21 Things To Look For When Buying a Second-Hand Computer


If you’re looking to buy a second-hand computer, whether it’s for work or personal use, there are a few things you need to consider before handing over your cash.

Second hand computers are a great way to save money and can be found relatively easily through online stores or even local classifieds. However, it’s important to know what to look out for when buying second hand – here’s 20 things you should take into consideration:

1. Check to see if your computer can be upgraded

Before buying If you’re wanting to stretch out the life of your computer, having the ability to add in upgrades down the road is invaluable. Never buy a cheap low-powered PC without any expandability options, and always check for upgradability when buying used computers. The author assumes people will want to upgrade their machines in order to make them last longer. No one wants big bulky laptops from the 1990s.

2. Does it come with a warranty?

This is a big one for a lot of people. If you’re going to be spending a good bit of money on a used computer, having some sort of warranty or guarantee is great in case anything happens or when you decide that the machine just isn’t right for your needs. It’s almost always worth it to add another year onto the warranty anyways just in case, because it’ll typically cost less than $100 and will protect you from all sorts of things that can go wrong with age.

3. You may want extras like better software + anti-virus programs

If you know what you’re doing when it comes to computers, then figuring out what operating system is included, if there’s anti-virus, etc. may be enough to sway your decision. However, if you’re not very experienced when it comes to computers and aren’t sure whether or not you’ll need a software like Photoshop or some other specific programs like that, then buying a computer with these pre-installed could save you both time and money in the long run.

4. The power supply is something else to look out for…

Depending on what you want to do with your computer (games vs spreadsheets), how much processing power will be necessary? What sort of graphics card does it have? These questions should be answered before investing in any newer machine because this can sometimes mean the difference between getting cheap RAM instead of better RAM for your new computer.

5. Make sure you have all the cables, documentation and discs!

Some people tend to forget that when they’re buying a second hand computer – no matter whether it’s an old laptop or desktop model – that all of the accompanying parts are included. A lot of people don’t even bother to check what accessories are included with their purchase… but if you ever need any replacement cables later on, maybe some spare memory sticks etc., you’ll be glad you didn’t let any of them slip away. And this is also something worth considering before deciding which used computer to buy because it could save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

6. Test it out yourself

By saying ‘tested’, what they actually mean is that they will plug it in for 1 minute while it is turned on (it doesn’t mean anything else has been tested like the important components like hard drive, RAM, processor etc). It should also be noted that most sellers do not disclose whether this consists of using their own software or hardware to test the system.

7. Parts

If it isn’t refurbished, then that could mean that all the spare parts have not been changed (meaning they will probably fail within a year). It’s also likely that replacement parts used are of lower quality than original parts (something like motherboards can be expensive so they might use an alternate one instead).

Other parts such as cooling fans, hard drives, case components , memory chips, etc should be checked out before buying – after all this is what makes up your computer so you’d rather know beforehand if it’s going to fail!]

8. Check to see if the seller has a good reputation

Check for multiple people that have bought from them in the past and how long they’ve been a member. Also, ask around in forums about who is reputable – you might get a good deal but lose it all when you try to fix/mod something later on and can’t because of warranty issues! [

9. The battery capacity is definitely something worth checking out

Most laptops especially use lithium ion batteries nowadays which last around 3-4 years before degrading to the point of no return. If you’re not looking for a portable computer then definitely check out other things before buying!

10. Ports

Always make sure there are enough USB ports for your needs. Also check how many RAM slots there are and what sort/size of hard drive(s) there are installed. You don’t want to end up with something that’s underpowered

11.  Look for scratches

This is from my experience when buying from eBay:  if a laptop has a scratch, they’re trying to hide it. Be weary!

12 . Hard drive space

Check out how much hard drive space each computer has, as well as how much RAM (Random Access Memory) it’s got. You want enough room to store loads of photos and videos without worrying about running out of room. You also don’t want to be caught out when you try to run sets of photos or videos together and they can’t work because there’s not enough space, so check that the computer has plenty of room for your needs.

13. Open software loaded in the PC

Always open up PowerPoint, Word, Photoshop etc before buying just in case it doesn’t have the software you need. Also check out how much memory each program takes up to make sure you’ll still have enough memory left over for your other daily activities!

14. Operating system

Make sure the computer has an operating system (Windows 7/8 etc). If not, search for prices for Windows 8 or Mac OSX separately and factor this into your budget.

15. Compatibility

It’s important to check whether all of the components are compatible with one another – especially things like the motherboard and graphics card should be checked against each other first before committing to buy.

16. Check pricing for a new one?

Depending on what you plan on using the computer for, it might be worth investing in something newer as the price difference between a new and second hand computer can be very minimal.

17. Individual vs company

Consider whether you want to buy from an individual or a company because some sellers may offer extended warranties, which could protect you slightly more if anything goes wrong.

18. Check for damages to components

Make sure that all of the components are intact and not damaged before purchasing – especially the monitor, keyboard and mouse as these will be targets for damage.

19 . Looking for anything fishy

You should never purchase an electronic device from a seller who does not provide their contact details as such transactions become difficult/impossible to resolve if there is any problem with the product purchased.

20 . Payment methods

When purchasing an electronic device online, always check what payment methods are available as some websites only accept card payments: this could mean that if something goes wrong then you find yourself without a refund and having to pay again for the item to be posted back.

21 . Check plugs, cables and wires

Ensure that you have checked all of the plugs, wires and cables are in working order before handing over any money. A faulty video or sound cable could mean that you need to purchase a replacement part – even more money out of your hard earned cash.

Finally remember that every model is different; their processors and hard drives all vary in speed and size, so always ask as many questions as possible about the specs before buying.

If all this is all too overwhelming, you can ask one of our local technicians in Melbourne to do this for you.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...