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Buying a used Laptop? What to look for, how to test it, etc.

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Buying a used Laptop? What to look for, how to test it, etc.

#1 Post by StarGehzer » Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:21 pm

I'm shopping for a used 12" laptop. I'm sure some of you have a methodology you follow when examining and testing a laptop you are considering buying.
Perhaps there is a program to run that checks battery condition? One that examines the hard drive?
Looking for physical damage is the easy part.. but it's what's inside that matters.
Can you tell me (us) how you go about examining & testing a used laptop before you spend $500.00 or more on it?


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Re: Buying a used Laptop? What to look for, how to test it, etc.

#2 Post by rkawakami » Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:26 pm

Are you talking Thinkpads specifically? If so, then there was a program called PC Doctor for DOS which checks most of the major components of the laptop, without requiring any operating system or hard drive installed in the system. For the newer systems, you would use a bootable CD so that means an Ultrabay optical drive or an external USB drive is needed. Much older systems would use one to several floppies. PC Doctor contains tests to check the system board, CPU, memory, video, serial and parallel ports, hard drive, optical drive, modem, ethernet, wireless, keyboard, Trackpoint, speaker. What it lacks is any thorough testing of the USB port(s), PCMCIA, Bluetooth and also Firewire. I say there "was" a program, since recently, Lenovo has removed the diagnostic from their Support pages. I still have the installation programs for a couple of them so I'm planning to set up a web site so people can download them. Each version is specific to a group of Thinkpads.

When receiving a used system, I run most of the tests contained in PC Doctor. The only major tests that I don't use are the memory and hard drive ones. For those, I use memtest86+ for the memory modules and if available, the hard drive manufacturer's own disk utility program. If none is available, then I'll use the hard drive tests in PC Doctor. There is a way to specify the number of times to repeat the selected tests so I generally use 10 for the systemboard and CPU tests and 3 for most everything else. Some of the tests are "interactive" in that they require assistance from you. For example, the keyboard test is performed by you pressing every key and a keyboard map on the screen indicates if the press was detected. Same goes for the trackpoint/mouse/touchpad test; you move the cursor around the screen and besides seeing it move, the X and Y coordinate numbers are shown changing. Other tests require additional resources for complete testing. The serial and parallel port tests normally do not need anything special. However, they can optionally use what's known as a "loopback" plug or adapter. This is a special connector that plugs into the serial or parallel port and contains wiring that connects the input pins of the port to output pins. You can then enable the loopback test sections and PC Doctor will execute them. For the battery condition, I rely upon the Windows Battery Maximizer program that's available from the Lenovo Support site. It reads the information stored in the battery such as, date first used, remaining charge capacity, design capacity, serial number, etc.
Ray Kawakami
X22 X24 X31 X41 X41T X60 X60s X61 X61s X200 X200s X300 X301 Z60m Z61t Z61p 560 560Z 600 600E 600X T21 T22 T23 T41 T60p T410 T420 T520 W500 W520 R50 A21p A22p A31 A31p
NOTE: All links to PC-Doctor software hosted by me are dead. Files removed 8/28/12 by manufacturer's demand.

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Re: Buying a used Laptop? What to look for, how to test it, etc.

#3 Post by wfoster » Thu Jun 16, 2016 8:36 pm

Hi, I just bought a used T400 on ebay. It is in good physical condition, I am using it to type this message, but I am searching for good info on how to test it, and other general info regarding used laptops, thinkpads, etc.... this is the first used laptop, and first thinkpad i have bought.

Please feel free to drop any insights (beyond what is provided in the post above) or point me in the right direction if you are reading this.


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Re: Buying a used Laptop? What to look for, how to test it, etc.

#4 Post by TonyJZX » Mon Jun 20, 2016 1:53 am

IMO $500 is too much to spend on a 2nd hand. But be that as it may, it depends on how much time the seller gives you to play around with the laptop.

I would use batterycare and crystal disc info to check the hdd.

But like the above person here, if you're buying a T400 you're talking about a $50 unit so I assume the battery and hdd is dead.

IMO the battery and the hdd arent really worth testing. Why you say? Because they are easy to replace.

Like right now I generally buy sub $100 units so I assume the battery and hdd are rubbish and just buy an ssd and replacement battery.

On a $500 laptop... most important is to make sure the thing has warranty. If it has a bad hdd or battery, you have support, so why bother testing?

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Re: Buying a used Laptop? What to look for, how to test it, etc.

#5 Post by wfoster » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:45 am

Hi again. Thanks Tony, for the reply. I'm still using the T400 mentioned above, and it's still doing everything I am asking it to do - which isn't much to be honest. But, for 70 bucks i ain't complaining. The only problem i have had is graphics-related - short, embedded videos take a couple of seconds to clear up...

Anyway, I am now looking for a used W520 to play around with. I may take your advice and go cheap, then add the battery, HDD, extra RAM, etc.

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Re: Buying a used Laptop? What to look for, how to test it, etc.

#6 Post by axur-delmeria » Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:54 am

If you're familiar with Linux, it's not that hard to test. I have a small SSD (32GB) on a USB enclosure with Debian 9 32-bit installed.

It already has tlp installed, which lets me check the battery status, psensor to monitor temps, 7zip as a basic CPU benchmark/stress test, and gsmartcontrol to check the HDD's condition. I even put get-edid so I can verify the brand and model of the installed LCD.

It still needs a bit of work though-- on some systems, X server doesn't load the correct graphics driver. I've managed to fix half the problem-- I can force X server to load the correct driver by copying the correct config file to a certain directory (different GPUs require a different config file), but I need to automate that process with a script that can detect the GPU on boot and copy the corresponding config file.

I've used that USB SSD earlier today, as I tested a barebones (no RAM & HDD) X220 before purchasing it. :D
Daily driver: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M

In reserve: X61 T7500, X60 T2300
In pieces: X60s CS U1300 [board only], two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E

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