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The advantage of the market moving so fast and so many new and better products coming out everyday is that second hand computer equipment has never been cheaper. A 486 computer that is more than sufficient for most word processing, some spreadsheet work and the occasional game can now be had for about 150 (April 1999). This is amazing value when you consider that they cost in excess of 1500 not all that long ago. The processing power in a 486 is more than what the entire British armed forces had in the early sixties.

You can also get early Pentium computers for just a little bit more. But how do you work out how much a used computer is worth? A good guide would be to see what equivalent computers are selling for in the classifieds, and in your local bargain paper (like Loot, Friday-Ad, Buy and Sell etc). You can also try:

ZDNet's Guide to used computer prices: http://www.zdnet.co.uk/usedpcs/pricelist.html

How about building your own computer for little or nothing? Wayne Lamont says you can do it for free. Don't you really love that word? Check out scrounge.org. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of building vs buying?

There is the inherent risk with older computers that they may crash on you and may be too expensive to repair. It's a risk you'll have to weigh against the really cheap price. When buying a used computer you may want to check that everything is in full working order. Test all the features it has - the sound, the modem, the CD Drive. Make sure you get a copy of all the driver disks. 

Ensure that any software you get with the computer comes not just pre-installed but also with the disks, the licence, and possibly the manual. If time permits you can run a scandisk on the hard disk. This is one of the most easily damaged parts. Another part that seems to fail pretty often on older computers is the cooler fan. It's the little fan that sits on top of the processor. If it is not turning, the processor could be damaged from overheating - the longer it's been that way the more the chance of damage. More precautions to take when buying used equipment.

When buying a used computer from a dealer you may even be able to get a 3 to 6 month warranty. If he's not willing to give you a warranty on the parts try and at least get a warranty on labour for the first six months. Remember though that any warranty you get is not worth the proverbial paper if he closes shop, or moves away.

With used computers there is of course a higher chance of something going wrong. If you are handy with a screwdriver and want to invest in a good book on computer repair you may find that you can cure most simple problems. Our advice is that if you can afford it go for a new machine. Read the advice elsewhere on this site you may find that you can get yourself a new computer for less than it's costing you for a used one! And of course, with new computers there's the peace of mind that the warranty gives you.

While you are about it why not check out the scrounging site? It does cover some basics on what to look for in a second user machine. 

And check out what the latest bargains are on New PCs. Click on the banner below.

 

 

 

Other popular articles in this series

Arming the customer: Before you buy a computer  ask the vital questions

How to? The tricky job of comparing prices

How to beat the computer salesman: The inside guide to getting the best deals

 
See Also:

Info HQ's Great Collection of Useful Tips

 

Take me to the great value PCs

 

 
 

 

 
   

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