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Second hand computers

Buying Second Hand Computers

With websites like Ebay, it’s very easy to buy and sell second hand computers and bag a bargain machine but there are precautions to take to ensure you don’t waste money.

The Processor

Firstly, get the technical specification right for your needs. The processor, measured in gigahertz (GHz), is the brain and a more powerful processor means faster response/running times. It’s also important to consider the number of cores a computer has, as multi-core processors are better at coping with several tasks at the same time. Most modern machines have multi-core processors and, as a general rule, a dual-core processor of 2.5GHz will handle the basics. Processor manufacturer Intel have a range called the i5 quad core processor and the more expensive processors perform better. If, however, you’re going to put your computer through its paces, e.g by gaming, you’ll want a processor such as the i7, which is Intel’s top-of-the-range model. Most modern processors are ’64-bit’, which gives superior performance when compared with older 32-bit versions.

Short-term and long-term memory

Short-term memory (Random Access Memory or RAM) stores data as the computer is used and determines how many different things can be tackled at once. Opt for a second hand computer with as much RAM as you can afford, typically 2 gigabytes (Gb) or more, although it’s not difficult to add RAM.

The hard disk drive (HDD) is for long-term data storage. Typical HDD sizes on second hand computers are quoted in gigabytes (Gb) and, on latest ones, terabytes (Tb). This could be important if you’re storing a lot of data and/or installing large programs, although an external hard drive can always be added on to second-hand computers. Also check if there’s a CD/DVD drive on a second hand computer as this is a useful feature, but also consider a drive for Blu-ray discs, which can store even more data and play high-definition movies.


Second hand computers don’t usually have a warranty but, as they’re older, there’s more that can go wrong and, if very old, parts can be difficult to source. A price to pay is always less than for new ones but only pay what you’re prepared to lose if it breaks. You may or may not receive license certificates with software that’s already installed on second hand computers but beware of software that may be unlicensed/pirated as you’ll have updating problems, which will then make your computer eventually unusable. On a second hand computer, you’re unlikely to get a system recovery CD, which helps get computer owners out of tight spots!

Operating systems

Second hand computers are likely to operate on older versions of operating system and, therefore, be slow to start and, with modern software, run either very slowly or not at all. Security patches and other fixes aren’t always available on older systems, leaving them vulnerable to viruses and hackers so don’t buy a system with Windows 2000, Windows XP or Mac OS 10.3 or earlier.