Things To Inspect When Buying A Used Computer

When buying a used computer, whether it’s to save money or to acquire a model that is no longer available, it’s crucial to conduct thorough checks to ensure you’re making a wise investment. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what to check when purchasing a used computer, whether it’s a desktop or a laptop.

1. Inspect for Physical Damage

  • Examine the Casing: Look for cracks or signs of impact that may indicate the computer has been dropped.
  • Screen Condition: For laptops, check the screen for scratches or dead pixels. Open and close the lid to test the hinges.
  • Keyboard and Touchpad: Ensure all keys and the touchpad are responsive and in good condition.

2. Listen to the Hard Drive

  • Noise Check: Upon startup, listen for any unusual sounds from the hard drive like clicking or grinding, which suggest imminent failure.

3. Software and Licensing

  • Operating System and Software: Verify that the computer comes with a legitimate operating system. Ask for original product keys for any installed software, particularly costly programs like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop.

4. Cooling System Efficiency

  • Fan Operation: Make sure all cooling fans are functioning correctly without excessive noise, which could indicate worn bearings.

5. System Performance

  • Boot and Operate: Use the computer for at least 20 minutes. Watch for any instability issues like freezing, random restarts, or overheating.
  • Check RAM and Storage: Ensure the computer has sufficient RAM (minimum 8GB for modern needs) and adequate storage. SSDs are preferred over traditional HDDs for better performance.

6. Verify System Software

  • Windows Version: Check that it’s running a supported version of Windows, ideally Windows 10 or newer, to ensure compatibility with recent software and security updates.

7. Battery Health (for laptops)

  • Battery Longevity: If buying a laptop, test the battery life by disconnecting the charger and using the laptop to see how quickly the battery drains.

8. Check for Capacitors’ Health (for desktops)

  • Motherboard Inspection: Open the case and examine the capacitors for any signs of bulging or leakage, which could indicate the motherboard is nearing the end of its lifespan.

Additional Tips for Buying a Used Computer

  • Ask About the Computer’s History: Understanding how long the previous owner had the computer and their reason for selling can provide insights into potential issues.
  • Test with High-demand Tasks: Run high-resolution videos or stress-test applications to check how the computer handles under load.
  • Look at Upgrade Options: Consider the cost and availability of potential upgrades. Can the RAM or hard drive be easily upgraded if needed?
  • Price Comparison: Ensure the asking price is reasonable compared to buying new. Look for at least a 20% savings from the lowest-priced new equivalent.


Buying a used computer can be a great way to save money, but it requires diligence to ensure you’re not inheriting someone else’s problems. Always perform a thorough check, ideally with the ability to test before buying, and consider whether the cost savings justify the potential risks and lack of warranty. If you’re not comfortable with the technical aspects, consider bringing along a knowledgeable friend or opting for a certified refurbished model that comes with a warranty.

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