Buying a Computer or Laptop - Is it what it seems?

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Is what you're buying really what it seems?

This guide aims to facilitate you in buying a Computer which is in good working order (not to suggest what specification to have)

There are a lot of people here on eBay buying laptops, PCs, media centres and many other computer based products but they really don't know what they're getting themselves into. If you're one of those people, I'm writing this guide to aid you in making the right choice and to help stop you from being ripped off.

It is extremly important that when buying any type of computer that it holds at least a short time warrenty for you to be able to test that it really is working properly before anything. This guide will give you an idea how to test your computer before the warrenty time, so if there really is a problem, send it back!

Laptops & Computers Guide (Windows Based)

What should I be testing? How would I know this computer is worth what it is?

Laptops are very sensitive machines, and if mistreated they will make you suffer dearly, as parts in laptops are not easy to find or replace, and will cost a lot more than a normal PC.

It is important to test a laptop more intensively than any other machine. Below is a guide which works for both laptops and computers to make sure your machine is worth what you're paying.

The main aspects inside a computer is to check:

  1. Has the screen got any dead pixels?
  2. How long is the battery life? (Laptops Only)
  3. Is the computer overheating?
  4. Is the memory any good?
  5. Is the harddisk going to serve me well?

Other aspects can be covered by a brief look over at a cosmetic perspective.

Has the screen got any dead pixels?

You may not know what is a dead pixel, so I'll explain what I mean. Your computer/laptop screen has thousands of 'dots' on it, which are individually coloured to give you the image on your screen that you're looking at now. If any of these 'dots' were dead, then you'd find a 'mark' or 'discoloured' dot on the screen which could effect viewing. In severe cases, there would be many and cause blotches of dis-coloured areas on the screen. This is a defect and it is not acceptable to find these when buying a computer.

How long is the battery life? (Laptops Only)

Before checking how long the battery life is in your laptop/computer, find out how long it was designed to run for, by seaching your laptop model number in google.

An average laptop should hold around 2 hours battery life when new, a used machine should be able to do an hour at least, anything less is unacceptable unless you decided to purchace the machine like that.

The best way to test, is to fully charge the laptop, remove the mains and look at the time. Use it until the machine either tries to shut itself down or completly turns itself off. Check the time again and see if its a reasonably close to the time that the manufacturer has designed it for (if its new) or if it lasts for an acceptable time (if its used).

Is the computer over heating?

To check if the computer is overheating, there is a utility on the internet called "SpeedFan", which is a free application that you can download by searching google. The program will be able to tell you the temprature of the CPU (Processor), Chipset and Graphics Card. Tempratures shouldn't really ever go above 65'C, Idle temprature is around 40'c-50'c anything lower is better. It would be better to check with the manufacturer what is the operating temprature for the machine to have a good idea if your machine is overheating.

Some laptops are designed to run at 35'c and max at 45'c (Laptops with ULV Processor).

It is important to make sure the computer is not over heating because it sharply decreases the lifespan of the machine, and in some cases it can be a saftey hazard. Any laptops overheating may already have suffered severe processor or component damage and would not be worth keeping even if the temprature issue is solved as the machine would not preform how it should do so.

Is the memory any good?

There are many utilities to test the memory on a computer. The one I suggest, which is the most straight forward is called "Memtest x86". It also can easily be found in google and is free of charge, if you don't know how to use it, there are also many guides available in google. You simply extract the program to a CD, put it in, restart the computer and instead of loading to windows/mac load to the CD instead.

Let the test run and if it detects any memory problems, the memory in the computer will need to be replaced. Memory is extremly important and should not have any faults on them, if there is and you still insist of keeping the same memory, you are asking for future data loss, computer crashes/freezing, application runing failures and other such problems.

Is the harddisk going to serve me well?

The most basic check that you can do is in windows, and is called "Chkdsk". Chkdsk is a good utility for finding bad sectors in the hard disk and currupt files. Although we are not looking for currupt files, it is still a handy tool to use from time to time.

Chkdsk can be found by opening MY COMPUTER, right clicking the hard disk you wish to test, clicking PROPERTIES, then click on the TOOLS tab, then under the ERROR CHECKING group, click CHECK NOW. Ensure that "Automatically fix file system errors" and "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors" are both ticked. Then start the scan.

If the process completes with no errors, thats a good sign, but that still doesn't mean the hard disk is good.

For the next step I would suggest a program called "MHDD" which is also easily found on google, and again is a free software to use. Guides to use the program can also be found on google. This program can tell you if there are any problems at all with the hard disk. It would be wise to try this test and if any problems are found, send the hard disk / whole computer back to the seller to get either a refund or the hard disk replaced.

If you decide to live with a bad harddisk, expect windows to fail to load at some point, some files to become missing or corrupt, or the computer to act slow at times. If the harddisk gets to a really bad state, then expect to lose all of your data completly when the harddisk collapses. If it does collapse, you'd need to buy a new harddisk and have it fitted (which costs), and if you need the data from your old drive which has collapsed, expect to pay a big lump sum to get it back (if it really is that important).

Hope this guide proves useful for some people :) if anybody needs any advise, feel free to send me a message!

Thanks for reading

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