Refurbish that PC: Saving the environment, helping your business and making MS a little richer!

secondhand pc

It’s not pretty, just look at the scratches! But it works! What happened? Well… while PC prices have come down staggeringly since the first full PC that I bought in the early 90’s, it is what happens to those millions of ‘used’ PCs that has always bothered me.

In fact, millions of perfectly good PCs are junked simply because they aren’t cool or powerful enough. Worse, owners often try to sell their second-hand ‘slightly’ used but already somewhat dated PCs for prices that just don’t make sense. The result: like many people, paying 75 cents on the dollar for a pc that is already 12-24 months old is insane. And paying 50 cents on the dollar for a notebook in similar condition just doesn’t make much economic sense.

At least desktops can be refurbished with generic parts, but notebooks… We had to buy a new keyboard for an IBM, that accounted for over 10% of the initial purchase price… the cost of a replacement battery would be much worse! So these perfectly functioning PCs get junked after lying around in closets and workshops for ages without getting used because many PC owners can’t accept that depreciation rates are often in excess of 25% per annum for equipment, and that doesn’t include increases in pc capabilities.

But for many businesses, these ‘old’ pcs can provide ‘new’ equipment, low equipment costs, and increased productivity. In our business, we were originally working on 2 Pentium II pcs with Windows 98 SE on both (bought in approximately 1998 and 2000). I had to bring my own PC to work four years ago. But we were still short of PCs for quite some time. After purchasing a notebook for one teacher (never again, I tell you!), we were adequately provided for a while, but with a growing staff, and needs, we soon began to feel that things could be different.

As I write, I’m looking at a refurbished or second-hand LCD monitor that is already about 5-6 years old. I don’t know where it was first, but when I bought it, I was needing a new monitor, new LCDs were quite expensive, and we were economizing because of a downturn in our business. Unfortunately, last year money was at a pinch; until I met by chance a small refurbished computer supplier who was able to provide three systems along with three LCD monitors for my school over a period of a year or so. Each of these PCs was the equivalent of a Pentium III or similar with a fair amount of memory, LCDs and so on.

I figured that we would be able to use them for a year or so before being replaced with newer systems, but so far things are going well. It’s been six months. As an interesting sidenote, although we now run five pcs on our network, mostly 8 hours a day, the purchase of LCDs has cut our electricity bill noticeably even during the hottest summer days. While it’s difficult to estimate how much we saved on electricity, it’s about 40-60% per monitor. It was enough to pay for at least one of the monitors, if not two, over the course of a year.

My first experience buying a second hand computer wasn’t so good though, as I purchased a reasonable looking system that died after one month. So, there is a learning experience, but most importantly, finding a supplier that you are comfortable doing business with, and one who can provide a limited warranty to help you get started.

As nearly 28 million computers are being refurbished in this way, these pcs can help a business expand quickly, inexpensively, and benefit the environment. Finally, Microsoft has recognized the size of this market!

If you are at home and have a SOHO, a computerized family, or are looking for extra hardware for a home server, a webserver or media server or to prevent family fights, you can simply appropriate an older pc that you’d have otherwise junked, or purchase a refurbished one. These may not be able to play the latest games, but even modest computers can act as servers or printer servers or similar.

Have you ever purchased a second hand pc or refurbished computer? What was your experience? Good or bad?