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Things You Should Know About a Second-Hand MacBook Purchase

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17 / 03 / 2017

Things You Should Know About a Second-Hand MacBook Purchase

I bought my first MacBook in 2011. Unfortunately, my budget was limited, so I decided to purchase a second-hand machine.

Lots of potential Mac users look for used Macs in good condition. How to make sure that you buy a good computer and avoid cheese in the mouse trap? There are several steps that the potential owners should take to make sure that the machine is in good condition when they see it for the first time.

Ask yourself a couple of easy questions. How old is the Mac that you are planning to buy? Do you know its configuration? Do you need current OS X updates? There is no need to spend money on a device that is no longer eligible for updates. Apple has recently released OS X Sierra that is compatible with the late 2009 MacBook. If you want to keep your machine up to date, consider laptops that were manufactured in 2010 and later. If you find the needed model on the list of offers, contact the seller and ask for an appointment.

What would you do first if the Mac that you are planning to buy is in front of you? Check if there are no scratches and the screen is not bent. If all screws are at their places, try to set the laptop display in different positions. If it is wobbly, this seems to be just the matter of tightening a couple of screws. Unfortunately, things are not as easy as you think. Hinges could be worn out or bent, and additional expenses on repair are unavoidable. I would never recommend spending money on a Mac with a loose screen, but it’s up to you to decide.

System Information is your best friend

Boot your Mac and wait until it loads the desktop picture. You’ll need to check its configuration. Click the Apple logo and choose “About This Mac”. You’ll see all necessary system and hardware information. It should correspond with the info that the seller provided.

In the same window, click System Report to get a detailed description and specification of each component of this Mac. Would you use a laptop with a battery that holds less than half an hour or a hard drive that is about to fail? System Information will help you avoid this catch.

In the Hardware section, click “Power” and check the cycle counts and condition of the battery under Health Information. The battery cycle limit  for laptop varies from 300 to 1,000, depending on Mac model.( https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201585.) If the battery needs servicing, feel free to ask the seller to reduce the price.

S.M.A.R.T. status

S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) is an important indicator that shows if the hard drive is in good condition or it is about to fail. To check this, run the Disk Utility tool and find the S.M.A.R.T. status. The Verified status means that your disk is ok. If you see the FAILING alert there, then avoid this laptop like a plague. There is no need to risk. Sooner or later the important data will be lost as a result of hardware failure.

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Check if there is no Firmware password

Firmware password is used to prevent starting up from the device other than your main startup disk. If the previous user activated it, you won’t be able to use basic troubleshooting techniques as well as boot in the safe, recovery, or single-user mode. Boot your Mac and hold down the option key when you hear the startup tone. Check if you are prompted to type the password. If the owner set this password, ask them to remove it if possible.

Display diagnostics

There is a good and easy way to check laptops for defective pixels. You’ll need to prepare pictures with colored backgrounds (red, green, blue, white, etc.) and save them on your USB drive. Plug it into the laptop and open the images in a full-screen mode. If you notice small colored spots on your screen, it is the sign of broken pixels.

Test all ports and keyboard

Make sure that all ports on your machine function well. Plug in and plug out a pen drive to test all USB ports. If Mac ports are worn out, you won’t be able to use some peripherals. It’s a good idea to open the MS Word or Text Edit app and test the MacBook keyboard. You may also activate the keyboard viewer. Navigate to Preferences > Keyboard and select the “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in menu bar” checkbox.

Hardware test or Apple Diagnostics

Your last and probably main testing tool is built into the OS X. This procedure is time-consuming but it lets you know if there is any sign of hardware malfunction (logic board, memory, etc.) If the Mac that you are going to buy was released after 2013, then run the Apple Hardware test.  If it is a model that was manufactured before 2013, then Apple Diagnostics is your choice.

If your desired Mac successfully passes the aforementioned tests and diagnostics, feel free to buy it. Good luck.