So, your computer quit on you at the worst moment possible. You need a replacement for it as soon as possible, but you can’t afford to spend a whole $1,000 or more on a new machine. What do you do? Look for a used computer to buy, of course!
But buying used devices always comes with risks. So, how do you make sure the used computer you pick will be a good investment? Here are seven things you should test before making a purchase.
1. Battery Life
If you’re in the market for a laptop, keep in mind that all li-ion batteries deteriorate with time. A brand-new laptop can have six hours of autonomy without charging. But after a couple of years of active use, the same laptop will have only half that – at best.
So, if you want to accomplish a lot without having to plug in your laptop, make sure the battery life is enough for you to do so. If you’re a student, see if it’d be possible to read the 1984 full summary, write an essay on it, and prepare for an exam in one go. You can do it by creating a battery report in PowerShell (Windows) or going to Battery Usage History (Mac).
2. Portability & Weight
Older laptop models are typically heavier and larger than their newer counterparts. Are you willing to compromise on that?
If portability is important for you, you might have to reconsider buying a used mac computer in order to find smaller or newer models to meet your needs. That said, if you buy a model released two or three years ago, the difference in size-weight ratio probably won’t be that significant.
3. Keyboard & Touchpad
Whether you’ll be using your laptop for writing a Beowulf character analysis essay or just browsing the web, the keyboard and touchpad have to work as well as new. Otherwise, replacing either of them can cost you a small fortune.
The best way to see their condition is to test them. Type a small text using the keyboard; make sure to use all the keys. See if they respond well without double typing or getting stuck. Test the touchpad and its buttons for precision and responsiveness, too.
First, you have to know what you need in terms of ports. Here are three questions you should ponder:
- Do you need the USB 3.0? Or will USB 2.0 be enough for you?
- Is it important for you which HDMI version to use? Do you need the latest one (2.1), or the earlier version will suffice?
- Should the computer come with a card reader? What about the Ethernet port?
Then, you have to see if all ports work as intended. Plug cables into them and test the performance. Don’t overlook the charger, USB, and audio jack ports!
If you’re looking for a laptop, pay attention to the screen – you’re unlikely to be able to change it. Here’s what you should check:
- Resolution: Older models typically have lower resolution. Opt for 1080p or, if that’s not possible, 1,600 x 900 or 1,366 x 768.
- Image quality: Watch a video and open some photos and images to see if the quality is on par with your expectations.
- Damage: Open images or website pages with various solid colors to see if there are any dead pixels or serious bleed. Examine the screen for scratches and other physical damage, too.
These three tech specs usually determine a computer’s performance and speed:
- RAM: 8Gb is typically enough for most tasks. Check whether you can add more RAM if the model has less than 8Gb of it.
- CPU: A dual CPU is enough for most users. But if you’re going to use apps like Photoshop, opt for a quad.
- Storage type: SSDs are faster than HDDs. You can replace an HDD with an SSD yourself if needed.
The best way to see how well the computer operates is by testing it with a maximum load. Here are several ways you can do that:
- Open a dozen of tabs and browse the web;
- Watch videos from the drive and on YouTube;
- Open a dozen of files at the same time;
- Launch several apps simultaneously (e.g., a browser, an office suite app, and a video player).
7. Software Compatibility
Think hard about your user scenarios, i.e., how you’re going to use the computer. Then, put together a list of applications you’ll be working with. Finally, check the system requirements for them. Do they match the tech specs of this model?
Don’t forget about the compatibility not just with apps but with the OS of your choice, too. For example, older models might not be compatible with Windows 11. That would be a disappointment if you wanted to upgrade to it, right?
In Conclusion: 3 More Tips for Buying a Used Computer
These are the seven things you should test before money changes hands. But that’s not all you should take into account.
Here are three more tips for you to make sure you get the best machine possible for your hard-earned money:
- Prioritize large sellers: It’s better to start your search at brick-and-mortar shops like Best Buy. Steer away from websites Craigslist and eBay: there are a lot of scammers there, and you can’t touch and test a device before buying.
- See the computer before buying: To check all those things listed above, you have to be able to tinker with the machine first. So take your time with the checks!
- Avoid offers that seem too good to be true: If someone offers a last year’s Mac for a third of its price, there’s surely something wrong with it. Instead, compare the prices of used computers with their initial ones – and with newer models, too.