Buying a Refurbished Laptop

Our Guide on Purchasing the Best Refurbished Laptops

Choosing a laptop can be difficult. There are many different models and manufacturers all around the world all vying for your money and attention. New top of the range laptops can be very expensive. You could save money on second-hand or refurbished laptops and get some powerful technology at discounted prices.

What is a Refurbished Laptop?

A refurbished laptop is a laptop that has been restored to factory setting, data wiped, malfunctioning parts replaced and cleaned. Sometimes, refurbished laptops sometimes come with warranties but not always.

Second-hand laptops tend to be sold in their current condition, as such, the condition of second-hand laptops can vary greatly from spare parts to never used.

Refurbished laptops are usually sold by a manufacturer, retailer or reseller like us. Most refurbished laptops when posted to an online store will be graded by quality. The grading scale will vary according to the online site or manufacturer but should give you a good indication of the quality of the laptop.

Remember if you are unsure of the products quality or the reliability of the seller the best thing you can do is to not add anything to your cart. If you have any doubts about a purchase do not buy it and ask questions first.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay?

Refurbished laptops are considerably cheaper than brand new laptops which means that the amount of money you spend will be a lot less.

However, your budget still needs to be considered. It may be a worthwhile investment in time and money depending on the amount you are willing to spend and what you use the laptop for i.e. work, studying, creative suite or general web use.

Refurbished Laptops Under £200

Laptops under £200 even when brand new are generally not the most powerful machines on the market unless they have been upgraded. Most new laptops bought from a manufacturer are unlikely to have been upgraded or customised.

Laptops below the £200 price range tend to have smaller and slower processors than more expensive models. Many laptops within the £200 range have only around 4GB RAM making them only good for web browsing or for word processing.

Having too many windows open or too many tasks operating at the same time will cause them to slow down considerably. For example, a Lenovo Ideapad 110s only has 2GB RAM and cannot run too many tasks without having to close other programs.

Making it unsuitable for any complicated tasks such as gaming or video editing. A refurbished laptop with the same specs can be bought way below the £200 mark and have the same performance as a brand new one.

Refurbished Laptops Under £400

Refurbished Laptops under £400 can vary greatly in the specs. Most notably the RAM can vary between 4GB RAM to 8GB RAM. Brand new laptops around this price will have more standard specs and their RAM will mostly vary between 2GB RAM to 4GB RAM.

Only rarely will you find an 8GB RAM brand new laptop around this price as Laptops with around 8GB RAM tend to cost slightly more as they are newer generations of laptop with newer hardware.

New Laptops around the £400 price range will have higher grade processors like Intel Pentium, Core i3 and AMD Ryzen 3. Refurbished laptops specs vary so widely you can often find older laptops around this price with high specs.

It’s important to look at the specs offered as well as the price as you might find a real bargain. For example, we found a Lenovo ThinkPad T440s for £399 on one site but £499 on another with the same specs.

Refurbished Laptops Under £600

Refurbished laptops for less than £600 have the most varied range of specs. If you have more than £600 to spend on a laptop, the best advice we can give you is to just buy a new laptop, unless you are trying to buy a refurbished MacBook you can find great alternatives below £600.

A refurbished laptop below £600 can be very versatile. 8GB RAM can easily be found at this price and occasionally more RAM can be found if you keep your eye out.

Processors like the Intel core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 are common around this price range making a laptop with these kinds of specs perfect for photo editing and video editing for creative tasks.

Some higher spec refurbished laptops around this price can support some games depending their graphics cards. Look for laptops with a thin and light design. Most will come with a HD screen and SSD.

What Operating System Should I Choose?

Operating Systems are the brain of all computers and laptops and selecting the right OS for your needs can help narrow down the search for a refurbished laptop.

There are many pros and cons to different operating systems, and each are suited for different tasks. Here are three popular operating systems with a short list of pros and cons:

Windows OS

Windows is the most popular operating system. A suitable all rounder with a mix of great programs and compatibility. Windows 10 is the most recent operating system from Microsoft.

Pros Cons
Longevity:
Windows operating systems have been around a very long time and you may be more familiar with windows that any other operating system.
Poor Security:
Out of all the operating systems Windows is the most likely to be targeted. As one of the oldest operating systems, lines of malicious code by hackers have been created just for Windows.

You must buy the most up to date antivirus and malware protections as Windows has been around long enough for hackers to learn their way around the system.
Backwards Compatibility:
Older versions of windows are compatible with newer versions of windows programming.

That means if you just need to upgrade your laptop and don’t want to lose your files they will most likely work with an updated windows system.
High RAM Usage:
Windows operating systems are large memory draining software that takes up a lot of RAM.

Sometimes, making your computer slow or completely unusable depending on how much RAM you have.
New Hardware Support:
Microsoft dominates the software market so almost any laptop can support new hardware on a windows operating system.

This means you can upgrade and customize your computers hardware to your hearts content without major issues.
Paid Software:
Most of Windows software is paid monthly through license fees and renewals all of which are expensive.

While there is a lot of software with a great range of capabilities they are not free and are often paid through subscription.

MacOS Mojave

Mac Operating system is Apple’s operating system. It’s fast, easy to use and well built. It is, however, expensive and works well with other Apple applications.

More suited to creative tasks but not gaming. MacOS is soon to be replaced by the MacOS Catalina bring iPad apps over to Mac and new accessibility features.

Pros Cons
Streamlined Interface: MacOS interfaces are streamlined to have simple user interfaces. Mac OS is designed to be easy to navigate Expensive: MacBook’s like any of Apples products are incredibly expensive.

MacOS is exclusive to Apple products and the price means that people are often better off buying something cheaper. Even refurbished or second- hand Mac’s expensive.
Better Security: MacOS compared to other operating systems are less susceptible to security issues and vulnerability.

Apple has managed to keep MacOS safer than Windows because it is only available across Apple products whereas Windows is available on many different models and devices.
Limited Upgradability: There are very limited options for upgrading hardware.

Hardware components of Apple products such as RAM or CPU cannot be easily upgraded because most Apple products have been designed to make custom upgrades difficult without engineering tools.
Free Creative and Productivity Apps: MacBook’s come preloaded with apps useful for productivity and creativity. Apps like pages, numbers and keynote are the equivalent to Microsoft Office apps.

Also, includes iPhoto for photo editing, iMovie for video editing as well as GarageBand for music production. These are all free.
Lack of Gaming Titles and Gaming Experience: If you want to buy a cheap refurbished laptop for gaming a MacBook is not for you. There are more gaming titles compatible with Windows and more exclusive titles.

The MacOS is not really designed for gaming, a lack of RAM and graphic processors means that many games cannot run properly.

Chrome OS

Chrome OS is an operating system developed by Google that uses Google Chrome as its main user interface. It primarily supports web applications over software installed on a laptop. Chromebooks that run Chrome OS are cheap, most data are stored on cloud servers.

Pros Cons
Cheap: The cheapest option out of Windows and Mac. Chrome OS are installed on Chromebooks which tend to be very cost effective.

Providing basic apps for web-based activity. Tied in with Google’s online productivity apps Chrome OS is useful for basic tasks.
Useless for Creative Work and Multimedia: Chromebooks are not very powerful and are most suit for using web applications. Trying to edit a photo or video on a Chromebook is a waste of time.

Most apps that aren’t web-based will not be able to load or even start up due to the lack of RAM and decent processors.

Even when using web-based applications you may find a Chromebook constantly stuttering or closing unresponsive windows because a Chromebook simply cannot do too many tasks at once.
Good Security: Most usage on Chromebooks is cloud based so there isn’t a lot of software or data to download onto a physical device.

Which means its harder for the user to accidentally download a virus onto the laptop. Chromebooks benefit from Googles security software and are frequently updated automatically to prevent malware and viruses.
No Functionality Offline: Chromebooks are primarily web based without the internet they become expensive  paper weights. You can still access the Google Drive and G-mail, but you obviously can’t use them for much until you are back online.

Because Chromebooks rely on web-based apps you cannot access any of these apps even to just edit something.
Useful for Productivity: Chromebooks rely on web-based apps and not downloaded software. The connection to the cloud allows collaboration with Google Docs and shared Google services, while this is possible on any OS, Chrome OS is designed specifically for this function.

The lack of other software also means there isn’t really anything to distract you from work.
Doesn’t Support Microsoft Office Products: Only a few Chromebooks can use Microsoft Office, and even fewer can use the complete version of Microsoft Office. So, if you are unfamiliar with Googles range of applications you will have to learn a different system.

The Google apps lack the complete functionality of Microsoft Office and using online versions are even worse.

How Much RAM Do I Need?

RAM or Random Access Memory is the hardware that allows information to be stored and retrieved. RAM is the main memory on the laptop or desktop, the faster and larger it is the quicker it can read stored data and how many tasks can run at one time.

RAM is one of the more important things to look for in a refurbished laptop. As the size of the RAM often affects its daily running and ease of use. Depending on what you use your laptop for there are certain amount of RAM that would be more useful to you.

Buying a laptop with a large amount of RAM may be a waste of money. If you buy more RAM then you need there will be no net benefit for you. Buying a laptop with too little RAM and the laptop will be to slow and sluggish on certain tasks.

Most laptops come with a standard 8GB of RAM, with lower end machines and Chromebooks holding 4GB. High end laptops between 16GB and 32GB for the more powerful machines. As mentioned earlier Chromebooks mainly operate using the cloud and have very little storage space, they usually have only around 4GB of RAM, making them perfect for word processing and browsing the web.

With 4GB of RAM you can download a few apps of the Google play store so your Chromebook can have a little more functionality.

Windows and MacBooks, on the other hand might need a little more punch, 8GB of RAM is great for these laptops running these operating systems. If you plan on doing difficult and taxing tasks on your laptop, like creative work or gaming you might want to up your RAM to 16GB.

If you really need to you can upgrade to 32GB of RAM but you might as well get a desktop as you’ll have more freedom for upgrades and usability.

Refurbished Grades

One of the easier things to look for when buying a refurbished device of any kind is the grading. Grades shown on refurbished items tell you how worn and used they are.

Refurbished computers usually have three categories. Simply A, B or C. Some retailers use different grades like Gold, Silver and Bronze, but they are generally similar and follow the same grading system.

Grade A

Grade A are the best of the best, these refurbished devices are barely touched. Usually with little to no marks on them. It’s likely you would buy a grade a laptop in its original box with all its accessories, with the computer itself being in factory settings.

It’s as close to new as new gets. Some retailers, notably Apple and Dell sell refurbished devices in excellent condition with the main difference being a lower price.

Grade B

Grade B laptops are much more worn and used. The damage will mainly be on the case or cover, it is unlikely that the wear and tear will affect the computers performance. It’s most likely that the original box and any accompanying accessories will not be included with the device.

Grade B devices will be much cheaper than grade A but if you are eagle-eyed or just plain lucky you could find a grade B computer at a similar standard as grade A.

Grade C

Grade C refurbished devices are the lowest tier you can buy before the device is essentially spare parts. Most likely you won’t get the original accessories, but you’ll still get a charger.

As the lowest grade, grade C is the cheapest and will probably be out fitted with low grade specs and hardware.

It’s important to remember that some online sites don’t use grades and rely solely on using price to entice people to buy. Remember to check the rating or the seller and check the specs and pictures on the listing.

You could find a laptop with a cheap price but end up with an old laptop with out of date software. Remember if you are unsure about a purchase. Do not buy it and shop around.

Summary

Overall, there are a lot of factors to be considered when purchasing a refurbished laptop. A few are mentioned here that can give you a good chance at finding a good deal.

There is always a risk when buying refurbished laptops and some deals are too good to be true. With a bit of research and online window shopping you could easily find a decent refurbished laptop for you. Finding a laptop that fits your need is the most important part of the process, you should focus on your own requirements rather than price.

There is no point in buying a £100 Chromebook if you want to edit videos and no reason to buy a £400 MacBook if you just want to browse the web.

Make sure you fully read the listings and check the photos of the laptop before you add it to your basket. You can also message the seller and ask about specific items if you want more information. Happy hunting!