Testing Used Laptops

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What are the best definitive tests u can do to test a used laptop prior to
purchasing? Any free software tool that will do this well?

Re: Testing Used Laptops

frankin wrote:
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Somebody will come up with diagnostic programs.

Depends on the class of laptop and the purchase situation.
The best deals are in situations where you can't test it at all.
Garage sale: Battery not charged, lost the ac adapter.
Meet me at a coffee shop.
I'm keeping the hard drive for security:

You gotta have a way to make it boot.
Look for passwords on bios, hard drive, operating system.
Administrator password?

A live linux CD will let you boot a system without a hard drive.
That's an argument for booting a live linux diagnostic CD even
if you DO have a hard drive installed.  But then, you're looking
for linux diagnostics.

Verify that the battery will charge, the adapter socket is good etc.
Examine the display carefully in a dark area.  In sunlight, you won't
be able to see the flaws.

chkdsk /R will give you some confidence in the hard drive,
but it takes longer than a seller will wait.
Checking the SMART data may or may not reveal issues.
If the data is bad, the drive is bad.  If the data
is good, it just may be that the system hasn't
yet accessed the bad spots.

Boot a program like memtest86 from the CD.  That says the CD
isn't dead, the memory probably works and if you run it long
enough, if it overheats and how good the battery is.
It'll get hot enough that the cpu fan should come on.
But it's rare that you have
the CD when you find the good deal, the battery is charged, and
the seller is willing to wait for the battery to discharge.

There are programs that can test the I/O ports, but without
loopback fixtures, this is only a partial test.

I've not found any way to verify that the OS is activated and legal.
COA sticker is a good start, but for systems from big vendors,
the activation code in the system usually is not the code on the
sticker.  If you have an internet connection, you can sometimes
tell by trying to download some OS patches.

Get the OS  and driver install disks.  IF they don't have 'em
the chances increase that it's stolen or otherwise compromised.
If you don't get the disks and license codes for MSOFFICE
and other installed programs, assume they're bootlegged.

Ability to find the seller is a clue to the quality of the device.
People are much more likely to lie to you if they think you'll
never be able to find them (and hurt them).
I've had best luck with people who don't know much about computers
and claim to have used the device.
"I'm selling it for a friend," is bad news.  There's a reason
hearsay is not permitted in a court of law.
I've had less luck with people who seem to know about computers.
"All it needs is the OS reloaded, Probably a simple fix, etc.
are all euphemisms for "I tried real hard and couldn't fix it,
so I'm dumping it on you."

In most situations, you can do only a cursory evaluation.
I always assume it's broke and pay accordingly.

I like Dell because there are enough of them around that parts
can be had if needed.  And they self-activate the OS so you don't
have to worry about blacklisted license keys etc.
And they're cheap.  When you get a 2.4GHz dell laptop for $2,
it's like a lottery ticket...for entertainment purposes...
you can risk it having a blown phone modem.

When you get it home, don't hook it to your network until
you've run several different malware test programs.
I always reload the OS for that reason.

Are we having fun yet?

Re: Testing Used Laptops

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Thanks very good reply. Yeah very funny; agree about the  "euphemisms"
remark. :-) Locally here on C.L. it's amazing to me the prices they are
asking for their junk. Like saying, hey, I wanna buy a new laptop,
here's my junk at near new prices, can you help me? haha.

Re: Testing Used Laptops

On 11/12/2010 10:49 PM, mike wrote:
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A lot of used and surplus laptops show up here.  My first quick test is
to run a live Linux distro, usually Ubuntu but sometimes Fedora.  With
the possible exception of an on-board wifi card, Linux can exercise all
of the built-in peripheral devices quickly.  Broadcom has never done a
deal to open-source drivers for its wifi cards, used widely.  So,
depending on the distro, Broadcom wifi won't work.  Intel wifi is
invariably built into Linux distros.

Next, download and run hard drive manufacturer's diagnostics, far better
than cheesy CHKDSK, which may not run anyway if the hard drive is hosed.
  Also, look at the SMART data with HDAT2.  A caveat though, many hard
drive manufacturer's do not bother to use the SMART data, so one can see
lots of truly bogus astronomically high values... Ben Myers

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