Guide to Buying Used Computers, Used PCs, Second Hand PCs 

 Guide to Buying Used Computers, Used PCs, Second Hand PCs

Guide to Buying Used Computers, Used PCs, Second Hand PCs
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2nd Hand PCs

   Guide to Buying Used Computers, Used PCs, Second Hand PCs

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Single and Dual Processor Video Editing PCs


 Second hand computers




So you're on a budget and figure that you don't want to pay a lot of money for a new computer? No problem - you turn to the bargain pages. How do you find the best deals? Second hand computers are risky purchases. How do you ensure that you aren't buying a lemon? We've put together some valuable tips for you. 

Why did we take the trouble to share this information? The reason is simple. We sell high quality new PCs at second hand prices. We hope that you will read this info, check the prices of second hand PCs and actually visit our clearance section (new PCs) before you make a decision. You may find that for pretty much the same price as a used computer you can buy one of our quality, new PCs with our unbeatable 7 day a week warranty (upto 5 year cover), and our 14 day money back guarantee. You will find that it makes sense. (Note: All PCs we sell are new and with full warranties)






 Buying a Used PC: An overview of the whole process

Firstly, ensure that you aren't buying from a "dealer". Many of the apparently 'private' ads in second user papers like Loot and the classified sections of your local paper are inserted by dealers posing as private sellers. AVOID THEM. It is illegal for dealers to pretend they are selling privately. No matter how cheap the deal seems you WILL lose. How do you identify the dealers? It's simple really. Full details lower down on this page. 


Test the PC thoroughly before purchase. (Don't just see it working. More details)

Security issues: Ask to see the original receipt (Caution: it's easy for someone to print a receipt at home. Do you recognise the company that issued it? Do they have a vat number on the receipt?). Visit the seller at his or her house. Car parks and the local MacDonald's are a definite no-no. If it's not a suspicious sale they should have no problem giving you their home or work address where you can try the machine out and make the purchase.

Get copies of all the drivers disks and manuals. 30% of PC buyers have to re-format their hard disk and re-install the operating system within the first year. Unless you have all the relevant disks you'll end up with an expensive paper-weight. Read these and other tips

Make sure you know what a new PC of equivalent specification costs. Why pay "new" price for second hand goods? Typically, the price of the second hand PC should be roughly 50% of what a new PC of equivalent specifications would cost. The price should reflect not just that the goods are used but also the fact that you do not have a full original manufacturer's guarantee, and you are therefore taking a risk.


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 The Main Faults with used PCs


Hard disks that have faulty sectors

This is revealed only by running a full surface scan of the hard disk. Note: A full scandisk can take from a few minutes to over an hour depending on the size of the hard disk.

CPU fans "freezing"

Within the base unit is a processor that usually has a heat sink and a fan to ensure it is kept cool. These fans collect dust and dirt and it is not unknown for them to stop spinning. When you have insufficient cooling the processor can overheat and eventually stop functioning. Check for abnormal sounds which indicate the fan is on the way out. If it is remember that the processor may already be damaged.

Monitors that don't work once they have warmed up a bit

It's called a "dry joint", but without going into the technicalities, it's best to check that the monitor still works after 15-20 minutes of putting it on.

Software glitches like freezing and crashing

Over a period of time the installation of Windows on a computer can get damaged. The best way of overcoming this is to ensure that you have a fresh and clean installation of the operating system. You'll find it makes life a lot easier to do this before you start using the computer than after six months of use. (These problems are also caused by faulty RAM or cache).



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 Special Notes on Laptops
  • ensure you have the charger and you've tested it
  • test any additional batteries offered with the machine
  • test the PCMCIA slots
  • if you can't tell the difference between a TFT screen and a DS screen then ask for the receipts that prove the screen is a TFT (as TFTs usually cost a lot more).
  • Ask to see the receipts anyway. Many laptops offered for sale as used machines are actually stolen machines.


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 Testing the PC before parting with the dosh


Even computer professionals fall for some of the common cons in the industry. Did you know that you can order what you think is a 500 MHz computer, pay for what you think is a 500 MHz computer, get what you think is a 500 MHz computer...but it reality it's only 333 MHz, and there's almost no way you can ever tell the difference?! Arm yourself - learn what the common tricks are.

We've reproduced some of the basic tests you can perform quite easily in a few seconds. If the computer is on a network, disconnect it before running the tests below:

  • try reading and writing from the floppy drive
  • play an audio CD (or a DVD movie if the computer has a DVD drive). Try recording to a CDR if the PC has a CD Writer
  • dial out using the modem
  • try the monitor on different resolutions and different colour and refresh rate settings
  • shut down and start up the computer a few times
  • run a text and a graphics file through the printer
  • run a full surface scan on the hard disk if time permits
  • enter CMOS & run an auto detect on IDE to ensure that the hard disk is the right size
  • press pause on the keyboard when the specification screen comes up. You can then verify the RAM, cache, processor etc (this is not necessarily a conclusive test) .
  • check that all passwords have been erased (pressing delete on booting will usually let you go into the CMOS Setup).

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 Avoiding the Dealers

It is illegal for dealers to pose as private sellers. But let's look at why they do it. 

  • Private ads are free. That's always a good reason. 

  • The second, and quite common reason, is that the PC is stolen. You could end up paying a lot for it and end up paying again by getting done for handling stolen goods! 

  • The most important reason is that the dealer doesn't have to give you a VAT receipt if it's a 'private' sale. He'll give you a 'cash' receipt and a lot of promises. If you get the PC home and it stops working he's not legally obliged to sort the problem out. Don't be a victim.

  • And, lastly, they've saved some cost by installing some dodgy or pirated software. Not a problem, you say? Don't mind the odd pirated program? Be warned. It's not just a matter of getting caught. Software in general is unreliable. If, on top of that, you have a pirated installation of Windows you are 50% more likely to keep having problems with your PC, including losing your data and having the PC crash on you.

How do you tell the dealers? Here are some tips. None of them are conclusive, but they'll serve as a guide.

  • Watch out for ads that say "Unwanted gift", or "Several available", but especially the ones that say "New and boxed" or just "new" or "New, with guarantee". If the advertiser has only just bought it, why are they selling? Hmm.

  • Look for one person (on one phone number) who has several advertisements. Also, when responding to any ad say that you are interested in the PC advertised. If they ask, "Which PC?" the chances are that they have several (this kind of question was originally used to catch out the used car salesmen. It still works).

  • Avoid private ads that make any mention of VAT i.e. "vat inclusive", "no vat to pay", "cash only".

  • Watch out for timings "9 AM to 5 PM only" that suggest it's a business (there are, of course, exceptions to this. Bonafide businesses sometimes upgrade their PCs and sell the old ones).

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 Other Tips

Make sure you get all driver disks with the computer. Depending on what's in your computer you will need drivers for: Graphics (every computer has this), soundcard, CD drive, modem, other cards, external devices like printers & scanners. Make sure also that you have drivers for the Windows 95 or Windows 98 that you intend running on that computer.

Ensure that you have a clean hard disk. You want to erase any software or user files that the previous owner had on it.

Get a copy of every piece of software sold you with the computer. Programs installed on the machine will be of no use to you if you have to re-format the hard disk and start from scratch (this does happen with PCs). Make sure you are given the CD or floppy disks with the programs on them, including the disks for the operating system (Windows 3.x, 95 or 98).

If you can format the hard disk and re-load the operating system, do it. Or get a friend to do it for you.

Ask to see the original purchase receipts and get a copy if possible. Get the warranty transferred if the computer is still under warranty. (Call the manufacturers and they'll usually be able to confirm if it is still under warranty). Ask them if the warranty can be transferred to your name. Check that the warranty seals (if any) on the computer are intact.

Get the original packing if it is available. You may need it later.

If you are buying from an auction remember that auctions are the riskiest of all sources and they provide you with almost NO protection should things go wrong. Read our auction page.


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 And finally

Why buy a second hand computer when you can
get a new one

  • at the same price ... or possibly cheaper

  • with a 14 day money back guarantee

  • with a 5 year limited warranty

  • built to ISO 9002 quality standards

  • with delivery to anywhere in the UK or Ireland and

  • with choice of paying by cash, cheque, debit card, or credit card


Performance PCs >>

Budget PCs >>

Super Budget/Bargain PCs >>

Second hand CISCO Router >>

Second hand Sun Servers >>

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Site last updated: June 2010