Things you must know and consider before buying a used laptop.

So, you've decided to buy a used laptop, perhaps, you just came across one with low price that suit your need and you really want to buy it. But, you should be sure of the following, before you part with your money.

 Read Users and Experts Reviews first
Read the laptop's buyers' feedbacks and reviews: use Internet Search Engine, such as Google, to find specs, experts reviews and buyers comments or feedbacks about the particular laptop.

Fortunately, it's easier to find the users feedbacks and opinions about the used laptops than the new ones. Sometimes, users' feedbacks give us hints on certain weaknesses or strengths that are peculiar to a particular product. So, try to read buyers or experts opinions about the laptop first. At least it will give you an idea on what you're getting into.

Be sure of the laptop's integrated and removable Components
This one upholds the above suggestion. Search for more information about the used laptop you are purchasing and get familiar with the basic terms of the specs, this is necessary sometimes, because some of the basic laptops components that are popular known to be detachable (and interchangeable) are now found soldered to the motherboard, in some recent laptops.

In other words, in the past, these components are normally removable and interchangeable in the laptops, but recently, due to technological advancements, you'll found them integrated in some laptops. Examples of such components are onboard RAMs, onboard Hard Drives and onboard processors, even there is also built-in batteries.

Meanwhile, some of these laptops have extra socket(s) for upgrades, some don't. Therefore, instead of used, buying new one or refurbished of such laptops is advisable. Because like faulty laptop's graphics card, if any of these integrated components is faulty, it leaves you with not much options than to get another motherboard.

For instance, I've had used a laptop that was working perfectly until it had processor problem. I just removed the processor (Intel celeron), replaced it with good one, and everything went back to normal. And the laptop served me well until i sold it when i needed some cash.



On the other hand, i've also had the privilege of using laptop with onboard processor, but when it had similar problem (like the one above), it was difficult to repair, in fact, i couldn't do much except to replace the laptop Motherboard with another one (with good processor). But the price of the laptop motherboard could get me another cheap fairly used laptop.
Examine and know the type of Display
At least you should be aware of the following by now, if not, get familiar with it. Used laptops mostly come in two types of screen i.e. LCD (ccfl-lcd) screen and LED (led-lcd) screen. LCD screens are mostly found on older laptops, i said older because production of Laptops with LCD screens peaked around 2009 i.e. the time when Laptops with LED screen were quickly replacing them.

 So, if you're considering of buying a  laptop with LCD screen, you're probably buying laptop of year 2009/2010, therefore it should attract lesser price than the one with LED screen.

So, the screen should be clean and clear, devoid of any marks and lines (vertically or horizontally). Also, look out for discoloration (washout colour) and dead pixels, although, we don't often come across used laptops with dead pixels and discoloration display like we used to around 8 or 9 years ago because these defects are common among laptops and Computer Monitors with LCD screens. I think this positive change has something to do with the advent of LED screens.
   
 

Pay Attention to the Hinges

Hinges join the main body of the laptop with its lid (the one that housed the screen), and it enables the lid to move front and back. Buyer should thoroughly examine the conditions of the hinges, this is important because faulty hinge(s) is not always repairable.

And you can check whether the hinges are ok or not through open and close method; in which you'll hold the laptop lid with one hand, and use the second hand to hold (pin) down the main body.

Make sure the hand is positioned at the top of the lid, close to the webcam spot, then push the lid steadily backward until it almost lie flat (on its back), then pull it forward like you're trying to shut the lid, not too close though, otherwise the laptop will go into hibernation. Steadily do the open/close process for 5 times.

This will reveal whether the hinges are still firm, loose or making any squeaky sound; because like i said earlier, faulty hinge(s) is not always repairable.
Also the process is useful for checking the condition of the screen's signal cable (flat cable behind the screen) especially those ones of LED screens.

So, during the open/close process (above), if you notice the screen flickers or went dark and quickly came back to normal again, it may be signs of faulty signal cable.
Cosmetics (body appearance): 
Whether used or refurbished, almost everybody likes to buy a laptop with neat and spotless chassis; but when it comes to used laptops, sometimes, good aesthetic body is not always synonymous with good internal conditions [components] and performances.

Agreed!, when buying used laptops, i don't compromise on weak or faulty hinges, missing screws, weakened frame, cracks or other signs of being dropped or fell down. But small dents, smears, light stains and scratches should not prevent one from buying a good used laptop, most especially if those things are not that glaring or in positions  that will always draw attention.

In other words, if one of those small things "is not a blemish", and it's something you can live with, then stick with the laptop, my opinion though.

 know about the Software upgrades and compatibility
In order for them to be bought easily, and also to make them relevant, most of the used laptops are always upgraded to the latest softwares by the sellers,  especially the O.S. (Operating System). Well, the good news is; you have the latest (or something close to it) software (s) on the laptop, no need to spend on that again.

The not-so-good news is; because the owner upgraded the laptop to the latest O.S and application softwares (which didn't come with it when bought new), therefore, it's advisable to find out whether the softwares are genuine or not, also find out about the hardware/software compatibility.
Know the Maximum Supported RAM:
Buyer should be aware of the maximum amount of RAM that the laptop supported. The majority of the used laptops come with at least minimum of 2GB RAM, though the maximum amount supported by these laptops varies. While some support 2GB/4GB Max, many support 8GB/12GB, and there are high end ones that support 16GB/32GB Max.

Although 2GB is manageable for documents works, casual internet surfing and other related lesser tasks. You should know that in order to run most of today's average Application Softwares smoothly and multitask quickly, you need a minimum of 4GB of RAM.

Therefore like i said 2GB of RAM is manageable, but you might be compelled (by the software updates) to upgrade the RAM sooner than you thought. For you not to feel restricted when the time comes, know the maximum amount of RAM the laptop supported.
 Thoroughly examine the Keyboard and Touchpad
This not about examining the keyboard for faded or missing keys, it's more about 1 or 2 keys that don't work or function well on a seemly good keyboard. On this, if you are lucky, this malfunctioning may happen the moment you switch on the laptop and try to examine the keyboard to know if all the keys are completed and functioning well.

But, some keyboards will start to show the signs after using the laptop for a while, let's say 20-25 minutes, you'll just notice that one of the keys is pressing on its own. Sometimes the situation may get worse in which you won't be able to identify the actual faulty key that's causing the problem.

For instance, you may notice that the icons on the desktop are being highlighted randomly, and if you quickly swipe or run your fingers across all the keys [random keys] on the keyboard, the problem will abruptly stop or disappear that moment, only for it to come back a few minutes later.
Therefore spend more time to test the keyboard thoroughly.

On the Touchpad, first, make sure the laptop's Charger (Power Supply Adapter) is OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or, at least, good one, because, the laptop's Charger sometimes, affects the functionality of the Touchpad i.e. it can hinder or alter the movements of the Touchpad.

You can detect this easily, by plug in the Charger while using the Touchpad, and then remove it after a few minutes, watch out for pointer (cursor) moving (shaking) on its own or in some cases, it may start to lag, on which you'll have to exert a little pressure to make it move as you intended.

If you remove the Charger and everything go back to normal, ask for another Charger, in order to be sure if it's the Charger or not, because the laptop might also have charging issue.

If the charging issue is cleared, a good Touchpad should be sensitive and quick enough to response whenever the finger touches its surface, it's not such a good thing if you're exerting more than necessary pressure on Touchpad before the pointer moves or double-clicks. Also remember to check the right and-click buttons.
Watch out for the CPU fan that's constantly running at the top speed.
If the laptop has the required amount of RAM, free of computer virus (or bugs), free of dust and well ventilated, still the fan runs higher than necessary, especially when you're doing something like internet browsing and the fan didn't reduce the speed "until" you disconnect your wireless or modem  from the internet.



It may be a sign that the processor is heating up easily, as a result, putting more pressure on the fan. And you have checked to be sure it's not as a result of any of those aforementioned things (Inadequate RAM, virus, dust etc.).

Then It may also be either the particular  processor is less powerful, or weak and at worse it may be dying. Whatever the cause may be, i don't like such thing in used laptop.

On the "type" of Graphics Card; this can be subjective to the choice of the buyer, but personally, i don't really buy used laptops with dedicated graphics card except the laptop is factory refurbished. This is because most of such laptops (with dedicated GPU) were designed to handle heavy graphics tasks such as computer games. But i won't want to risk buying used laptop that i'm not sure whether the seller was a hardcore gamer or not. Like i said if it's factory refurbished, i would buy it.
Know the Type of Hard Drive
Whether used or new, today's laptops come with different types of hard drives and for you to easily identify the type of hard drive that come with a particular laptop, you need to be familiar with the laptop's specifications.

More on types of hard drive and their basic properties.

Still, the 2 Commons ones among the used laptops are standard (2.5) HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and standard (2.5) SSD (Solid State Drive).
And more than the SSD (and others), HDD is easier to examine, because while the other types of Hard drive are made of memory chips, the HDD is made up of spindle metal discs. And to an extent, you can learn something about the health status of the HDD by pay attention to unusual sound such as whirring, ticking and nocking that might be coming from the HDD, because HDDs are supposed to run quietly,

Learn more about how to buy used drive.

Because both of them (2.5 SSD and 2.5 HDD) share the same connector (SATA) and similar form factor, they are interchangeable. Although, SSD is faster than HDD, it's more expensive and also comes with less storage capacity than HDD.
Check the Battery and Power Supply Adapter
Here; I'm not talking about laptops with built-in batteries such as recent models of Dell XPS or MacBook Pro. The focus is on the used laptops with user-removable batteries.
Therefore, most laptop buyers have always known that, the majority of the used laptops' batteries are not always in their best conditions, so it's advisable to set aside some amount of money for a spare battery, still, if you really do your homework, you can still find some laptops with good batteries, especially those ones with OEM batteries.

Nevertheless, if the battery is not OEM, at least, be sure it's a good Charger that come with the laptop. And while charging the laptop, if the battery charging rate is faster than normal, this might indicates the battery will drain faster when the Charger is removed.

NOTE: Normally, How big the screen is, to an extent, determines the number of hours you get from your laptop's battery. The is also applied to the used laptops, therefore, unlike their 15-inch counterparts, it's easier to find many 14-inch (and below) used laptops with longer battery life. Furthermore, laptop's screen type also have an effect on battery life, i.e. Laptop with LED display will last longer than laptop of the same screen size and battery cells but with an LCD screen.
   1 USB-Type C port  and 1 USB 3.0 port   
    Image Source:  extremetech.com

Ports: know the number and type of USB and HDMI ports
The least number of USB Ports you'll ever find on used laptops is 2, while many of them come with 3 or 4 USB ports, some even come with more than that. Meanwhile, there is nothing wrong in buying used laptop with 2 USB ports, in as much as the laptop is good and meet your need, my concern is how the 2 USB ports are arranged, because of easy accessibility, I'd rather you went for USB ports that arranged side-by-side, than the stacked ones.

Furthermore, there are different types of USB ports,  there are USB-Type A ports, USB-Type C port and Thunderbolt 3 port. USB-Type A ports includes, USB 2.0 port (found on older laptops), USB 3.0 port and the recent USB 3.1 port. Meanwhile, all the USB-Type A ports look alike, but, you can easily recognize both USB 3.0 (above picture) and USB 3.1 ports by their blue colours, instead of usual gray colour of USB 2.0 port.
On the other hand, USB-Type C port (above picture) and Thunderbolt 3 port also look alike too, but Thunderbolt is faster.

In all, the main difference between all these USB ports lies in their speed of transferring files, so, while the USB 2.0 has the lowest speed, Thunderbolt 3 has the highest speed of all.
On the HDMI Port, Many used laptops, even high-ends older ones, come with HDMI port while many do not. If you think there may be a need for you to directly hook up the laptop with your flat panel TV later, you might want to consider buying used laptop with HDMI Port.

Others: test other necessary features such as wireless connection, 3.5 mm Jack, Webcam, Optical Drives (Blu-Ray/ DVD-RW Drives). Know the level of sound output that come with the laptop because some laptops' speakers are designed with to deliver low sound output while some are designed with high sound output.

Cover Image Credit: www.notebookcheck.com


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