I have worked with refurbished notebooks for nearly 15 years, and can safely say that as long as you follow some simple guidelines, buying a second hand laptop can often be a perfectly safe and cost effective approach.
First and foremost, pick your brand carefully. ‘Consumer’ brands found cheaply in the leading high street stores are generally not suitable as refurbs. Business level models such as the IBM and Lenovo Thinkpad, Dell Latitude (not the Inspiron), Toshiba Tecra (not the Satellite) are designed for high level usage and have better componants, plastics and shelf life.
Many were originally priced at well over £1000 and were built to last. A laptop that is 2-3 years old will generally have a good deal of life left and might even have the residue of a manufacturers warranty – a 3 year warranty is a good sign they are confident with their product! I am seeing more and more cheap consumer models breaking at the hinges, slowing to a crawl and lasting about a year before they start giving up the ghost.
Secondly, choose your supplier carefully. I would look at the sort of equipment they are selling. Good refurb sellers know which units are reliable and are the most unlikely to have problems. Back to point 1 – brand!
Many sellers will not warranty batteries. These are consumables, and over time they simply run out. This is quite normal, and more often than not the batteries they supply will hold some charge. Never fear however – finding new batteries and other componants for these leading brands is an easy and relatively inexpensive business. The best thing to do is power your laptop off the mains whenever you can, but run your battery right down maybe once a month.
Another good thing about refurb laptops is that they will generally come without the piles of useless software that seems to litter new consumer units. They’ll have an OS, some free anti-virus and thats about it – nice, clean and zippy.
All in all, don’t fear the refurbished laptop market. Just stick to a good brand and model, check out the suppliers stock and if in doubt, ask. I bet my socks that £250 spent on a 3 year old Thinkpad or Latitude from a reliable refurb seller will out live a new £299 entry level laptop from a High Street outlet.
EIT are always happy to answer any questions.