7 Computer Parts You Can Buy Used (And 5 You Shouldn’t)

Buying used parts to replace damaged or worn-out PC components can be a great way to save money. However, due to the sensitive nature of PCs, you should avoid some second-hand parts. What PC parts can you buy used, and which ones should you avoid?

Whether you’re repairing a damaged part or simply looking to build your PC from scratch, buying used parts can help bring the total costs down significantly. 

Parts You Can Buy Used 

1. Central Processing Unit (CPU)

A computer's CPU.

A new CPU can prove expensive, especially if you go for a high-performance unit. That explains why used units have become increasingly popular over the years.

Although a CPU is one of the components you can buy used, it’s crucial to do your due diligence before settling for a friendly-priced unit. 

There are many perks to buying a used CPU. 

First, due to their status as the ‘brains’ of the computer, CPUs are usually built to last and can serve owners for several years.

Secondly, used CPUs are generally far cheaper than newer ones, allowing you to save on assembling or replacing a damaged CPU.

Take time examining the CPU, looking for red flags like unplanned shutdown and damaged or bent pins.

But you’re generally safe when buying a used CPU as long as it functions well. CPUs are usually hardy and can offer several years of use!

Please refer to my article guiding you on how to check if a CPU is working to know more about testing a CPU.

2. RAM

A desktop computer's RAM modules or sticks.

Buying RAM has increased over the years, making a RAM upgrade costly, especially when purchasing new units.

And since you’re likely to need a large amount of RAM to effectively run all the apps and software on your computer, buying used can be handy. 

So why should you buy used RAM? 

First, RAM can stand the test of time. These devices are among the most durable parts of a PC and will serve you for years if put to the correct type of use.

However, when buying used RAM, check whether the unit(s) is repaired. That’s because fixed units will likely have reduced service life compared to used ones without a repair history.

Another crucial factor to consider regarding RAM is its compatibility with your motherboard.

Buying an incompatible RAM means losing money, especially if you buy from online sources without testing it on your device. 

Check your motherboard’s manual to see the guidelines for slots and memory modules. Download software like CPU-Z, too, after installing the used RAM.

Open the software and head to the memory tab to check features like frequency, module type, and speed. 

3. PC Cases, enclosures, and covers

A standard empty computer case.

The good thing about second-hand PC cases and covers is that they don’t need much testing to determine legitimacy.

If it looks good, then it probably is good. One thing you’ll need to check on, though, is the sturdiness of the frame. 

Go for used PC cases that don’t look too old or damaged. 

You can also buy used bezels, hard drive doors, and USB ports. The trick is to check whether they have broken parts and, even more importantly, if they’re compatible with your current PC. 

4. Keyboards and mice

A typical computer keyboard and mouse.

Keyboards and mice aren’t as costly as components like CPUs, meaning you won’t get to save much when buying used units.

However, if you want a quick replacement for a broken part, you can easily purchase second-hand keyboards and mice. 

Again, when buying second-hand hardware like mice and keyboards, check their physical state before even trying them on your device.

Avoid buying worn-out and damaged hardware, even if the seller claims they work perfectly (unless you’re on a tight budget).

Check for compatibility with your device by connecting the mouse or keyboard. Using the device for over five minutes is ideal for determining its functionality.

Another great way to ensure you end up with quality products is by switching the mouse or keyboard on, then off and on again to see how they work after being turned on. 

5. Coolers

A high performance aftermarket CPU cooler.

Coolers are among the safe PC parts to buy used. However, while purchasing a second-hand air cooler for your PC is okay, don’t buy liquid coolers, as air coolers are much less risky than their liquid counterparts when bought used. 

So, what should you look for when buying used coolers? 

First, always check on the physical condition of the contact area. For example, dents and dings in the aluminum fins are red flags; don’t attempt to buy a cooler with holes or cracks. 

As a rule of thumb, avoid using second-hand liquid coolers due to the risk of leakage in the case of dents and cracks.

Another point of consideration is listening to the noise levels. A cooler that’s too noisy is probably nearing the end of its useful life and won’t serve you much longer.

6. Monitors

A standard computer monitor.

A monitor is also safe to buy used, especially since new monitors can set you back a pretty penny. (Learn more about the types of monitors by reading: What is a monitor?)

You’ll need to check for dead pixels when buying a used monitor. You’ll easily spot a dead pixel on an all-white or all-black screen.

While a single dead pixel won’t harm you much, a group of dead pixels will almost certainly compromise your viewing experience. 

Another important consideration when buying a used monitor is whether it has dark or bruise marks.

Dark areas (large) and bruise marks appearing after switching a monitor indicate potential damage to the LED lights or problems with the light-channeling mirrors.

Avoid buying a bruised monitor, which usually signals an improperly handled device.

7. Disc readers

A standard 5.25 inch optical drive.

Disc readers are safe components to buy used. However, the price of disc readers has declined significantly over the years, meaning you won’t save a lot of cash buying used. 

When buying a disc reader, pay extra attention to the unit’s appearance. For example, avoid buying disc readers that appear damaged or have broken parts. 

PC Parts You Shouldn’t Buy Used

While buying used parts for your PC can help you lower overall repair or assembly costs, some parts are best when brand new. In this section, we’ll discuss PC parts that you shouldn’t buy used. 

1. Hard drive

A computer's mechanical hard disk drive or HDD.

Buying a used hard drive is a sure recipe for disaster. While the device might work for a while, it might eventually fail, especially if you don’t know its usage history.

This is because hard drives usually come packed with magnetic platters that spin at thousand revolutions per minute (rpm). 

Hard drives also contain moving heads that communicate information to the magnetic platters.

The moving parts inside a hard drive increase the chances of malfunction, especially if the device was previously dropped or improperly used. 

The risk associated with buying used hard drives is too high, explaining why it’s best to settle for new units.

Although used hard drives might appear normal and function as expected, they can easily malfunction, leaving you counting financial and data-related losses. 

Therefore, purchasing new units is highly recommended due to the risks involved with second-hand hard drives.

Granted, buying a high-memory hard drive might be costlier than purchasing second-hand units.

However, the benefits will be worth the investment because you won’t risk losing crucial data. 

2. Motherboards

A standard desktop motherboard.

Motherboards are essential parts of a PC and are undoubtedly the foundation on which PCs are built. Every other PC component slots into a motherboard, highlighting the device’s importance.

Buying a used motherboard isn’t such a bad idea. However, the risks involved are too high to justify the fairly cheaper costs of second-hand motherboards. 

The problem with buying used motherboards is you don’t know their history, meaning they can backfire and leave you greatly exposed.

For instance, crucial components like capacitors could have worn out, thus limiting the functionality and performance of the motherboard.

Moreover, older motherboards rarely support the latest or advanced CPUs and RAM. 

Most second-hand PCs also come with faulty back connectors, meaning you might not get to use your female USB sockets.

Exposed connector pins will likely be bent and damaged, giving you much more work than needed.

Therefore, it’s best to avoid purchasing second-hand motherboards for your PC unless you’re buying from a trusted seller. 

3. Power cables

A standard computer power cable.

You can buy used power cables. However, the risks involved can prove too much. That’s because power cables can malfunction and damage your PC’s other parts.

Therefore, if you have to buy a used power cable, it’s better to buy from a trusted supplier or repair shop. 

You can buy HDMI cables and other secondary cables second-hand from trusted retailers. However, you’ll need to examine the physical condition of the wires and test them before making any purchase. 

4. Graphics card

A computer's graphics card with three cooling fans.

Buying used graphic cards might help you save your hard-earned cash. However, making such a move is risky, especially if you don’t know the device’s history.

For instance, buying a GPU previously used in cryptocurrency mining will do more harm than good. 

Buying a new GPU is much safer, especially if you want to use your PC for gaming and editing.

However, you can still buy a used graphics card if you don’t mind returning to the market if your graphics card malfunctions

5. Power supply (PSU)

A standard desktop computer power supply.

This is probably the most important computer part never to buy second-hand.

All the components inside your system rely on good power to operate properly. It can lower the lifespan of the part that relies on it if the PSU is in bad shape.

Ensure this is the one component you don’t try to cut costs.

Also, remember that extra Wattage in the specs goes a long way for a longer-lasting power supply and a cooler operating one.

Advantages of buying used PC parts

Used parts are cheaper than new components

Perhaps the greatest advantage of buying used parts is affordability.

Second-hand components are usually cheaper than new parts, meaning you’ll get to save, especially when assembling a computer from scratch.

You can save $200 or more when buying used computer parts from a trusted retailer.

Used spare parts can also help reduce the overall repair cost, which can be useful when operating on a budget. 

You can get premium components for a lot less

Buying new premium PC parts can severely dent your savings, especially if you purchase parts packed with advanced features.

The good news is that premium parts usually become affordable once used.

Buying a used or refurbished premium part can improve your PC’s performance. 

You can buy spare parts for your PC

Spare parts don’t need to be new to work. You can easily repair a spoilt PC by replacing the damaged parts with a functional used part.

Not only will this help you save on unnecessarily ballooned costs, but it also allows you to stock up on spares for the future.

In addition, having several used parts to act as a backup means you’ll never be caught off guard if one of the parts malfunctions. 

Buying used helps conserve the environment

While this isn’t an obvious advantage many consider when buying used PC parts, it still is a plus. Buying used products means you’ll contribute to keeping unspoiled equipment or devices out of landfills.

In addition, recycling electronic equipment helps preserve the environment, ensuring that functional parts don’t wind up in the landfill.

Disadvantages of buying used PC parts

Used products don’t come with a manufacturer’s warranty

With almost all warranties tied to the original owner, you’ll have to kiss a warranty goodbye if you buy second-hand PC parts.

This highlights the importance of thorough checks before settling for a particular product.

However, some retailers offer limited warranties to clients, so you’ll need to be on the lookout for such deals. 

Difficult to examine

The importance of thoroughly checking used computer parts cannot be overstated.

However, examining the parts isn’t as straightforward as most people perceive, especially for relatively inexperienced users.

In addition, you’ll probably need advanced technical know-how to understand sensitive parts like a CPU or motherboard. 

Used parts have reduced useful life

Although you might get a used product in great shape, chances are it won’t last as long as it would when new.

However, this shouldn’t prevent you from buying used parts, provided they’re in good shape.

Mishandling or overworking used parts can lead to premature damage. Hence, there is a need to be extra careful when using second-hand or refurbished parts. 

Some parts should be new

While buying used PC parts can help reduce overall costs, it’s not the best idea for some parts.

You should always buy parts like hard drives, motherboards, and brand-new power supplies.

For instance, Using second-hand hard drives can lead to losing essential data. Similarly, a faulty second-hand power supply can leave you counting losses as it can easily damage other parts. 

Is it hard to build a gaming PC?

Building a gaming PC from scratch isn’t hard. You can buy and assemble used or new parts to create your gaming beast.

Unfortunately, new PC parts are often costly, which explains why most people prefer using quality parts like RAM, cooler, monitors, and the CPU. 

Buying the parts from trusted vendors is best if you prefer to build a gaming PC by assembling used parts. Or consider buying new parts if you doubt the quality of used parts. 

Tips for buying used PC parts

Buying used PC parts is risky and rewarding at the same time. While you can end up with a well-functioning part, you might also purchase a faulty part.

Here are some extra tips to follow:

  • Buy from trusted sellers. As a good rule of thumb, always buy from a trusted seller. Check for reviews and customer ratings to determine the seller’s legitimacy if you buy online.
  • Always examine the products. Ensure that you take your time to check its physical appearance before buying a second-hand product. Some products like casings and keyboards are easy to examine based on their physical appearance.
  • Test the parts. Buying a used PC part without proper testing isn’t the smartest idea. Not only does it increase the chances of disappointment, but it also means you can incur losses should the seller have a no-return policy.

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