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Used laptop

If we decide to buy a laptop from a private citizen, through Craigslist or any other manner of classified ads, then we are getting a used laptop.

The best-case scenario is that the seller offers a laptop in perfect condition, just because they need the money or got themselves an upgrade.

However, since no authorized service company has checked the system, as they do with refurbished laptops, it is our responsibility to check it thoroughly, and not be satisfied with any of the seller’s claims of “hardly used”.

The benefits

When looking for a pre-owned laptop, we can potentially discover huge deals, depending on the age of the laptop and the reason its owner is selling it.

We might buy a last-year high-end model with less money than we would give for a brand-new budget laptop, and get significantly better performance.

What to be careful about

To make a used laptop purchase worth it, the price would definitely have to be quite tempting. But if it is too low, it should make us suspicious.

If we are interested in a second-hand laptop, we first have to see the product up close. This is a no-brainer. Never, buy a used laptop you never saw up close and personal. 

If this disqualifies any sellers from across the country or international sellers, so be it.

Upon meeting, we ought to examine the laptop as thoroughly as we can for as long as we need:

External checks

  • Look for visible dents, scratches, cracks, and breakages on the laptop body.
  • Check the charger for frayed cables
  • Check the screen for burned pixels or discolorations
  • Listen for any rattling or unusual sounds when moving the laptop,  that could suggest that it might have been dropped. Avoid to shake it vigorously, though. The seller probably won’t like it.
  • Make sure all the keyboard buttons and the touchpad function properly
  • Test all ports on the laptop: USB, HDMI, Thunderbolt, headphone, etc. Make sure both that they work and that they are a good tight fit for our peripheral devices.

Functional checks

  • Test the network capabilities: WiFi , Ethernet, Bluetooth, if available
    Run a hard disk drive check
    Check the optical drive, if available.
    Run a variety of programs, depending on the use we want it for.
    Play music to check the soundcard and loudspeakers, and also test the microphone with Skype or a Skype alternative.
    Run a stress test application for the CPU and GPU, such as Prime95 and FurMark
    Check the computer temperature with an app such as HWinfo, especially during stress testing. Also, do a by-ear sound test for the laptop fan.
    Run the laptop both on battery and with the charger connected. Make sure the battery charges to 100%.