Buying a SECOND-HAND Computer
What to look for...
When it comes to buying a second-hand PC as opposed to a new PC then there are a number of ways to start –
- You can visit your local computer ‘doctor’ shop or person and ask if they have something that would suit your needs
- Investigate the internet – namely eBay or a specialist in second hand PCs or Macs
- You can ask around the office or your local school/church and see if someone is replacing their PC and wants to sell their current computer or perhaps even give it away
- Investigate the local free advertising papers for computers going cheap or put in a wanted ad
Now all of the above are risky, even if you are being offered a warranty, and let’s discuss why:
The PC Doctor/Shop
If you visit your local computer ‘doctor’ or PC shop, then you are entering an environment where they are making earning their living by (legitimately) explaining to people that they really should get a new PC instead of keeping that old XP or Vista machine as the upgrade costs are going to be close to the price of a new machine and that they will be still be limited after upgrading by the older components in the system. All true. But then the computer shop winds up with a lot of old PCs and when you walk in and they say:
“So, what do you use your computer for?” and you say
“Browsing the internet and a bit of email.” They will say
“Well we have this refurbished PC here that I can give you a 90-day warranty with that is easily capable of handling the Internet and email.” Once again, all true. But you are going to wind up with a PC that has been replaced because it is getting on in years and the computer doctor has on reinstalled back to factory settings and installed a Firefox browser onto so that it appears to run OK with the modern Internet pages. The 90-day warranty is a risk they can probably take as the hardware is unlikely to fail in that period and if they install sensible antivirus software with certain settings, when it does go wrong they can charge you all over again. Not the best option unless you can be sure they are offering you a relatively new PC…
eBay and the Internet
OK then so what about eBay and second hand computer shops? Well the first question to be asking yourself is how these people come to be in possession of these machines. Are they a specialist PC recycler? If so then they may be getting machines from the local schools and councils – you would not believe the stuff government operations throw away – or they might deal (like we do) with reselling assets on behalf of insolvent companies to recover monies for the creditors. In these cases, then you can often find a good deal if you make sure that the various components – RAM, CPU and Hard Disk – are all up to scratch. A good option here is to find out where the system came from and what environment and period it was in use for; this information can give a good steer on what to avoid.
Then we come to something like eBay. Buying from an individual selling by auction will probably be the only way to get a good deal as everyone else is there for the money. If someone has recently replaced a PC or has gotten one from work etc. and you feel that the listing can be trusted, then that is always a good sign. All of the refurbished PCs will have been taken from companies that have replaced a whole range of PCs because maintenance costs have become too expensive which is not good if you are looking to keep a PC for a while as there is a good chance it will go wrong within months as other computers that they purchased in the same batch have started to play up.
Your friends and their friends
Asking around at the office and amongst friends can be a safer option but you must be sure that the PC is set back to factory defaults using the onboard utility or accompanying disks and that the system is functioning as it should before parting with any money.
What should the PC exhibit as far as specifics are concerned?
Right, now let us have a look at what the specifications should be for a good computer to be used on the internet and for email etc.
- Windows 10 – it has built in antivirus and is much more future proof than anything else which is important
- At least 8GB RAM
- At least a quad-core CPU – you can look up the CPU online from its number and you do not want anything from before 2012
- Solid State Hard Disk (an SSD) which makes for much faster operation in every way
- 1GB Graphics card for even normal operation is the minimum without wanting to play games
- USB 3.0 or better as this gives a good indication of how old the core components of the machine are – these ports should be in blue or light blue
OK so what about a Gaming PC?
- Windows 10 – once again to alleviate concern about antivirus and future proofing and to make sure it is compatible with the latest games
- 16GB RAM - this is perhaps not necessary for most of the current games but it will also guard against winding up with a PC that you cannot upgrade above 8GB
- Quad-core i7 processor from at least 2015, so make sure you look up the CPU type on the web
- Solid State System Disk (SSD) and at least 3TB Gaming disk- the modern games take up a lot of room so you will need a disk to install of the games onto alongside your SSD system disk to avoid the disk filling up and impacting performance
- 2GB Graphics Card which is a minimum now as many are now 4-8GB and this makes a lot of difference!