Ever buy something second hand, get it home,
and realize that there was something wrong with it, and that
the flaw was probably going to haunt you until the day that
you either sell it, give it away, or throw it away? Well, hopefully
this article will keep that from happening if your in the market
to buy a used laptop
With the advent of new technologies,
much more powerful laptops
have become available, and at more reasonable prices. Computer
manufacturers have made so many advances, that it has completely
revamped the market for used laptops
. Previously, if you were in the market to purchase a used laptop
, you would have no choice but to settle for a machine whose
computing power could not handle the software overhead of the
newest programs. So, to be able to handle the "high-overhead"
of these programs, the need to upgrade became imperative; creating
a new market, which consists of a whole new generation of used
which are much more powerful than ever before.
Students, who are required to stay on
budget, recently have found it more cost-effective to purchase
a used laptop,
rather than a new one. A student, or consumer, can now find
a used machine that will accomplish the same required amount
of computing as a brand-new machine, and in many instances for
only a little more than half the price of a new machine.
However, as with any piece of used electronic
equipment, there are drawbacks; as some laptops
withstand "normal wear and tear" better than others. The models
that have proven themselves to become known as bulletproof,
usually command a higher price; and conversely, the more proprietary
a machine is, the more apt it is to be found in the lower percentile
of the respective price range.
Irregardless of what strata of used machine
you are in the market for, there are certain things that a perspective
owner should be aware of.
Most electronic, and electrical, troubleshooters
learn in the course of plying their craft, that the features
that are most likely to go first, on any piece
of equipment, are the ones that receive the most ergonomic interfacing.
To put that in more laymen terms, whatever gets handled, pushed,
pulled, turned, and slid; is usually the first suspect that
you look at, after a failure.
Having said that, there are some important
points that one should keep in mind when looking at a prospective
the first of which, is whether or not you are purchasing the
machine on a as-is basis, or not. If you are purchasing the
machine from a reputable store, that offers a return policy,
or a limited warranty, then at least you have the grace of taking
it home, and giving it the once over. If however, you are purchasing
the machine from let's say an individual, or a store who maintains
an "as is" policy, then it's buyer beware.
The first point of review should be the
condition of the display. With the machine off, and the screen
dark, look at the screen from off to the side; inspect it for
any scratches or aberrations, then with the machine on, and
the screen lit up, give the display a good looking over. What
you do not want, is to get it home and realize that there is
a blem on the screen; because if you bought it on a "as is"
basis, you will have to look at that defect for a long, long
time. So check, and double check the screen.
The next thing you want to look at are
the connectors; where the mouse, ethernet, USB, and power connectors
go into the machine. Laptops
were designed specifically to be mobile, unlike their desktop
counterparts. So that means they are going to be carried, stuffed,
un-stuffed, and accidentally dropped, kicked, and banged.
If the machine was used, for navigation,
with say, possibly any of the popular GPS software, then there
is a good chance that it was required to ride shotgun in the
passenger seat of a moving vehicle, and subject to abrupt stops,
which could possibly have caused it to be airborne. Now I know
this is a worst-case scenario, but I want you to think about
the laws of probability, specifically the one having to do with
the three circles, and the hundred marbles. Eventually, those
three marbles will role outside the third circle,
and then Murphy's Law will prevail.
Assuming that the machine was at some
point mobile, and some, if not all the required devices were
plugged into it, and the user had to inadvertently slam on the
brakes; we can also assume that the machine went flying. Experience
has shown, that there is conclusive evidence that indicates
once a machine has become airborne, they don't land very well.
They usually land on their side, and possibly the side that
has all the aforementioned connectors coming out of it; and
those connectors were not meant to be used as landing gear.
So, after-the-fact what will be left, is a female connector
that looks just fine from the outside, but the devil is in the
details. And there is really no way of telling unless you have
a flashlight, and a magnifying glass, and you know exactly what
you're looking for.
Once a USB, or ethernet connector has
been damaged, there is really no cost effective way to repair
it, except to purchase a PCMCIA card, that replicates the device
that has been damaged; and that will unnecessarily tie up a
So, what I recommend when you're out
looking to buy a used laptop
, is that you bring with you, a set of connectors. Bring a mouse,
to plug into the connector where the mouse goes; a USB connector
to test the "feel" of the connector where the USB connectors
go in; a RJ-11 jack, for checking the telephone line receptacle,
and basically any other connectors, that would relate to any
other devices that you plan to be plugging in to that particular
machine. What you will be looking for is two things. First,
do the connectors stay in after you push them in? Do you hear
the characteristic "click" on the ones that are supposed to
click? Gently tug on them to see if they pop out too easy; or
do they stay in like they are supposed to? You want them to
stay in. And second, does the connector go in smoothly and snugly?
If not, look for another unit.
If the power supply for the machine is
available, check the feel of the power connector going into
the power receptacle on the back of the unit. If it feels like
it wants to fall out right after you plug it in, than that will
be problematic when you have the machine in a mobile environment.
Make sense? You want to make sure that the connectors, once
they are inserted into their respective receptacles, will stay
there. Lest they will be falling out when you're trying to get
things done, and causing unneeded aggravation.
On the subject of what you will be in
possession of, data-wise, on the machine, after you own a used
; plan on reinstalling the operating system. But before you
do that, you should invest in some type of software which "wipes"
the drive or files, such as HyperWipe instead just deleting them. The difference
between wiping, and deleting, is that when you wipe a drive,
or file, the procedure of wiping actually writes, and rewrites,
over the specified area on the drive, to make any previous data
As part of the deal, if you can, you
should also try and get two disks. The first, would be for the
operating system that is already installed on the machine, so
you can reinstall it, thereby giving yourself the benefit of
being able to start from a clean slate; and the other disk should
be the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) disk, for whatever
brand, make, and model machine it is, which contains the drivers
that are peculiar to any proprietary peripherals that come with
the machine, such as sound cards, software modems, display adapters,
drives, and so forth; because when a manufacturer says "we don't
support that anymore", they mean it.
Following this simple plan of performing
a limited number of semantics prior to purchase, hopefully,
will allow you to sidestep any aggravation from recurring problems
after purchase of a used laptop
This Article Written by Nick Nano - © 2006