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Buying used computer parts

Someone asked me the other day about buying used computer parts. I recommend it actually, although I more frequently buy the whole computer. But you can save a lot of money and get higher quality by buying used computer parts.

The main concern I have with buying used computer parts is whether the CPU or the video card have been overclocked, and how much did that cut into their life expectancy. Then again, the way parts depreciate, I can appreciate the argument that the price makes it worth the risk.

The other risk is worn-out hard drives. When considering any hard drive, see if Backblaze has anything to say about that particular model. Hard drives tend to get the same kind of brand loyalty as pickup trucks, but hard drive reliability tends to be cyclical. Seagate had a run in the previous decade where it could do no wrong. This decade’s been pretty tough, though. Western Digital never had a bad decade, but they’ve had tough cycles here and there as well.

Used SSDs are less of a concern, and used Micron and Intel SSDs are a good bargain. SSDs fail predictably, and a lot of SSDs out of off-lease ex-corporate laptops are on the secondary market, making them easy to find and holding prices down. They’re also easy to fix. But the word is out on that enough that it’s harder to find a bargain on an easy-to-fix SSD now.

I have no problem with buying used motherboards from brands I trust like Asus and Gigabyte. I’ll gladly buy used memory as long as it’s name brand. And I don’t worry about AMD vs. Intel when it comes to CPUs.

There is one caveat with used motherboards and CPUs: Compare the cost to new. If the board you’re looking at takes previous-generation memory, it might cost more. I found that out the hard way once before.

There are no no appreciable caveats to buying used memory. You just need to be careful about the brand. My tips on buying computer memory apply–the only difference is where you shop.

I generally hunt for parts on Ebay. Once I get the computer parts and assemble them into a working computer, I burn it in. By buying name brand parts carefully and burning them in, my computers are at least as reliable as Toyotas. Maybe more.

If vintage computing is what you’re after, here are my tips for finding retro computers or parts. Hunting for vintage computing, rather than just a recent bargain, is similar but slightly different.

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2 thoughts on “Buying used computer parts”

  1. “The other risk is worn-out hard drives.”

    Not if you only ever buy SSDs. I have yet to buy an SSD on ebay that had more than 10% of its lifetime writes used. Stick with Intel or Samsung drives and they’re extremely unlikely to mysteriously die on you.

    Considering that you can get an old 600gb Intel 320 SSD for less than $100 these days, buying a hard drive for anything other than external backup seems pointless.

    1. I like SSDs too. I don’t see any 600GB Intel 320s on the Bay right now (the cheapest I see are $119) but at $100, they’d be a nice bargain.

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