What to look for when buying a used computer

By Will Serrahn

One thing I am a big fan of is new tech. When replacing a PC getting something new is the best way to go. It’s not the only way though. Maybe it’s not in your budget or you just want to save a computer from getting put in a landfill. So in this post, I want to help you pick out a decent used computer.

What Operating System should you look for?

Computers with XP or Vista can be ignored. Both of those OS’s no longer get updates from Microsoft. As a result, any vulnerabilities will not be patched barring something catastrophic like the Wannacry infection that spread a while ago.
Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 are ok. Those are getting updates. If you get a PC with 8 you won’t be getting updates although there is a free update to 8.1 in the Windows Store to get you back on track. Windows 10 will be your best bet in my opinion. Some are so used to Windows 7 that they don’t like the way Windows 10 handles but it is the most secure OS out there.

What Brands should you look for?

For me, I prefer Dell. They are the easiest to get into and upgrade, and getting a hold of Dell for warranty information is not like pulling teeth. Though that doesn’t really matter as you are buying used.

HP is a brand I don’t care for. As a tech I see what goes on the inside and especially with HP laptops, the case where the hinges connect break all the time. So you have to replace the whole case. Which is about $100 for the part.

Lenovo Thinkpads are good if you get models released in 2012-2013. The newer stuff feels off.

Asus is another good brand if you get the high-end items. When you get to the lower end stuff it becomes trash. The build quality, the specs, and the screens are just awful – stay away.

Apple products are generally not a good bet for used computers. Although well-made, good used equipment is pricey and hard to come by, as owners tend to hang onto their machines until they die. Repairs are expensive and the units are not upgradable.

Desktop, laptop, or All-In-One?

Desktops are the best when you get a normal sized one and not one of the slim or tiny models. With desktops, parts are standardized. SO if a power supply fails, you can go to Fry’s or Microcenter and get a replacement pretty easily. Adding RAM, fans, or most other parts is just as easy.

If you need a laptop for the portability, get one without a touchscreen. If a touchscreen breaks that is a large cost to replace. If you do need to replace parts you will have to search online for the matching parts of the same model. Hard drives and RAM are standardized but everything else is only for that model of laptop.

All-In-Ones are the worst for part replacement. For the most part, everything is integrated and if something fails you will have to replace the entire motherboard. If the screen cracks those are about $300 or more. They do not take a lot of space if that is an issue for you though.

Netbooks are trash. Don’t get them ever.

Environment the machine is in.

Don’t ever buy from a smoker. The tar gets into the machine and cannot be removed. It gets into the heatsink and will cause the machine to overheat. Not to mention the smell that will never go away. A house with pets is bad, but not that bad. You can always blow out dust and fur with a can of compressed air.

Specs to look for.

My ideal specs are:

CPU – i5 or i7. These are just the best. I love AMD but the chips they have released have just been so weak. Their new Ryzen CPU’s are great but you won’t find those on a used computer yet. Intel i3 chips are ok if you only plan on surfing the net or doing very light things on your computer.

RAM – 6GB or more. 8GB is the sweet spot for most.

Hard Drive – Bigger is not always better. If you can, find one with a Solid State Drive. Most people don’t need more than 250GB of space but a 500GB is ok as well. Even if you purchase a PC without one it might be a good idea to replace the drive anyway. Drives tend to fail often and you don’t know what kind of state the drive is in.

Screen resolution – This is mostly for laptops. 1920×1080 is great, higher is better of course though. Don’t get any laptops with 1366×768. This resolution is in so many laptops and just too small. A lot of applications won’t fit right. Seriously, stay away.

Some final thoughts.

You might not be able to find that perfect model from what I posted. That is ok. You can always do some cheap upgrades to turn that used PC into a powerhouse. A $150 GTX 1050ti card will let you play pretty much any PC game. You can upgrade the RAM and hard drive pretty easily.

If you have any questions you can always hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

Will Serrahn is the lead service tech at My Computer Guy in Rockwall. You can find his blog at http://mcgtechtalk.com/.

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