Buying a refurbished laptop can be a great way to save money and still find a computer that does everything you need it to. However, there are a few questions to bear in mind before you hand over your money.
A refurbished laptop can come in at a heavy discount compared to the latest models, whilst still providing all the functionality you need. A cheaper and greener option, there’s a lot to be said for going down the refurbished route. All the same, it’s worth making sure you’re getting what you need, because all that is refurbished is not equal.
What does ‘refurbished’ mean?
Strictly speaking, a refurbished laptop is one that has been returned to as-new condition by the manufacturer or a specialist store. The hardware will all have been checked, and repaired if necessary; the software will be returned to factory default settings, and patched/updated if required. In some cases, refurbished machines are extra stock that was manufactured but never actually sold, due to over-ordering. In some cases, it might be slightly damaged or faulty machines that were returned to the company and fixed for resale. Often, though, these are older machines that have been reconditioned and reset to make sure that everything is working perfectly. Either way, refurbished is categorically not the same as ‘second-hand’ or ‘used’.
Consequently, a refurbished laptop comes in significantly cheaper than a new one. They are often a good alternative to forking out for a top-of-the-range computer, since in most cases they offer all that the buyer needs. Cutting-edge hardware is usually only necessary if you plan to use especially demanding programmes (generally meaning certain games or high-end design software). However, picking up a refurbished machine comes with a ‘buyer beware’ notice attached.
What does the vendor mean by refurbished?
You might know what a refurbished laptop is, but the vendor may not. Sometimes, the term is simply used as a synonym for ‘used’ or ‘second-hand’. That means you could be getting the legacy of years of use and abuse: software that may or may not have been kept up to date; accumulated spyware and viruses; registry faults; tired hardware, and more. Make sure you are paying for something that really is ‘as-new’: fully and professionally restored to its original working condition. Even if the model is a few years old, it should be in tip-top working order.
Find a reputable company
There are lots of places to buy refurbished laptops, and a good few more to buy ‘refurbished’ (read: ‘second-hand’) ones. The manufacturer is a good starting point (Dell are a well-known and popular example). Many will sell end-of-line products, returns and over-stocked items at a discount. Some of these will never have left the factory in the first place. If you’re after something cheaper but still entirely respectable, take a look at some of the companies who specialise in restoring old machines and giving them a new lease of life – you can often pick up a good laptop for less than £200. You can also find computers in the usual places like eBay and Craigslist, but if you go down that route then make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.
If you have any concerns about buying a refurbished laptop, a warranty and other guarantees should ease them. Reputable dealers should offer one-year and sometimes extended (three-year) warranties. In that respect they are no different to buying a new computer: if there’s a fault, send it back.
Is the software supported?
Older computers will have older versions of Windows or other operating systems on them; one of the great benefits of a refurbished laptop is the price, and there’s no point inflating this by purchasing a licence for a brand new version of the OS. However, there will come a point when the OS and other software is no longer supported (like Windows 98) or is incompatible with later versions. If the hardware is good but the OS or other programmes on it are a deal-breaker for you, consider upgrading to one of the (free) open source packages out there.
This article was supplied by reconditioned laptop specialists Val-U-Computers, who have been supplying professionally refurbished and reconditioned laptops, at a fraction of the retail cost, since 1993.