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Ten Steps To Take When Buying A Used Computer

September 5th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

All students need personal computers to complete homework or research assignments, but a home desktop or laptop is often out of the budget for their family. If you are interested in buying a used device, you could find a perfectly good system for less than half of the retail price. Even dedicated gamers and big companies buy computers used when they need to stick with a specific budget. A used system can run just as well as a new one, but only if it is in good shape to begin with and prepared properly before you begin using it.

 

1. Check The Value

Before you trust a stranger on Craigslist or even a family friend that you are getting a good deal, do your research. That computer from 2010 may not be worth even $50 if it was a bargain model then. You can easily find used models selling online from auction websites to gauge its current value. Even if the device was worth quite a bit five years ago, modern models may offer just the same features for less than the seller’s asking price. Ensure that you are actually saving money by shopping for used systems.

 

2. Compare Your Needs

Buying an inexpensive computer to run a specific program will backfire if that unit lacks the memory or storage to handle it. For example, many students need to run the free version of Microsoft Word to complete their assignments. If you buy a computer with only 256 MB or even just 1 GB of RAM, it may be too sluggish for proper use. Even complete newcomers to computer lingo will need to check the system requirements of their favorite programs before going shopping. You don’t even have to know exactly what 1 GB of RAM is as long as you know you need it for your game or image editing software.

 

3. Research The Hardware

Investigate any upgrades or specific pieces of hardware used in the system before agreeing to the purchase. The graphics card could be from a manufacturer that has dropped support, which makes it impossible or very hard to find the drivers without an original disc. However, you may be surprised at how easy it is to find unusual driver files. This is one reason it’s relatively safe to purchase used computers today.

 

4. Gather Your Software

Many older devices built more than two or three years ago feature Windows XP. This was one of the most popular versions of the operating system, so many programs still designed today are compatible with it. Check for compatibility with all of your favorite software to ensure that the installation process runs smoothly when you do purchase the device.

 

5. Consider Upgrades

Even if the unit is a little slower or less well-equipped than you would like, you may be able to save money over a new computer by buying used and upgrading. Spending $50 on a better graphics card could still save you hundreds over a system that already has the specific model built in. This is best left to computer users that are comfortable opening their cases and working on their systems. If you aren’t sure how to install memory upgrades, heading to a local repair shop ensures the work is done correctly the first time.

 

6. Test Drive It

Ask the current owner for a test run before you put any money down on a used computer. Buying sight unseen devices can easily lead to disappointment. Shopping in person with local sellers tends to be easier because you can boot up the computer and check for serious errors or other malfunctions. For example, the device drivers might be missing and causing display and rendering problems. Spending just a few minutes on the system will give you a heads up about issues you will be responsible for fixing once you complete the purchase.

 

7. Investigate The Device Manager

Opening the Device Manager during your test drive can show you if the graphics card has gone bad or if the hard drive drivers were corrupted. You can find this informational panel by:

 

  1. Clicking on the Start Menu button to open it, then selecting the Control Panel.
  2. Double-click on the System icon, then press the Device Manager tab.
  3. Scan the list of installed or attached hardware items for yellow caution signs, which will feature an obvious exclamation point. Spotting this will tip you off to driver problems or issues with the hardware itself.
  4. Double-click on any specific listing to find out more details on the errors detected by the computer system.

 

Not all hardware issues will cause notifications in the Device Manager, so don’t be afraid to pass on a system that is acting oddly even if there are no warnings listed in that window.

 

8. Reformat The System

Cleaning out the hard drive and installing a new version of Windows XP is generally recommended, even if the seller has done so before putting the device up for sale. You will need to locate all of the crucial system drivers before beginning the process. It will take an hour or more to complete reformatting and fresh installation, but this ensures that the private data of the previous owner is wiped away before you start using it.

 

9. Consider Changing The OS

Even if you love Windows XP, installing a different operating system could help you make the most of the limited memory and storage of an older computer. Look for compatible drivers before making the leap to something like Linux or Ubuntu, which could be a little hard to find for some equipment.

 

10. Run An Anti-Virus

The cleanest systems can still harbor keytrackers, spyware, viruses, or malware. Reformatting should be followed by a complete antivirus scan before you add any of your personal files or access your email and online banking information. Don’t take unnecessary risks when buying a used computer and could save quite a bit of money while getting the power and speed that you need for your daily tasks. This is especially important if you have a young learner who will be relying on the device for their school work.

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