Here are some tips on how to buy a good used laptop. Let's take a look at eBay. What should you look for in a used laptop? First of all, look at the corners. Damaged corners indicate that it has been tossed around too much. Then check all the buttons, switches, DC jack, audio jacks etc., especially the power button and the keyboard. If they look damaged or there are a lot of scratches on them, it’s better to look somewhere else.
The laptop’s DC jack is very important. If it is broken, you will not able to charge the laptop.
Laptop USB ports occasionally get damaged by rough usage from kids. The majority of USB ports are soldered to the motherboard, and if they are abused using force, they get loose and break.
An HDMI port is now a must on a laptop or desktop computer. This is because the VGA port does not provide a good quality picture to the monitor. HDMI always gives exceptional picture quality.
FireWire ports usually stay unused unless you have a camera that connects with FireWire.
Laptop hinges also need to be checked. Sometimes they become so loose that they detach themselves from a laptop and then damage the screen cable.
Missing screws would be an indication that the laptop has been disassembled, and most likely, some parts replaced.
This can be good if it’s for upgrading memory, but it can be a bad thing if it’s a BGA (graphics chip) reflow. So, it’s better when the laptop has all the screws intact.
Audio inputs and outputs ports rarely get damaged. In the rare case, a headphone output can get damaged.
What should you ask the seller? First of all, ask them if the hard drive is okay. If they know what it is they can even tell you if there are any bad sectors on it. Do not buy a laptop that has a hard drive with bad sectors. This is a very bad decision. I need to tell you that companies do a little trick to erase those bad sectors. They try so-called “zeroing” the hard drive and try to install the operating system. If it works, then they list it on eBay. I do not have anything against eBay or good companies, but you need to know what to expect.
The other thing to look for is what screen the laptop has. If it looks like a cinema screen (widescreen), rectangular and the width is more than the height, then this is a modern laptop, most likely with DDR2 memory and a dual core CPU. The ones that have a square screen are not worth buying, as most likely they will be slow.
What type of technical specifications should I look for? As of the date of writing this article, buying a laptop with DDR2 memory is a good choice. There will probably not be many used laptops with a solid state drive (SSD), but you can possibly get one with a smaller capacity, like 64GB or 128GB. Please be careful with those netbooks or laptops that offer only a 32GB hard drive. I can’t imagine for what purpose somebody would use a laptop with a 32GB hard drive, except maybe browsing the net and email. The storage on these netbooks is so small that there is enough space for the operating system and that’s it.
There are still good used laptops out there. Good laptops (at the time of writing this article) have DDR2 memory, called RAM.
As I have mentioned, laptops with wide screens will have DDR2 memory and how this memory looks is described separately here. This memory, as any other memory, has a capacity. For a used laptop with Windows 7, 2GB (Giga Bytes) of memory is enough. But if you want to run Vista on it, then I would put 4 GB of RAM. But I would not go to the trouble of running Vista in the first place.
Laptops also have another type of memory, called hard drives. I do not know exactly why they are called hard drives; they used to be called Winchesters in some countries.
If the laptop was abused and maybe dropped on the floor a few times, these hard drives can get defects on their disks. This is why a laptop with damaged corners would not be a good buy.
At the time of writing this article, 128 GB hard drive is enough. It will have the capacity to hold the operating system and something else, like a few movies or a few hundred music tracks.
Now, there are SSD drives introduced. This is a sort of hard drive, but it does not have moving parts. All data is stored on electronic chips, like on RAM, but it is power independent, so all data will be there if we power down the laptop.
It is very important to have all laptop components, like hard drive, RAM, and screen, operating properly. For this, we need a good power adaptor. The original ones are better, and aftermarket adapters can be bad. What can a wrong, or faulty but still working, power adapter do to the laptop? In my experience, it will damage the hard drive.
This is also true for a desktop computer with power supply units. I have had a few mysterious hard drive faults on laptops and on desktop computers, and I have found those hard drives were damaged by faulty power adaptors. Without measuring equipment, it is hard to tell that a power supply or laptop power adapter can damage something. Usually, we notice something is wrong but then it is too late.
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