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Computer Buying Guide New vs Refurbished

Nov 27, 2015   Computer Hardware   Nick Vogt   Comments
Please note that this post is over a year old and may contain outdated information.
I have a good amount of experience purchasing both new and refurbished Dell and HP computers and laptops. Here is some information in case you are in the market for a computer, and are not sure if you should buy new or refurbished.


What is a Refurbished Computer?


A refurbished computer is generally a used, open box, or returned computer (or one that is otherwise not fit for sale as new) that has been thoroughly inspected by a manufacturer-authorized outfit or the manufacturer itself, and then sold again as a refurbished computer at a lower price.

The operating system on a refurbished computer will always be reset or replaced, so there is no trace of any previous usage. Any components that are not good, damaged, or broken will be replaced. The housing may show some signs of usage, or it may look completely new (usage varies greatly between refurbished computers).

Age of a Refurbished Computer
A refurbished computer can be as new as a few months or as old as a decade. You'll have to research the computer model to find out when it was originally released. Another trick is to find the processor model and search for it on Intel's ARK for Intel processors or Google for AMD processors.

Newer refurbished computers are usually ones that customers did not want and were returned. They will go back to the manufacturer, get inspected and reset, and be recertified for sale as refurbished.

Older refurbished computers are often ones that a refurbisher buys in bulk from an office that is getting rid of old computers. They will go through them and make sure any damaged components are replaced, reset or replace the operating systems, and sell them at a very low price through marketplaces like Newegg, Amazon, or eBay.


Refurbished Pro's and Con's


Here are some key advantages and disadvantages to buying a refurbished computer versus a new one:

Advantages
  • Lower price: This is the primary advantage to buying refurbished. The price is usually close to half of original new pricing.
  • Reuse: If you're environmentally inclined, buying refurbished could mean less waste.

Disadvantages
  • Condition: A refurbished computer may have wear and tear marks or other blemishes. Components will have more hours of usage than new so could potentially fail sooner. This depends greatly on how old the computer is.
  • Unscrupulous Sellers: Be careful where you buy and from what sellers. Some do not offer warranties, some list one thing and sell another, and some are just difficult to work with. Check seller ratings to decide where to buy. One big advantage of Newegg is that you can buy direct from Newegg if you want to avoid 3rd party sellers.
  • Warranty: The warranty on a refurbished computer is usually between 90 days to 1 year, depending on what company you're buying from. It will usually not be as good as a new warranty.


What to Look For in Refurbished


Most refurbished computers will list their processor, hard drive, memory, and operating system. You should be able to determine if the hard drive, memory, and operating system meet your needs, but it can be very difficult to determine if the processor is any good or not. There are countless versions of every processor out there, in varying speeds and generations. The average consumer may not know that a Core i5 is better than a Core 2 Duo, or how it relates to a Pentium.

You'll have to do research on the processor models and there is no easy shortcut to this if you want to get the most for your money. Search each processor model and compare their performance ratings. Search for their release date on Intel's ARK or on Google/Bing/Search. Newer processors are usually better. In general, pay the most attention to speed (frequency), core count, and release date.

Other things to keep an eye on are:
  • Does the computer come with a rewritable DVD drive or regular DVD ROM?
  • Does the computer come with a keyboard and mouse?
  • What form factor is the computer? (How big it is.)


Where to Buy Refurbished


You may want to read this post comparing Amazon, eBay, and Newegg. It applies just as well when buying a refurbished computer.

In my personal experience, I buy most refurbished computers on Newegg. eBay's prices tend to be a little better, but it's hard to find exactly what you're looking for compared to Newegg. Amazon is also more difficult to sort through, but has a huge inventory of refurbished computers from its 3rd party sellers. If you're willing to do the leg-work, browsing eBay and Amazon can pay off.
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