Guide to buying a second-hand laptop online

Thursday 24 September 2009, by
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Make sure you test the laptop before buyingBuying a laptop can be difficult – how big should the hard drive be? What about features? Is it for business or personal use? Most importantly, how much can you afford?

We can’t answer all of those for you, but we can help on the question of cost. Laptops depreciate quickly, so a second-hand laptop is ultimately going to be much cheaper than a brand new one. While computer companies may want you to believe you need the latest model on the market, you’ll probably be fine with a model that’s a couple years old if it’s for general use. That way, you get to save money and help the environment by keeping usable equipment out of landfills.

Like any used item, you need to take some precautions to ensure you get what you want and stay safe. Here are a few guidelines to help you get the best laptop for you and your budget.

Research, research

  • Get an idea of how much you should pay by checking out second-hand laptops online
  • Scope out review sites to see feedback on how that model has fared over time

Making a decision:

  • Consider what you need your computer to do, and then research the kind of processor you need. If you play lots of games, you’ll need a faster, more expensive processor than one for word processing and web browsing.
  • How much storage will you need? Older laptops tend to have a smaller hard drive to the newer ones. You can always buy an external hard drive.
  • The more RAM the better, although you can purchase upgrades for a low price. A lot of RAM allows your laptop to run faster and better.
  • Ensure the required operating system and all necessary drivers are installed – these can add up.

What to check before purchasing:
We recommend you check out the laptop before you buy. Tip: when meeting up with the seller to inspect the laptop, make sure you meet in a public place, bring a friend with you and don’t carry large amounts of cash.

  • Check for scratches, dents and dings to see how well the laptop was cared for.
  • Check hinges: do they operate smoothly? Does the LCD align with the bottom keyboard when closed?
  • LCDs are often the first thing to go on a laptop. Check the screen is clear and doesn’t have a pinkish or purplish haze.
  • Pick it up. Older laptops are usually heavier than new ones, so it’s worth trying the weight.
  • How’s the keyboard and touch pad? You want to avoid sticking keys or slow cursor movement.
  • Take a USB device to check the USB ports are functioning, and a CD or DVD to test out the CD or DVD drive.
  • Check that the laptop can go online (Tip: meet them in a WiFi cafe so you can test this)
  • Check the battery works well, and that the power adapter is charging the laptop
  • Try out all the software, particularly if it’s included in the price, and grab any manuals the seller has in case of future issues.
  • Ask the seller if they’ve carried out a scan on the computer to look for any viruses or spyware that might be lurking. If you buy, it’s probably a good idea to do this again before using.



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