Getting a great second-hand computer deal

Unlike other tech hardware, purchasing a computer generally requires a little more vigilance.

Here are some tips and tricks that will help you find a great second-hand computer.

Important parts to verify

The key components you should pay attention to are the processor (type and speed), the memory size and the type of operating system. You should also look at the parts listed below:

  • hard drives;
  • the graphic card(s);
  • the monitor;
  • the screen;
  • The sound card.

On Mac, do not forget to check its release date (to know its generation).

The computer’s “life”

After making sure the parts are all functional and live up to their advertised condition, try to learn what the computer was used for. Playing long hours of video games will tend to tire out the internal components, especially if the processor has been running at full capacity for a substantial amount of time.

A laptop that has travelled a lot and has had damage from falling will be more susceptible to have weakened hard drives.

However, consider that even a well-maintained computer may also experience problems due to scheduled obsolescence or simple technical failure. Common sense and a keen sense of observation will be equally important during the evaluation process.

The computer’s “memory”

Before completing the purchase, make sure that no personal data is on the computer and to check if any software is installed and if so, confirm that they are included in the sale. Should this be the case, make sure you get the access keys the software so you can use them.

Open your eyes

Visually inspecting the computer you are about to purchase is no less important than checking its parts. For a tower, ask to open it to see the components and their condition, not to mention the cleanliness of the tower, which can generally reveal its overall health. Test if the cards are well installed and the components are all in place, after having touched the power supply to discharge any of your static electricity.

Also ask the seller if he or she still has the original boxes with warranty papers and instruction booklets as well as dedicated peripherals and accessories.

Yes, but at what price?

In the second-hand computer market, there is about a 30% difference in the price of a new computer or for components or computers in very good condition. The older it is and looks, the more the price should go down.

As for Macs, the selling price is still a little higher than for most PCs, which is also valid for new models. The website http://www.mac2sell.net/ will give you a realistic overview of the price you would expect for a given model.

A legitimate acquisition

Particularly for laptops, make sure that:

    • Stickers with serial numbers are still on it. If they are not, and that the vendor’s justification is vague, ask about the contents of the computer.
    • There is no personal information still on the laptop.
    • In case you are buying a new computer from the second-hand market, make sure you have the invoice or warranty and to verify its legitimacy.

Naturally, the presence of original cables, packaging, booklets, guarantees and invoice is a good indication of the legitimacy of the owner.

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof solution against stolen goods that are resold. In the case of Macs, there is a “Locate my Mac” application, which enables remote locking, if it has been activated. So be careful. If the price is too low, ask more questions!

Finally, don’t forget to pay special attention to the following three tips:

    • If you are told that there are still guarantees, make sure you have the papers.
    • Ask for software access keys to ensure that they are valid should you need to reinstall any of them.
    • Make sure that the serial numbers are still visible.