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How to Buy a Used Computer

Buying a used computer can feel like taking a leap of faith, but if you know what to look for, you can land on your feet.


  • Step 1: Get details on the seller's return policy and the length and coverage of the warranty that comes with the used computer. Ask how quickly the sellers respond to repair needs.
  • Step 2: Buy the computer. If you need multiple machines, be sure to buy a set of computers that come with the same parts. You'll soon have a computer that's new to you!
  • FACT: Manufacturing 1 computer and its monitor uses 1.5 tons of water.
  • Step 3: Find out what is included with the computer. Often, you'll be offered just the machine with no monitor. Inquire what, if any, operating system comes with the computer, and order any accessories you might need, like DVD drives or wireless network cards.
  • Step 4: Browse the used computers by categories. Options include refurbished computers that have gone through a thorough inspection, computers that were new but were opened and then returned, and computers with dents or scratches.
  • Step 5: Shop for your used computer at an authorized refurbisher. Avoid buying from the classifieds. Check if the seller is a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher, or MAR, or purchase refurbished Macs directly from Apple.
  • TIP: Check the fail and return rates of the refurbisher from which you plan to purchase.
  • Step 6: Determine your computing needs. What software will you be using? Make sure a used computer meets or beats your minimum system requirements.

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