Skip to main content

Should you buy second-hand computer parts?

CPU
CPU (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

Should you buy second-hand computer parts?

It's possible to grab a bargain when it comes to refurbished or second-hand PC components, but, like buying anything used, you'll want to know some of the negatives when it comes to pre-owned items, especially PC components and parts.

Why you should buy used

ASUS GPU

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Pros:

  • You likely don't need new
  • Saving the environment(ish)
  • Buy more powerful parts for less
  • Save money

The main point when it comes to looking at new PC components is you don't really need brand new parts. It's great to unbox that shiny new CPU, but you don't actually need it to be brand new. Grabbing a CPU in working order from someone else, saving anywhere up to 70%, is a superb deal. This means you can either spend more on getting a better used part or splashing out on something else.

Potentially save big on used parts compared to new.

Even if there is something wrong with the product itself, like cosmetic damage, as long as everything performs as expected, you'll be good to go. It also means you'll be doing your part to keep as much equipment out of landfill sites as possible. Not everyone recycles electronic equipment, so taking parts off of someone else means that part will enjoy per-longed use before finally reaching its end of life.

One should never feel cheap when looking at second-hand equipment for their PC either. That GPU you're getting for less could simply be a throwaway due to the previous owner forking out for an upgrade. It makes no sense for the old unit to be discarded, so if it's an improvement in your system, why not take advantage?

Why you shouldn't buy used

Corsair VS550 PSU

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Cons:

  • Kiss that warranty goodbye
  • Difficult to examine condition
  • Unknown wear and tear
  • Some parts should always be new (PSU)

The warranty of a particular product is usually tied to the original owner through proof of purchase, so be sure to check the overall condition of whatever you're purchasing from someone and take note of any defects. Purchasing second-hand from a retailer tends to be accompanied by a limited warranty on the item, however. That said, it can prove challenging to examine the condition of a part, the CPU, for example, without having advanced technical knowledge. Refurbished-by-the-manufacturer products usually have their own warranties from the point of purchase, though they're often shorter than a brand-new purchase's warranty.

Used parts aren't all good and likely aren't covered by warranty.

While used components can be a good catch, there are certain components that should always be purchased new. Namely the motherboard, power supply, and hard drives (including SSDs). These parts, in particular, are super-important, especially the motherboard. In my opinion, it's just not worth the risk to go for a second-hand PSU or any storage drive you'll be using daily. Hard disk drives suffer from mechanical wear-and-tear, so to get the maximum lifespan out of one, you should always get it new.

In the worst-case scenario, the used motherboard or PSU may look in excellent condition to the eye, but they could prematurely fail and take out other components with them. That's something you don't want to happen and would end up costing you more to fix, and you have no way of checking just how hard the previous owner pushed your newly purchased parts. The last point to make is trust. Do some research on whoever you're buying from if it's online and always test your used gear before putting everything back together.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

26 Comments
  • Buying used Processors and RAM are good. But i will never buy a used Hard Disk.
  • Aw c'mon, where's your sense of adventure? I once bought a Lumia 1020 off eBay, and to my surprise when I turned it on, I started getting the previous owner's Facebook notifications! He failed to reset the phone before selling it. Fortunatel for him,, I'm not that curious and I didn't take advantage of his error by spamming his friends or whatever. 
  • Evil laugh
  • Bought my motherboard used when I first setup my PC. Got a $200.00 board for $70.00. I love buying used on parts that it makes sense to do so.
  • Great when it works. With a board it's extremely dangerous because if it has problems, it can break every other part in your computer on its own. Not worth the risk for me, though the other components, I'd consider.
  • Everything is a risk, new or used. As long as you are smart about buying used, you should come out ahead long term. Have been building custom PCs for 30 years, and have had both new and used parts fail on me, and take down numerous other parts with it. Most motherboards are pretty good nowadays, but POWER SUPPLIES... too many crappy ones out there. Just get a good one. Can't believe how good pricing is now though. 20 years ago it cost like $3000 to put together a decent machine. Now you can do it with $1200. Used to pay $250 for a 128KB ram chip, before they came in groups on a SIMM. Computers are so easy to build and configure
    nowadays.
  •   Yes, everything is a risk, but I don't have to worry about a new product being from some guy trying to toss his stuff out for a buck while it's on life support, with no warranty to back it. Yes, I've had new parts fail on me as well. I'm waiting on a new SSD from Samsung after the first one died after 5 months. I'm out $100 becuase Microsoft told me "tough" when I asked about repairing my faulty Elite Controller (thanks, MS, for selling so many broken controllers and standing by their quality 5%). However, if my new parts fail, like my SSD, I have a years-long warranty that will back me up. If Sketchy Jeff sells me a video card on Craigslist, and it dies after 2 weeks, he can just ignore all contact from me in the future and keep the money. The risks of part failure are always unknown, but going with used lacks the RMA benefits (unless it's purchased within the warranty from someone who would willingly help you if the part failed by going to the supplier for a replacement, like if the extra RAM I sold my cousin died under warranty). There's stuff I would be mostly fine buying used, especially from someone I personally know. I just wouldn't trust a PSU or motherboard. Yeah, getting a sketchy PSU is easier than with other parts, and it's riskier and stupider, as its collateral damage will be much greater than if a CPU or RAM stick fails (and that's without considering the lost data from a drive that gets fried).
  • I recently bought a used HP Compaq D7800 PC box for about 95 dollars. 320gb/ 4GB / 8 USB 2 ports/ DVD writer. Its brilliant and looks beautiful. Every visitor to my place has asked me to get them.one. I laugh at people who buy 500-800 dollar laptops and tablets
  • Try to bring your PC outside and see who's laughing...
  • Nobody ! Everyone is going gaga over its design ...
  • Sometimes you just need to appreciate mobility. Until then, I'm laughing at you.
  • Mostly, I buy used parts except HDD or video cards, commonly MoBo, Processors and RAM Just work or not.
    Look for respected seller from e-bay or Local (mexico) sites. It's cheaper!
  • Just bought a refurbished m.2 drive for my PC build - haven't had a chance to finish the build yet, so can't say for certain how well it runs.  Never buy a used power supply, everything else should be fine. 
  • USED memory, sure, done it many times, even a used Video card, I always keep my eyes on for a upgrade... Even a CPU I would look at used, Primary machine, I normally pony up for nice stuff but, on the 2nd or 3rd machine, sure used would be fine. Normally I dont buy used HDs but, when I saw some used 60-120gb SSDs going for under $25 each, I could not pass them up, even if used. I have some older laptops that are used for basic broswing, after a SSD upgrade, they are actually usable, as on the old 5400rpm drive, they really were getting too slow to actually use... And if the SSD dies...I dont really care, nothing crititcal on them but, it's been a long time, still running stong.. You keep your eyes on ebay, etc. The thing is, If you dont mind last gen or a lower end of this gen products, you can get a fairly good deal but, newer stuff(newer Higher end CPUs or video cards), even on ebay for used ones, they go for almost retail most of the time... Every once in a while you can get a really good deal....
  • I was in the same place with one of my machines. Hell, I put a 128gb SSD on my parents computer a few years ago, and it was a night and day difference. They didn't really need much extra storage beyond that. 
  • Yea, it really is a shock what an SSD will do to a older computer. I have a few Dual core laptops just collecting dust (Vista machines, that I upgraded to 7) and they were so slow they were unusable, dropping a SSD put new life into them, Perfect for browsing or minor utility computers. $25 for a used SSD on ebay... insted of buying a new computer, great deal, sure they will need to be replaced at some point but, very useable now...
  • Well, good to know my computer parts may be worth something down the road
  • I don't usually get hardware from eBay unless it's sealed as new, but I do frequent the open box section at Microcenter. Many times those returns are just from buyer's remorse, and the item is tested before hitting the discount bin. Many good purchases have been made that way, from components to laptops, phones, and tablets. B&H also has great deals on the latter part of that list. I've had those deals go wrong, but it's been a very small percentage, and the store's return policy saves the day. 
  • ya, used parts on eBay tend to be too expensive to be worth buying anyways. Typically the best place to get used parts are recycling centers, scrappers, business closing auctions, or free sites where things are sold 'as is' for free or cheap that just need minor fixes. That said, I have sold quite a few parts on eBay over the years, and always get decent money for my old parts... so not the best place to buy, but a great place to sell!
  • Never EVER buy used:
    PSU or HDDs (or early SSDs). For one, they aren't that expensive up front. For another, you never know what conditions they were in and are typically the failure point for most systems. If buying a used PC (especially a higher end one) it is considered good practice to replace the PSU and HDD when you get it to get the max life out of it. Buy used with caution:
    GPUs and Motherboards. Generally speaking, under normal use, these parts can easily last 10+ years. Even under harsh or overclocked conditions they can last an easy 5. Only when being severely over-volted for extreme overclocking will it dramatically shorten their life spans.
    Also in this category; things that rely on a battery. Laptops, tablets, phones, etc. Back when batteries were easily replaced you would just buy the unit, buy a new battery, and you instantly have an easy 3-5 years of life in old equipment. Now with sealed units battery replacement is like surgery and you are just as likely to destroy the unit than fix it. Still not impossible (I do it pretty regularly at work), but it is often not worth the effort. No problem buying used:
    CPUs, most types of solid state memory (flash drives, RAM, SD Cards, etc), most add-in cards (seriously, when is the last time a sound card died?), networking equipment, pro equipment (servers, routers, etc)... pretty much most electronic equipment will last much longer than the warranty. In fact, for things like RAM the real trick is getting past the first 3-6 months. Once you are past that 'infant mortality rate' then you are good for several years.
  • Maybe a CPU and PSU. Never anything else.
  • Everything in my PC is used, except my PSU and my SSD. Here in South Africa we have a very good classifieds forum where people like to keep their ratings up. So the stuff that is sold tend to be legit.
  • I bought my case, PSU and SSD new but the rest of the parts I found used a couple years ago now. A R9 290X was dirt cheap after the bit coin craze and an i7 2600K and mother board for $150 was hard to pass up. Even a couple years later I can still max any game and have room to upgrade in the future if needed and it didn't cost me much more than a console would have.
  • Don't buy parts from Florida or other places with lots of lightning, most people don't put anything on to condition the power and all the micro voltage and current spikes we get down here send most pc parts to an earlier grave.
  • I bought some RAM for my previous PC earlier this year (built a new PC in July). I normally buy brand new everything, but in this case the PC was 4-5 years old and I wanted to upgrade the RAM from 6 GB. It was all DDR3, which already made it harder to find in shops. I didn't want to get an entirely different set that could be incompatible with my current RAM, and I didn't want to throw the memory away. Miraculously I found the exact same RAM, same model, same timings etc. It was literally the only listing I could find on the internet. I bought it, doubled my RAM to 12 GB and it's worked like a charm since.
  • I can't seem to sell my stuff, and I keep things in good condition so I don't try anymore; I just throw it out, unfortunately.