Budget Acquisitions: What You Need to Know



Looking for a new laptop? Discouraged by high prices? Considering going with a refurbished model or pre-used unit in order to save some money? If so, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. While the vast majority of sellers of refurbished and second hand laptops are honest businessmen who will sell you good products, there are always a few bad apples. You’ll need to learn to spot some of the signs of dealing with a fraudster, so we’ve compiled a few of them here.


Firstly, you’re probably best to go straight to the manufacturer for refurbished and second hand units, as these are the people who will know what they’re doing and what has to be done to render an older machine as good as new. Most refurbished laptops are models that have been refitted following a recall for a particular defect, or have been returned to the factory for a major individual fault.  Sourcing a machine like this from the manufacture means they will have been refitted with the right parts. Be aware, however, that even manufacturers are likely to advertise savings in a clever way: many will compare the selling price for a refurbished laptop to its original selling price at release, rather than to the price at which a new machine of the same type would currently sell.


Secondly, you should make sure that the laptop you’re getting has actually been refurbished. Horror stories abound on the Internet of users who have purchased a second hand laptop or computer only to discover data on the hard drive of a worrying or legally suspect nature. This can often happen when a business has sold its old computers off wholesale and they have never been properly wiped or returned to factory settings. On the hardware side, a second hand laptop that hasn’t had its components checked and replaced where necessary may suffer from a number of additional defects, such as bad battery life (lithium-ion batteries have a limited lifespan) or problems with overheating due to damaged fans and heat sinks. In the latter case, other components can be damaged as a side-effect, with processors and logic boards often suffering under the strain of excess heat.


Finally, you should be aware that – because of the relatively low cost of components at present – the savings you appear to be making on a second hand machine are often not much better than the cost of a similarly spec-ed new-build laptop. Do research into the specifications you need (rather than buying something with the biggest numbers) and you’ll often be able to find an affordable solution, factory-fresh. This isn’t to say you can’t sometimes find a good deal on a refurbished product, but you will have to take things on a case-by-case basis, and where the option exists, it’s always worth paying a little extra for a new machine that you know will have a limited set of possible problems, rather than leaping into the second hand market’s black hole of potential pitfalls.