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5 questions to ask when buying a refurbished laptop

Law enforcement agencies should always buy refurbished computers from a reputable IT vendor with an established sales history


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5 questions to ask when buying a refurbished laptop

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By James Careless, P1 Contributor

Purchasing a refurbished laptop computer can be a smart investment for police departments; especially as a refurbished laptop costs less than a new model. However, don’t get blinded by the savings. While buying a refurbished device is usually less of an expenditure compared with a new purchase, selecting a refurbished laptop should not be taken lightly (including buying the cheapest one you can find). This is why law enforcement agencies should always buy refurbished computers from a reputable IT vendor with an established sales history.

Here are 5 crucial questions to ask before buying a refurbished laptop to ensure your department makes a successful purchase.

Purchasing a refurbished laptop computer can be a smart investment for police departments. (Photo/PoliceOne)
Purchasing a refurbished laptop computer can be a smart investment for police departments. (Photo/PoliceOne)

1. In what way was the laptop refurbished, and is it warrantied?

Refurbished is one of those terms that can be misleading if you don’t know what your vendor means when they use it.

What a vendor should mean is that the laptop in question was returned to the manufacturer for some reason, then checked, repaired and prepared to look and operate as it if were new.

There are many reasons why a new laptop could require refurbishing – from a faulty component that was installed at the factory to damage incurred during shipping. What matters is that the refurbishment brought the laptop up to as-new condition.

Inspect the laptop visually. Are there any signs of wear or damage on its screen, keyboard, or case? Try it out with a surf on the web. Does it run and feel like new? If it doesn’t, then this laptop may not be refurbished, but used – and you don’t want used.

Be sure the laptop comes with a solid warranty. One year or more is a good benchmark.

2. What operating system does it use, and is it properly licensed?

If this laptop is truly refurbished, it should be running Windows 10. If it is running Windows XP, then this computer was either refurbished years ago or forgotten in storage, or it is used. (And you don’t want used.)

Insist on getting the software license with the laptop. (It may be on a sticker attached to the case; check for it.) An unlicensed operating system may be pirated or stolen, and Microsoft will not support it.

3. Have all the software upgrades been installed?

Ask the vendor if the laptop has the latest Windows upgrades installed, and if Windows Defender anti-virus protection is running. Then insist they open up the right screens on the laptop to prove it.

If the laptop doesn’t have the latest upgrades onboard, you could find yourself doing a lot of downloading and installing yourself. You don’t want this hassle: A refurbished laptop should be as up-to-date and ready to go as any new model.

4. What ports does it come with, and is it Wi-fi enabled?

Talk to your IT techs – the people who run your computer network – and ask them for their ‘minimum specs’ on what ports the laptop should come with, and how many? As well, ask the techs what generation of Wi-Fi connection the laptop should support. The newer generations transmit and receive data faster than the old ones.

Write this all down, and then have the vendor show you that the laptop does have at least these ports (like USB ports, for instance), and more if possible. They should also be the right versions of ports, such as USB 2.0 or 3.0. And the laptop should meet your techs’ minimum Wi-Fi generation spec – or else.

5. What after-sales service and support do you offer?

A one-year guarantee or more is a must on a good refurbished laptop. But so is good after-sales service, even if it is free under warranty.

If this laptop suddenly fails, will the vendor replace it promptly with an equally-capable model? Or will the vendor insist on sending it back to the factory; leaving you to wait for weeks for the laptop’s return – and perhaps even to pay for the shipping? (It happens.)

After you have asked all these questions, get the vendor to put their answers in writing along with the laptop’s technical specifications – both hardware and software – and run it by your IT people before buying. Better yet, keep them in the loop when you go laptop shopping (if online, send them the links as you find them and copy them in any emails to vendors), to provide you with a first line of defense against unscrupulous vendors.

The Bottom Line

When done conscientiously, buying a refurbished laptop can deliver savings to your budget without compromising your department’s IT performance. Do your homework, and reap the financial benefits!


About the Author
James Careless is a freelance writer with extensive experience covering computer technologies.

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