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So you want to build your own computer from scratch, upgrade your hard drive, or buy a new-to-you laptop for half the retail cost?
You can save money on all of these objectives by purchasing pre-owned or refurbished hardware. Skip Craigslist and the familiar big box retailers and go straight to the online resources that computer aficionados rave about.
These seven websites are divided into two categories: online stores that will sell you refurbished hardware with a warranty, and forums that enable you to buy, sell or trade pre-owned hardware with other shoppers. Both options offer advantages in their own way.
If you’re already pretty knowledgeable about what you’re looking for, you may want to start your search in the forums. Beginner shoppers will find more information and a greater selection in the online stores.
Online Stores Selling Refurbished Hardware
Micro Center sells refurbished computer parts online as well as in its collection of physical stores. When you visit the website it helpfully tells you right away where the nearest store is, and leaves it up to you to decide if you want to shop online, shop in person, or just pick up your online order in the store. Unlike similar sites, it’s easy to find Micro Center’s used items because “Refurbished Deals” is the first link in the “Products” menu.
The most helpful feature is the “Compare 2” function. You can actually compare up to four items in an easy-to-scan chart containing a wealth of information from performance specifications to manufacturer warranty (which many of Micro Center’s refurbished items still have).
Use the comparison chart to make an informed decision about which refurbished part to buy. For example, you could discover that one hard drive is slightly more expensive than another simply because of the year it came out or its manufacturer name, but not in more critical areas such as capacity.
Newegg has an equally impressive selection of refurbished computer hardware, but it’s a little harder to find. You have to click on “Computer Hardware” in the general menu and then select the refurbished category in the bottom right corner.
Once you find the refurbished items, you’ll discover the same price comparison feature that Micro Center has, though it’s slightly less user friendly. Newegg does allow you to compare up to five items — one more than Micro Center, however, the comparison feature isn’t available for all products and the visual chart isn’t as extensive as Micro Center’s in the information it provides.
Another helpful Newegg feature that Micro Center doesn’t offer is the retail price of the same item in new condition. This allows you to easily see how much money you’ll save if you buy used.
As with Micro Center and Newegg, Tiger Direct offers a wide variety of refurbished items. It also has “Overstock Deals,” which may give you the opportunity to save nearly as much money on a new item as you would on the refurbished version. A 90-day warranty is offered on all refurbished items as well as the option of purchasing additional service plans.
Tiger Direct doesn’t have a comparison feature, but it does have a helpful list of “Top Sellers In This Category” so you can see what other shoppers are fond of. This could be helpful to a more casual buyer who doesn’t already have a specific idea of what they want.
Mac users will love this online store, which caters specifically to Apple products. The selection of refurbished products isn’t as large as those offered by the bigger and more generalized stores, but there are plenty of great deals to be found on refurbished Mac computers, iPads, and assorted parts and accessories.
Shoppers with questions will find the 24/7 live chat feature very helpful, and Other World Computer also compares its price with retail outlets, allowing you to see how much you’ll save.
Forums Connecting Buyers/Sellers/Traders of Pre-Owned Hardware
Hard Forum allows you to beat out the middlemen and buy, sell or trade directly with others. While you may get the best price this way, you give up the protection of buying from a store and you’ll need to do more research on your own before you buy.
Still, there are plenty of informational forums where you can ask questions and get advice from experienced tech users. Hard Forum would be most helpful to someone who already has a lot of knowledge about what they’re looking for, or to a shopper willing to put in some legwork in order to score the best price.
Overclock looks like a more organized version of Hard Forum. While transactions are still conducted solely between members, there is a list of “Marketplace Rules” posted in plain sight, and staff members monitor the forums. Another helpful feature is the ability to post an ad for an item you’re seeking. Even if you don’t see what you’re looking for right away, you might find someone who will sell it to you.
As with Hard Forum, you’ll have to do your own research before buying.
This is Reddit’s forum for buying and selling used computer hardware. Unlike Hard Forum and Overclock, /r/hardwareswap is only what the name says: there aren’t general forums to ask questions in. However, you can chime in on the comments with questions or offers below the asking price. In fact, the ability to haggle is a helpful feature of all the forums that online stores lack.
Which Is the Best Option for You?
Now that you’ve examined both options, will you start your search on the forums or in an online store? Just be careful not to spend too much time obsessing over the best deal — if it takes you hours to save an additional five bucks, you’re not getting the best value for your time.
And once you’ve discovered the benefits of refurbished equipment, chances are you’ll start digging into hardware and software solutions, too. Some network protection companies offer price discounts as low as 60% -90% or inexpensive SSL certificates.
When you harness the selection and connectivity of the internet, there’s no end to the ways you can save on computer systems for work and play.
Which of the resource mentioned above are your favorites? Tell us about them in the comments section below!