Advice for buying used or refurbished computers

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

By Eric Geier

For new computers, I usually suggest spending $600 or more to ensure you’re getting a decent machine. But if that’s out of your budget, you can find some nice refurbished options in the $200 - $400 range. Here’s some tips that can help:

Buy from a reputable computer shop: Look for professionally refurbished systems from a computer shop. You might pay a little more than what you would from a private seller, but you’ll likely get a much better outcome. For instance, at my computer shop (On Spot Techs in Moraine) we thoroughly inspect, clean, and test devices before re-selling them. We even replace the traditional hard drives with faster solid state drives (SSDs). We also include a good one-year warranty, which private sellers don’t offer.

Don’t buy from non-computer retailers: You may see various other stores selling refurbished computers, but be careful since they don’t specialize in computers. For instance, I’ve seen pawn shops sell computers without erasing any of the data or reinstalling Windows, just the very basic refurbishing. So, I wouldn’t trust those computers at all if they didn’t even help protect the privacy of the prior owner. I’ve seen thrift stores sell seemingly nice machines, but have had shoddy refurbishing work done on them, such as bad hard drives and loose screws. I’ve also seen online sellers on eBay sell in-correctly configured machines.

Consider Windows 10 vs 11 support: Microsoft’s most current operating system is Windows 11, which released in Oct 2021. Some computers with Windows 10 can be upgraded to Windows 11, but they’ve greatly limited the hardware it can run on. So, many computers older than 2 – 3 years can’t be upgraded to Windows 11. Thus, some refurbished computers out now will likely be stuck running Windows 10.

This all is important when looking for a refurbished computer, because support for Windows 10 ends in October of 2025. That doesn’t mean the computer will stop working then, but it will be less safe and most computer pros will suggest to not use the computer online after then. This is because Microsoft will stop all the updates and fixes to any security holes found after the support ends, so your computer may be more susceptible to hackers and viruses. However, with all that said, Microsoft is working on paid plans to extend the support out more for Windows 10.

To make matters even more confusing, someone can install Windows 11 on unsupported computers and try to sell it that way. The computer may work okay now, but may not in the future. This is another reason why you should buy from a trustworthy computer shop that will be upfront with you.

Buying refurbished computers also helps recycle old tech: Buying used electronics also helps the environment! Computers and electronics contain materials (such as lead, chromium, cadmium, and mercury) that can be very harmful to the environment. Reusing the electronics until their end of life can absolutely help. So that’s one advantage over buying something new.

This brings up a good point: properly dispose of your old computers and electronics. You should NOT put computers, monitors, or other electronics in your typical curb-side garbage or recycling. In some states, it’s even illegal to do that.

Some computer shops (like mine) may take old computers and electronics for recycling for free. They might even help reset your device or remove your hard drive for you. It’s possible they could use some parts, which greatly helps the e-waste issue plus can be helpful for small businesses. Then they should properly dispose of other unusable computers or parts so they don’t go to the landfill.

Eric Geier is the owner of On Spot Techs, a computer repair and IT services company offering on-site service at homes and businesses in the Dayton and Springfield areas and also a storefront at 4732 S. Dixie Dr. in Moraine. For more information, visit or call 937-315-0286.

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