is that this is a complete misinterpretation of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) (not EU) security standards that are mandatory (by contract not by statute) for anyone handling payment card data, which require that passwords (not hardware or software) are changed every 90 days (not three months). Although in fact it’s an out-of-date standard, and regular forced password changes are no longer best practice.

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  • I thought about this as well, but in the context of visiting a refurbishing shop this makes little sense. I still think it's more plausible that they were talking about the normal 3-year rotation of personal IT equipment that many companies have. – xLeitix Apr 8 at 10:00
  • Can you provide some sources for parts of your answer (by editing your answer, not here in comments)? Including, but not only, for the last sentence. – Peter Mortensen Apr 8 at 14:45
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    @PeterMortensen I’ve done that, but can’t link directly to the PCI standards, because they’re not available until you accept their end user agreement. – Mike Scott Apr 8 at 15:37
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As an EU citizen working in IT and frequently for the government (Bulgaria), I can confirm that I sometimes have to deal with equipment still in use as old as 15 years. The usual turnover is something like 3-5 years and is dictated by the needs and/or the available funds and not by some mandated time period.

The deprecation period of the IT equipment for accounting purposes is 3 years and it is more or less consistent over the EU.

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No, there's no such thing and from a logical stand point is not even worth asking, if you think about it. I do IT for a central european MAN/VW truck repair shop and these guys have computers right around 20 years of age because the equipment they have build into their work enviroment was made around that time and the software for it is mostly very poorly written stuff, so it doesn't work at all on anything after win XP. So imagine a law like that in this particular scenario.

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  • I'm chemist and we also frequently have measurement instruments with similar aged (or still older) PCs. Not only because of software, but often already the interfacing hardware isn't available in newer PCs. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Apr 9 at 16:15
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It's likely that the person has misheard or misunderstood the message or the writ of the law.

As mentioned, when buying IT equipment, you usually calculate a lifespan of about 3-5 years before you start hunting for new software and hardware.

However, in a security context, it's recommended to have an update/patch overhaul at least every three months.

None of those points are directly mentioned or mandated by law, but they are more or less established guidelines.

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