The Top 9 Things To Know When Shopping For A Refurbished Computer

Laptops or personal computers have become indispensable in modern education’s zeitgeist.  Laptops are now students’ libraries, research fields, and in most cases, the only means by or through which solutions to college assignments can be produced or submitted.

For students there comes a time you would need a new laptop because your old laptop has either started giving you problems or is just not performing when you need it most. As a result, and typically around back to school time, many students want to upgrade their laptops.  Whichever the case may be, it is not uncommon for students to desire a high-quality laptop that is both economical and powerful enough to perform as needed.  

The best option is to get a refurbished computer. This article gives you tips to keep in mind while shopping for a refurbished computer.

What Are Refurbished Computers?

Refurbished computers are optimally functioning computers that are obtained from reassembled or reprogrammed computers often returned by customers to the manufacturer due to some form of defect identified by the customer. Such returns usually happen soon after purchase. Defects that evoke customer returns include missing parts, errors with the OS, wireless connection problems, or even something a simple as a missing power cord. Because these issues are usually minor, computer manufacturers refurbish the returned computers and sell them at a discounted price. Some refurbished computers may not have had any defects and may have been returned to the retailer or manufacturer due to cancelled orders, end of lease or costumers changed preference, resulting in exchanges for a different model.  Note that refurbished computers are different from second-hand computers. They are typically better quality than second-hand computers and generally are supported by a full manufacture warranty.

When new to refurbished computers, it is always helpful to understand the process the computers go through before reaching the store shelves.  Typically computer manufacturers or retailers collect returned computers, sanitizes them, sort them, and grade them on appearance and function. After that, individual computers are disassembled, and all damaged, or defected components are identified. Missing components or defected parts are then replaced, a new OS installed, the computer tested to meet all specifications, packaged, certified, and finally put on sale at a discounted price. Because computer manufacturers ensure that all components of a refurbished computer are functioning optimally before being brought back unto the market, they perform at the same level as or sometimes better than a brand new computer. More care is taken in testing them than that done for brand new computers. As you can see, for students, refurbished computers are a perfect fit, as they provide the same quality, performance and undergo many of the same design tests of a brand new computer.

What To Look Out For When Buying A Refurbished Computer

When exploring the advantages of buying a refurbished computer, it is never about quality in exchange for price. The aim is to buy a computer that functions just like a brand new one. Keep the following nine tips in mind when shopping for your next refurbished computer:

1.    Buy Popular Brands

First, it is recommended that you stick to popular brands such as Dell, HP, Asus, Apple, and Toshiba.  Their manufacturers are known to have departments that refurbish returned computers and work with authorized resellers to that both sell and perform onsite computer refurbishing.  Furthermore, known brands use the appropriate components and quality control procedures to outfit refurbished computers. Often times top computer brands and retailers go the extra mile to upgrade refurbished computers and convert once leased computers to refurbished status. They are known to follow very strict policies in their production process; for students, this means your next laptop is going easily to keep up all your needs.  You can save up to 70% by buyer refurbished computers!

2.    Buy From Authorized Dealers

It is always best to buy your refurbished computer directly from the manufacturers or from their authorized retailers. Buying your refurbished computer from a trustworthy retailer ensures that you get a good deal and helps to prevent you from future regrets with your purchase. Some of the well-known authorized retailers for refurbished computers like are known for providing excellent customer service and quality computers.  Authorized manufacturers that consistently deliver high-quality testing, and follow a certified refurbishing process, such as, are known for making the process and experience of using a refurbished computer both comfortable and hassle-free.  Dealing with a retailer that is trained to help you find a computer that fits both your current needs and supports your future growth is just one of the main benefits of authorized and certified dealers.

3.    Take A Close Look At The Return Policy

Ensure that the store you purchase your laptop from has a return policy that clearly outlines your options and their obligations.  Ideally, your return policy includes a no-worries guarantee that allows you the opportunity to perform an exhaustive check on your computer after you have purchased to decide on whether it truly meets your needs. Note that some companies may require you to pay a restocking fee upon returning your computer should you have issues with. An acceptable return policy shows that the retailer is confident that its products being sold are of high quality. In case you start using your computer and find anything below ideal, you can take advantage of the policy and get your money refunded or get a replacement. This way, you minimize any risks associated with the purchase and are assured of a good investment.

4.    Consider The Retailer’s Customer Support Options

Technical support is often required to keep even the most advanced and highest quality computers functioning optimally after purchase.  To ensure that your computer functions effectively, it is smart to ensure you have available technical support options. If your chosen authorized computer retailer offers technical support, you can be sure to receive authentic products and services to keep your computer functioning optimally. Look out for retailers who have certified technicians and onsite labs to require, test and upgrade computers.  Technical support from your retailer can help you with future installations, troubleshooting, maintenance, and upgrading of your computer. Often refurbished computers come with manufacturing technical support as part of the product warranty.  This gives you an added advantage to keep your computer in the best form with regards to function and performance.         

5.    Confirm The Specifications Of The Product With Equivalents Using Online Reviews

It is advisable to compare the specifications of your computer with that of similar computer models found online. Juxtapose specifications like RAM, hard disc space, processing power, and the type and number of peripherals. Several online computer review sites do a feature-by-feature review of computers. Ensure that the specifications seen on such websites match that of the model you want to buy from your retailer before committing to buy. This is good due diligence to ensure that you get the best value from your money. An ideal refurbished computer has the same features (if not more) as a new computer of the same model.   

6.    Check The Battery

A battery check is a pretty good way to ensure your new refurbished computer will perform when on the road. As students, you never want to run out of juice when at a coffee shop, in the library or working at the park, so make sure to assess the battery of your refurbished computer.  Note that more advanced computers have batteries that last significantly longer than even batteries of only a few years ago, and the more money you spend on a battery, the longer it is expected to last. Additionally, computer batteries gradually deteriorate with time, so the battery health is a good indicator when buying a refurbished computer. The battery should ideally be in pristine condition.

There are features within Mac OS and Microsoft Windows you can use to check the status of a computer’s battery. By typing ‘poercfg/battery report’ in the command prompt of Windows, you can generate the battery report, which will be saved in the computer’s user account directory. Focus on figures under Design Capacity, Full Charge Capacity, and Cycle Count Number. Design Capacity shows the amount of power the battery is designed to hold. Full Charge capacity shows the amount of power the battery is actually able to hold. There should not be much difference between the Design Capacity and the Full Charge capacity for a new computer. Cycle Count Number, on the other hand, shows how many charge cycles the battery has gone through.  A charge cycle of 500 can result from 2-3 years of heavy computer usage. There are other parameters like Battery Usage, Battery Capacity Usage, Usage History, Recent Usage, and Battery Life Estimates that can also give you an idea of how long a computer has been used on a Windows operating system.

For Mac users, a battery check is quite easy. Simultaneously press the ‘Option’ and ‘Battery life’ icon on the menu bar.  Check the ‘Condition’ drop-down menu. It will display several battery life parameters like Normal, Replace Soon, Replace Now, and Service Battery, all of which can give you an idea of the battery’s condition.   Only technology-savvy people know this trick, so most customers only check the physical appearance of a battery to determine whether it is new or not. Be sure to combine both approaches for an exhaustive doubt-clearing battery check.

7.    Check The Operating System

It is uncommon to find a refurbished computer from a well-known brand that does not have an operating system pre-installed. Microsoft approved refurbished computers are given the tag ‘Microsoft Authorized Refurbished,’ and install valid Microsoft operating systems on refurbished computers and display a Microsoft Certificate of Authenticity (COA)  label on their computers.  Be sure to look out for such labels to determine whether you are buying a genuine product or not.  

8.    Look Out For A Warranty

Refurbished laptops usually come with warranties. Manufacturers typically give three months to a year warranty for their authorized refurbished computers.  Be sure to read the details of your warranty to see how many years of guarantee a manufacturer has included. Try to buy a refurbished computer that has a 1-year warranty if possible.

9.    Physically Examine The Computer

Examine the computer for any scratches or blemishes. Your laptop should be shining with little scratches if any.  The keyboard should look fresh and even throughout. Ask your retailer if there are any cosmetic flaws. Sometimes refurbished computers may come with a few minor flaws in the casing. This does not affect the performance of the computer. Check USB ports, microphone jacks, and even DVI, Ethernet, and HDMI ports, if possible. You could also run tests to see the status of the screen, hard disk, CPU, GPU, and the RAM if possible. Be sure to examine the package for manuals and other accessories. A refurbished laptop must come with a manual and all accessories that a brand new one would come with. Doing a thorough external examination on all components is a good way to ensure that you get a good deal. At worst, all components and accessories should look and feel fairly new. 

Bonus Tip

The prevalence of SSD or solid-state hard drives has created a surge of sorts for refurbished computers. SSD hard drives are similar to the hard drives found on your phone, or iPad or USB drive. Think of them as a computer ship with massive amounts of memory.  What makes this so important in the realm of refurbished computers is that older technology of hard drives often referred to as SATA, uses a physical moving disk to store data.  Like anything, over time, a physical product will show signs of wear and tear. On the other hand, an SSD hard drive has a typical lifespan of 10 years!  Just imagine the value you can get out of a refurbished laptop with SSD.


Although refurbished computers from authorized dealers are not for everyone, they do provide a number of important benefits for price-conscious and value-focused shoppers. Like most of us, making the best use of our hard-earned dollar is more important now than ever.

Buying a refurbished computer can give you the best value for your money. By investing a little time and effort by following the tips shared above, you also help to ensure you find a computer that performs well and meets your needs.

Now go get your refurbished computer and enjoy the experience of a brand new computer to make your work smooth and fun. Good luck. 

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