A Handy Guide for Buying a Used Computer

If you can afford it, a brand new laptop computer is a nice way to go. But, when you need a less expensive laptop, you’re probably going to be looking at purchasing a used computer instead. Here at Record Head we have a wide variety of both new and used laptops to choose from.

When you buy a used laptop, you want to make sure that it works. With that in mind, you want to view the listings with an eye on the condition several items. Here is the brief list of those which I consider to be most important in your purchase:

  • Screen
  • Keyboard
  • Battery
  • Battery Charger / Power Adaptor
  • Operating System / Software
  • Hard Drive Size
  • Memory Size


This is probably the most important item to consider (and the most overlooked). For two main reasons:

  1. You’re going to be looking at the screen every time you use the laptop.
  2. When it breaks, it’s the most expensive part to replace.

You may see listings that have “screen burn-in,” bad areas of the screen, bad lighting, etc…. These computers should sell for deep discounts. So, if you want something cheap, they’re not bad to consider.

If you do purchase a laptop with screen damage, make sure that you know what the problem is, and see if it works with your needs.

So check out the screen, especially looking for damage. And, if the damage is not acceptable to your needs, then look elsewhere.


This is almost as important as the screen. It is not as expensive to replace, but it is still a pain. A missing key or two may be acceptable to you (especially if it’s the “` / ~” that you don’t use often). But if the problem is with sticking or tough to press keys, you’re probably not going to be satisfied with the machine until you have paid an expensive service fee.

Also, try to get an idea if it’s a format you like. Some formats are different. Laptops may eliminate or double-up keys to fit in the limited space. If the computer is fairly recent, you might visit a local computer store to get a feel for the particular keyboard. You might be surprised at how much you either love or hate the keyboard.


This is the item that goes out most often, and is likely to be weaker on used laptops. Even new computers have limited warranties on battery life. So a battery that won’t hold a charge (or last only a brief time) is not a showstopper. In some cases, you just want a “portable” computer that you’ll be running from the power cord anyway (such as on a trip).

Unless the battery has a guarantee or warranty (not likely), you should probably check out the cost of a replacement battery.

Battery Charger / Power Adaptor

This is actually more important than the battery itself. If you have a fully charged battery, sooner or later (a few hours use maximum), you will need to recharge. If you do not have a working battery charger, you have an expensive doorstop.

Of note, there are “universal” adaptors out there. I have never seen one that works for all laptops. And I have seen some laptops for which none of these work for. So make sure that the “universal” adaptor specifically lists the laptop in question before making a decision based on it.

Operating System / Software

You will need an operating system (such as Windows) to run your computer. And you will need software (such as a word processor or spreadsheet) to make any use of it. All of the computers at Record Head come with the following software pre-installed on the laptop.

  • Microsoft Security Essentials(Anti-Virus software)
  • Open Office (Word processing, spreadsheets etc.)
  • IMGburn (Disk burning software)
  • VLC Media Player(Video/Music Player)

Our computers come with basic set of software that you need to use your computer and none of the bloatware that typically comes on a brand new PC.

Hard Drive Size

Nowadays you should be able to pick up a new hard drive for most laptop systems. But you have to make sure that it works with the laptop in question. And you have to remember that laptop hard drives cost several times more than those that go in desktop computers.
Your best bet is to buy a machine that has a big enough hard drive to begin with.

As an alternative, you might consider picking up an external hard drive, if all you need to do is store the work from your laptop. Not only should it be less expensive than a laptop drive, but it can also interface with your desktop machine.

Memory Size

You can generally upgrade memory easier than upgrading the hard drive. However, even if you wanted to buy a lot of memory, you are limited by how much memory the computer can hold. Try to find this out in advance.

Again, it is nice to have the computer up to your specifications before you buy it. But – if the deal is good enough and the expandability is high enough, you might look for a deal on a low-memory machine.

For memory, my personal preference is to buy it new, on sale and at a local dealer. That way, if it doesn’t work (and it doesn’t always) I can quickly have it replaced. However, you can also get deals on new and used memory on eBay. Just remember to factor in shipping costs when you plan your purchase.

There are, of course, many other considerations.

  • Do you like the brand?
  • Is it the right design?
  • And does it just feel right?

The items I have listed in detail are more along the practical line. They deal with the basic reliability of the machine. They should help you decide if a particular used laptop computer is worth buying and upgrading (if necessary).

But, ultimately, you have to decide if it’s the machine you want and the machine you can afford.

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