Sometimes offers for desktop and laptop computers seem to be priced too low to be real. In the description of these products you might find the term refurbished. Both manufacturers and retailers may be offering these systems below what a normal PC costs, but what is a refurbished product and are they safe to buy?

Refurbished computers typically fall into one of two categories. The first type have failed a quality control check during manufacturing.

Rather than simply disposing of these systems, the manufacturer will rebuild it to pass quality control but sell it at a discounted price. The other type is a rebuilt system from a customer return likely due to a component failure.

Now the refurbishment of the product may be done by the manufacturer or a third party. Manufacturers rebuild the system using the same parts used in the new PCs. A third party that rebuilds the machine may use alternate parts to get it up and running. These alternate parts may change the system from its original design. This makes it important that the consumer read the specifications of the refurbished system and compare them to the standard specs for the product.

Another type of product that consumers will find discounted is an open box product. These differ from a refurbished product as it has not been rebuilt. It is simply a product that was returned by a customer but it has not been tested.

Consumers should be very careful when purchasing any open box products.


Cost is the primary reason people purchase refurbished desktops and laptops. They are often priced below the average computer system currently sold. Of course the amount of discount is only really relevant if you happen to be looking at the same exact product.

Most refurbished PCs available will typically be older products that are being compared to the original suggested retail prices for the product when it was first released. As a result, the deals may not always be the best.

When pricing a refurbished computer, it is important to note if the system is still available for sale new. If it is, this makes the price comparison very easy to determine. PCs such as this generally can be found for modest discounts of between 10 and 25% off the retail prices. As long as they have similar warranties to the new products these can be an excellent way to get a system for below retail.

The problem comes from older systems that are no longer sold. Consumers are often tricked into paying for a system that looks like a good deal but is not. This is where the specifications become extremely important. With those in hand, try to find a comparable brand new system. If one is available, then the same cost analysis of 10 to 25% still holds. If a comparable system is not available, then look for an equally priced new system and see what you get. Often times consumers in this case will find that for the same price they can get a better, newer laptop or desktop.


The key to any refurbished computer system is the warranty. These are products that typically were returned or rejected due to a defect. While that defect may have been corrected and no further problems may develop you want to make sure that some coverage is included for potential faults. The problem is that warranties are typically modified for refurbished products.

First and foremost, the warranty should be a manufacturer one. If the warranty is not provided by the manufacturer it should raise a red flag for consumers. A manufacturer warranty will guarantee that the system will be repaired to the original specifications with manufacturer parts or certified replacements can be used with the system.

Third party warranties can cause major problems as replacements parts may not be guaranteed and it may take longer for the system to be repaired.

The next thing to look at is the length of the warranty. It should provide the same length as if it was purchased new. If the manufacturer is not offering the same coverage consumers should once again beware. The lower cost of the system may be the result of them not offering to support the product.

Finally, be wary of extended warranties. If an optional warranty is offered for purchase with the system, it should be a manufacturer extended warranty and not one through a third party. Also be wary of the cost for extended warranties. If the cost of the extended warranties makes the system cost more than buying it new, avoid the purchase.

Return Policies

As with any product, you may get the refurbished computer and find that it does not meet your needs or has issues. Because of the nature of refurbished systems, you want to be very careful of the return and exchange policies offered by the seller. Most retailers tend to have more restrictive policies regarding refurbished machines and they may be sold as it which means you have no recourse for returning the product. Because of this, always read them carefully before making a purchase. Manufacturer refurbs often have been options than third party sellers.


Refurbished laptops and desktops are one way consumers can find a good deal, but they have to be much more informed before the purchase. The key is to ask several key questions to know if it is really a good and safe deal:

  • Is it sold by the manufacturer or a retailer?
  • What is the price relative to the same PC new?
  • Is the system comparable to an equivalent priced new PC?
  • What type of warranty comes with the PC?
  • Who will handle warranty work?
  • Is there the option for a return?

If all of these can be answered satisfactorily, then consumers can generally feel secure in the purchase of a refurbished PC.

Joseph Forbes (691)

Information Technology Consultant. For SMB, SOHO, and Online business. From Computers to Telecommunications this guy has been into it since hippies made it hip. Drone Pilot and Tech Aficionado I get to travel the State of Texas to help businesses succeed.