You need a new computer. You have a limited budget. There is an ad out for Company X that advertises its bargain-a-licious refurbished computers. Question: Should you go for it?
It’s tempting to think that a bad computer is better than no computer at all, but anyone who has struggled with a defective PC will definitely take issue with that idea. This isn’t to say that all refurbished electronics are inherently bad. There can be some exceptional bargains in the reconditioned computer world. However, it is very much an area where caution is needed.
My own experience with refurbished electronics ranges from a temperamental, forever-freezing MP3 player to a rebuilt, flawlessly functioning laptop. The first one came from a third-party seller on an online auction site and the last, from an IT-professional friend with a knack for computer hardware. This points to our main requirement in finding quality-refurbished computers:
Consider the Source
It’s usually best not to buy secondhand computers from some random guy you meet at the gym (or, in our day and age, some random person from the Internet). Sure, you might get someone who’s honest and really knows his stuff. But on the other hand, you might end up with an expensive piece of junk and no way to get your money back.
Unless you happen to have a friend who’s very clever at rebuilding PCs, this means confining your search for a refurbished machine to a manufacturer such as HP or Apple, to a tech store like Best Buy, or to a well-known and reputable third-party vendor, such as TigerDirect.
It’s standard for re-manufactured items to come with a warranty—90 days is preferable, but we’ve seen 30- and 60-day warranties as well. Depending on the seller, it may be an option to purchase an extended warranty. If your electronics budget is tight and the extended warranty price is right, this might be a very good idea.
Other tech deals are out there. Here are three free PC programs you’ll actually use.
What to Expect When You’re Buying a Refurbished PC
There is no real definition of what constitutes a refurbished, reconditioned, or re-manufactured computer. If the item is known as an “open box return,” it may not really have been used much—if at all. Since the box has been opened, it can no longer be sold as “new.” Otherwise, buying a redone computer is rather like buying a used car: although some bits can be replaced, there will always be a certain amount of wear and tear that comes along when you receive it. There’s not a lot you can do to change that.
What happens when a laptop or desktop is refurbished? If there was a complaint—say a broken screen—it is repaired. The rest of the machine is tested to make sure it’s in good working order and meets the original specifications of the manufacturer. The hard drive is reformatted, which removes all personal data and programs. The operating system is re-installed, and the device is physically cleaned and re-inspected. It can then be restocked and resold. (If possible, it’s a good idea to look for certified reconditioned, re-manufactured, or refurbished items.)
Buying a refurbished PC can be a great way to make your budget stretch just a bit further. Unless your business does a lot of graphic design, heavy-duty engineering work, or some other resource-intensive tasks, these certified secondhand computers should have enough power to do whatever you need them to.
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