The essential guide to buying second-hand computer equipment

With upgraded models and devices being released nearly every month, it’s easy to score yourself a good deal on quality second-hand computers, laptops and tablets.

To help you with the process and find the right option, we have some advice to help you buy the right second hand equipment. 

Step 1: Decide which second-hand device you need

Everybody is different when it comes to buying a second-hand computer. You might want to work on the go with a laptop, or instead, you might like a big screen in your home office with a desktop.

It’s about deciding what works best for you.


Nowadays, powerful laptops can do whatever a desktop can. This, combined with the convenience of a portable device, can make laptops more expensive than desktops.

Used laptops or refurbished Macbooks are a better option for those looking at something portable for a low price.


If you’re looking for something portable and need it for tasks that don’t need much processing power, then get a tablet. These guys come thin and light, which makes them the best choice for those who need a device for presentations, casual gaming, web browsing, or watching videos.

Tablets are great for those who are looking for something they can use for multimedia purposes, like photo viewing and browsing the internet. Because of their great battery life, they make for great usage in households and the workplace.


Essentially, this is a tablet and laptop hybrid. A two-in-one is made to do both – work like a laptop, but be compact like a tablet. It’s thin and the design is made to fold easily because the keyboard that comes with it moulds with the device or can detach from the device itself – turning this hybrid into a standalone tablet.

If you want something with a lot of power to support large files and is fast for bigger tasks, a tablet or two-in-one may not be able to do that for you.

Do keep in mind that this type of device would incur additional costs if you want to make the most of it, like 2-in-1 accessories – that’s pen pads, keyboards and covers.


This one speaks for itself in terms of storage and upgrades. If you have a home office, a used desktop could be a great fit for what you need to do. Although you won’t be able to put it in your bag, you’re guaranteed a very powerful home setup.

Aside from the power they bring they also come with a lot of features including the ability to store as much as you want by upgrading the RAM and CPU.

Step 2: Consider what you’ll be using it for

The most important question to ask is whether the device will do the job you're buying it for.

When it comes to finding the machine that’s right for you, there are a few things to consider:

  • Are you always on the go?
  • Does your job ask you to bring work to different places, or are you a student that works on campus?
  • Do you need a device that can store large files for the work you do?
  • What kind of work do you do? 
  • How often will you be using this device?

Step 3: Research the most reliable brands and models

The next thing is overcoming the famous debate: PC or Mac?

Second hand MacBooks and iMacs are great for those who enjoy working creatively and want to do it all on a macOS (operating system). PCs, on the other hand, are perfect for those who want a Microsoft Windows or Chrome OS.

When it comes to reliability, according to the Tech Radar team, your safest bet is buying a trustworthy brand such as Apple, Asus, Lenovo, HP, Samsung or Dell.

Here are a few things you can do to help you choose the best brand.

  • Take a look through reviews and weigh up your pros and cons.
  • What you’re looking for may be different to what someone else is looking for. Gamers might want a computer that has faster performance rather than apps that can help them with film production.
  • Check out the most current reliability reports and see what brands have ranked high in trust and performance.
  • Go on YouTube and find tech reviewers that can give you a rundown on computer brands you’ve got your eye on. Videos are a great way for tech enthusiasts to break down the pros and cons of shopping for a certain brand.

Step 4: What to look at when buying a second hand computer

There are some specific things you should always check to make sure everything is in good working order when you buy second-hand computers online or in-store. First, we recommend buying a recent product in near-new condition.

1. The operating system (OS)

Do your research on the OS that’s on the product.

  • Does it have a legitimate licensed copy? 
  • Will the programs you want to use run on the operating system? There may be programs you can’t run on a tablet, but can run on a laptop.
  • If you want to upgrade the operating system, will the computer be able to run it (in terms of memory and processor type)? Some programs require updates and run better on a new OS. If your device is too old to run a new OS, you might not be able to use some programs that go with it.

2. Ports

Check it has all the ports you need (HDMI, USB, VGA out) and that they all function. If you know you’ve got plenty of work to store on an external drive, you’ll need the right number of ports to easily transfer files or upload a document.

Some older machines rely on ports because they may not be up to scratch with cloud sharing or peripherals that can help connect to a device.

3. Screen quality

Check the screen for cracks, chips, and dead pixels. You can easily spot a dead pixel by looking out for tinges of green or one dot that resembles a dirt mark on your screen.

Some defects can be fixed cheaply if you really love the device, but try not to buy a computer with screen problems as it can be more expensive to fix it than what you paid to buy it.

4. Screen resolution

Once you’ve checked that there aren’t any cracks or dead pixels on the screen, the next thing to look at is whether the display has good resolution. If you’re a creative who likes to edit photos or make art, a screen with high resolution can give you the best experience.

5. Cords and peripherals

Are all necessary cords, cables and peripherals included? If not, how much will it cost to buy them? Some brands need specific accessories to go with it, like Apple.

6. Specs

You’ll find all the specs of a device on its menu. 

  • On a PC, Go to ‘Settings’ > ‘System’ > ‘About’ 
  • On an Apple computer, go to the ‘Apple icon’ > ‘About this Mac’ 
  • Do the specs suit your purpose? If you’re looking at a tablet, you may want to check the amount of internal storage that comes with iPads because it can’t be increased.

7. Serial numbers

Not all devices have serial numbers, but those that do should have them clearly displayed. If the serial number is scratched off or removed, you probably shouldn’t buy the device.

8. Warranties

Manufacturer’s warranties for computers can often be transferred but be sure to check what information is required.

You may need details like the original owner’s name and address, or the seller may need to call the manufacturer. Most reputable second hand retailers offer a 90-day warranty on most goods outside of any manufacturer’s warranty.

9. Battery life

Check the life of the battery and how long it lasts. Batteries are getting better by the minute. We’re no longer settling for two hours when we can get as much as 16 hours on a new computer.

10. Check the keyboard and touch

Make sure the keyboard or touchscreen is working – simple.

11. Storage, RAM, Processor and CPU

If you’re looking for a simple device, like a tablet, then you won’t have much to worry about. However, if you’re looking for more space, computing power, and the chance to upgrade storage, then you might need a desktop, laptop, or two-in-one.

12. Weight

For portable devices, weight matters. Tablets and two-in-ones are super light, making them great to bring everywhere. 

13. Test it

If you can, take it for a test run.

  • Does it run programs well, or do they crash?
  • Does the battery hold charge? If not, how much would a replacement battery cost for your model?

What to avoid

Things you should avoid when purchasing second hand IT equipment are:

  1. Reputable second hand retailers must perform tests on all electrical items before being sold.
  2. Dirty or well-worn items are a tell-tale sign that they’ve probably not been well looked after.
  3. Sellers or stores with bad reviews or reputations.
  4. A high price – know how much a brand-new item costs and make sure you pay a reasonable price.
  5. Items that use unsupported operating systems, like Windows XP or Mac OS X Mountain Lion.
  6. Old equipment – anything more than roughly four years old might have compatibility issues between the hardware, old operating systems, and the newer programs.

Tip: Find a trustworthy reseller

Sometimes you’re better off going through a trustworthy reseller. Websites like eBay and Gumtree don’t have screening processes to guarantee that what you see is what you get.

Going through a second hand store can mean that a device is put through a screening process by trusted professionals to decide the value. You also get the chance to talk to someone who can answer questions you may have about the item.

At Cash Converters, we have a huge range of quality second hand tech to help make your life easier. All devices are thoroughly checked and ready for use, plus they come with a 90-day warranty.


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