Buying used computers

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Post by DanielZ »

I think i read somewhere on the blog that Jacob buys older computers which he sells again when a new version of windows comes out. I would like to hear your opinions on buying used 'obsolete' computers with operating systems that are one or two versions older than the latest version. Is it worth the trouble and risk?

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Post by JoeNCA »

@DanielZ - It depends on how you use the computer. If it's for simple, general use like web browsing, e-mailing and word processing, etc., then any computer with > 1ghz intel/amd cpu can accomplish this. These computers are outdated and people will just give them away.
As to older operating systems, if windows, I would run Windows XP and up for security reasons.
Honestly, for basic computer use, I would run ubuntu (linux OS) for free.
It is very secure, more so than Windows IMO and runs very well on both old and new systems.
Here you can compare some recommended Build Your Own setups that have changed with time: ... on-51.html ... 156-1.html
Keep in mind that new laptops or desktops with plenty of power and the newest intel/amd cpus and windows 7 OS cost $400-$500 range.
Tiny netbooks with Atom based CPUs range from $2-$300. It's enough for general computing.
Even used apple itouch does web browsing and e-mail and it costs like $100.
I'd say find a friend that wants to get rid of his/her old stuff and get it free.

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Post by mikeBOS »

I always build my desktops from scavenged parts and buy my laptops used. Right now I use an old IBM thinkpad as my laptop. I got it for $200 on ebay "broken". The hard drive was dead, so I put in a 16gb solid state drive and maxed out the RAM. I also got a new battery which, with the SSD, keeps the computer going for a good 6hrs. The result is a zippy, solid laptop that ought to last me another few years until the screen and hinges start dying or I spill a beer onto it or something.
I'd say, generally, running older hardware/software's no problem so long as you're not doing one of three things: gaming, photo/video-editing (though this isn't absolute, average home users were editing videos on computers in 2000), or having to run special software for a job or school.

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Post by DividendGuy »

I guess I'm in the minority. I don't really understand the need for buying a used computer unless you want to build some kind of high-end gaming rig on the cheap. If you're just looking to do basic tasks like internet browsing and the like then you can get a pretty decent laptop/desktop new for a good price. I bought my Toshiba on sale at Best Buy last year for around $300.00. It's a good computer and I haven't had any problems.

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Post by dragoncar »

I would not buy a used laptop unless it was very new. Laptops with fluorescent back lighting will have continual degeneration of screen quality (it will get dimmer and the colors will change). Also, it is far more difficult and expensive to change out laptop parts. One exception may be getting a free "broken" laptop and replacing a cheap part to get it operational. That might be a good deal but it comes with its own risk.
Used desktop computers can be a good deal, so I'd definitely consider that. However, I wouldn't say that it's ALWAYS a good value. For example, old parts can sometimes be more expensive than new parts due to production and demand issues.

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Post by mikeBOS »

@DividendGuy I agree. Mid to low-range desktop prices are very low and do a decent job for the average user. Though, if you can buy one new for $300, imagine how cheap the used ones can get... Though not worth it, I'd say, unless you enjoy tinkering. I'm a gamer so I do need a high-end system for that, which is where you really start saving some money when you build yourself.
I've never been afraid of used laptops and have always had good luck with them. I think I'm on my 3rd one now. They always seem to last me around 5 years, that's after someone else has already used it for 1 or 2 years. You have to buy solidly built models without too much plastic. The problem with buying laptops new now-a-days is they won't sell you a small SSD. They only give you a 128GB option, it seems, and they want $350 for the drive alone. I'd rather just spend $50 on a 16gb SSD drive. I don't need storage space on a laptop. LED back-lit screens are getting rid of the degradation in back light problem (which has never been a problem for me personally). What kills my laptops over time is me, basically. I throw them around without much care. It's a tool, not an infant, I want my tools to be able to survive living in my backpack without having to be coddled. I'm afraid of buying a new one that no one has owned for greater than 2 years, there are no reviews around to warn you that 3% of the keys break after 24 months and the battery catches on fire, or the plastic cover cracks if you drop it the wrong way. I prefer to go with stuff that has been tested and built to last. Plus, I figure I'm saving another hunk of metal and plastic that would otherwise just be flung into a landfill.

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Post by DividendGuy »

I agree. If you're going for gaming then you're better served going in the direction you did. Buying a good gaming rig is very expensive new. I mostly just jam on the PS3, so I haven't had a need for anything else yet.

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Post by M »

I think I would agree with Jacob on this one, even though I don't follow it in practice. The depreciation rate on computers is astronomical - at work we literally throw away computers that, for the vast majority of the population, would still be just fine to use. Actually - I routinely grab some from the trash and give them to friends and family.
The only reason I don't follow this in practice is because I like to spoil myself. :)

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Post by chilly »

I'd second most of what's been said already. There was another aspect to your question - about buying used ones to resell and make some money. I would tend to think it would be difficult to make much off them. Although they could be gotten pretty cheaply, I'm having trouble visualizing the business model w/r to new versions of windows and reselling them? Certainly not going to make money if you have to buy windows... that's probably not what you meant. I'm curious though.

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Post by HSpencer »

I bought my grand daughter a brand new HP laptop for Christmas.

I was amazed at the way this thing came loaded up with everything one could imagine in a computer. The HD and RAM was about the most I have seen in a laptop. Using one of Jacob's favorite expressions it was just "awesome"!

I paid $599.00 for it at Sams Club. I think $600.00 for all of that computing is pretty decent. I am tempted to get one for myself as I have been wanting a lap top computer. Grand daughter and I sat down at the table and we shuffled the DSL cable from my home computer into hers and were on the net. This thing asked permission to go to lots of sites and begin to download lots of things including all that free virus stuff, etc.

I had been looking for a used laptop for myself. I find them for all kinds of cheap prices, say $100.00 and up. I find them for sale by individuals, schools, used places, all that. However, let me tell you that "In my uneducated and very humble opinion" that $600.00 laptop from Sams is pretty clean and slick and full of everything. Taken care of, it should last my Sophomore in High School Grand daughter well into college.

Rather then than buy a used laptop and fix or add, I would go the money for a new HP Laptop. I know you can do better, cheaper, but that would be my procedure right now.

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Post by aquadump »

I believe it was in the book Deer Hunting with Jesus that I read the quote something to the effect that in the current day a computer is the white collar's hot rod. This hit close to home to me and really makes sense to me.
I save a few dollars knowing how to run Linux and upgrade hardware. Just realize that like cars, computers probably won't get any more simple.
In terms of a consumer-mind frame, cars and computers are probably similar in the general concept of the tool. Neither are a need, but both are powerful uses of technology. Do you buy the low-end technology at a reasonable cost? Do you spend a lot on cutting edge parts and have high performance? Do you know the [engineering] system and are able optimize for your needs. There is no one answer.

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Post by jacob »

Must have been someone else. I have only "bought" (it was more of a swap, my oversized monitor for a laptop) a used computer once in my life and I haven't used windows since 2000.
My current laptop (12" powerbook) is from 2004 and it works just fine for what I use it for (everything but gaming). I did upgrade from 10.4 to 10.5 which was a substantial improvement but mainly because many programs are no longer supported under 10.4 and so I was using deprecated programs. Also, I treat it like a baby. My original HD died under warranty because I was throwing it around back then. The replacement has lasted 5+ years so far.

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Post by JohnnyH »

@HSpencer: Some of it is useful, but new computers are often packed with so much bloat, I have to spend 30mins getting rid of most of it.
One advantageous of buying new is rebates. If you're organized with them, you can get back a significant portion of new parts... I think I've got as much as 40% back on builds in the past.
Building from new parts has another benefit; much, much longer warranties... Everything in my computer has several year warranties. Not like a Dell/Toshiba/HP prefab which is what, 30-90 days, 1 year max?
Those 2 things and the fact that my job requires lots of computing power generally steer me away from used... But for the average person you can get an excellent Ubuntu running desktop or latop for probably $100 on craigslist.
Computers remind me of cars. My large desktop tower put together from parts, reminds me of my 70s GM... It's huge, easy to fix, a roomy joy to work in, cheap, plentiful and standard parts, designed thoughtfully for ease of repairs, high quality parts with long warranties (my starter is lifetime, like my RAM), it would cost a fortune if a manufacturer put it together with equal care today in 2011, recycling and thrifty use of existing resources -long life, "inefficient"
A new laptop reminds me of a new car... It compact, sexy, hard to impossible to fix, a huge PITA to work on, expensive, rare and specialized parts, designed with gratuitous complexity to keep DIY types out, lowest bid parts sold without warranty outside of car's or laptop's warranty, relatively cheap to manufacturer, wasteful mass production usually ends up in trash soon -short life, "efficient"
Case in point, my Dad's $350 1.5 yr old laptop had 2 keys go unresponsive at the board... $250 to fix... I've lost one $40 desktop keyboard my entire computing life, which was covered by 5 year manufacturer's warranty.

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Post by B »

I agree with all of JohnnyH's points. However, you have to agree that a large tower with all that nice space to work in takes up a lot of room, and is heavy. The more big heavy crap you have, the more space you have to have for it. In some ways, it's like old CRT monitors vs newer LCD monitors. CRTs are so easy to find for free, but they are huge and heavy.
What do you guys say about lightweight and small vs bulky and cheap?

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Post by Chris »

B: If "lightweight and small" doesn't need to mean "portable", it's possible to get a micro-ATX or mini-ITX based system. The cases can be pretty small, about 12"x8"x8". Most everything is on-board, similar to a laptop, but it has one or two slots for adding expansion cards. So for instance, if the on-board sound goes fubar, it can be easily replaced with a PCI sound card. If you are into gaming, this also allows you to upgrade video, which is difficult (if not impossible) with a laptop. Also, you can take advantage of full-size hard disks and optical drives, which tend to be less expensive than their laptop counterparts.
I'm considering something in this form factor when my current rig needs replacement.

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Re: Buying used computers

Post by Stahlmann »

Last edited by Stahlmann on Sun Nov 24, 2019 2:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Buying used computers

Post by Nomad »

I have a couple of computers that were thrown out from work.
My favourite is a Dell All In One computer OptiPlex with a large screen, no base unit and built in speakers and webcam.
I install Linux (Ubuntu) on my home computers and it is more secure and you get better performance than Windows.

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