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Friday, February 17, 2017

Buying a laptop off Craigslist

I was looking for a used machine and couldn't find anything online until I saw a great deal on Craigslist.  As I was having a really intense week, I wrote up a breakdown on stuff to do so I didn't skip any steps.  There's no question there are scams and I didn't want to get caught holding the bag.

Arrival.  Before you get out of the car, leave cash in the car.  Do not take it out without holding the laptop.
  • Remember: this isn't nice, this is a business transaction.  Unexpected weirdness may mean a real negotiation.
  • Ask: did this come with anything?  Cables, CDs, cards, data, box, anything?  Ask a few questions and see if you feel comfortable proceeding.  The owner's behavior may tell you the history of the device.
  • Exit strategy: if you don't feel comfortable with the sale, just say so.  Offer to buy him some coffee for the drive up or pay his gas money and walk away.
If you see anything wrong, stop and walk away to check your cell phone or something.  Come back with a number in your mind that you think is fair.  Tell him or her that they should have listed any problems right up front and that this is a waste of time.  Don't be afraid to walk away.  If the person complains, say that this isn't a small purchase and he should have listed it the product description.

Things to check
  • External
    • Check for scratches, obvious problems.
    • Press the battery button and see how high the green lights go.
    • Look at the power supply plug and make sure it's good.  If it's an off-brand thing, ask for a lower price since from experience those things fail after about a year.
  • Open the device
    • On Mac, check either the "About This Mac" menu or the "Control Panel – System" tool on Windows to verify the processor and RAM
    • Open device manager and look for anything out of the ordinary
    • Test all keyboard keys
    • Look for dead pixels (open a window of one color and move it around the screen)
    • Look at the disk health (SMART) in config window
    • If present, try the multi-touch functions on the mouse pad
    • Push all the buttons on the keyboard and make sure they work.
    • Insert a keydrive and play a movie
    • Get it to go online
    • Download and run a CPU test.  The main thing to test here is the fan that should kick on to deal with the higher temperature.
    • Set it to sleep
  • Plug in:
    • A tested USB device to any available ports
    • Your earphones and play audio with and without sound
    • A disk in the DVD drive (if present) and make sure it functions (erase something)

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