So you’re in the market for a computer but you don’t want to spend much? You’re in the right place! As someone who has built and refurbished many computers, I will provide you with my opinion and some tips and advice on how to make the computer perform better.
The Short Answer
In short, I would definitely say ex-business PC’s are worth it. But bear in mind that depending on spec and age, they aren’t good for everything, particularly in 2022. This article will explain…
This article is great for anyone who is looking to upgrade their old PC, buy a cheap PC, or is wanting to get into PC building. But first, let’s start with a little backstory. When I was a 13-year old schoolboy, I didn’t have my own computer. I shared the family computer with my parents. At the time, I didn’t really need or want a computer of my own. One day something clicked in my head and I started building up an interest in computing and all of a sudden I wanted my own computer in my room. I managed to save up enough money to buy an entire setup and it didn’t take long either! I managed to buy a second-hand monitor at my local cash converters for £10 and I found a refurbished Dell Optiplex GX280 for £30 on eBay! This was a very basic computer running Windows XP on a 40GB Hard Drive and 1GB RAM!
The reason I thought I’d mention this story is that that GX280 is the computer that taught me most of what I know about computers, it became my learning PC. I upgraded everything possible and I learned IT on it! For that reason, the Dell Optiplex range will always have a special place in my heart.
What You Need To Know
As with many things in life, there are certain risks you should be made aware of before even thinking of buying or refurbishing an older computer. The first and most important thing is that things can break! Your PC may last a few years, it may last 10 years or it may fail tomorrow. That’s a risk you have to take with older and used computers. For that reason, I don’t recommend spending a great deal of money on upgrades!
If you are unfamiliar with computer hardware, it’s wise to do some research before buying. The online marketplace is full of computers, some are old and some are dinosaurs and you don’t want to buy dinosaurs! It’s worth finding out the age of the computer before you buy because you don’t want to buy something that won’t be supported by vendors. I wouldn’t recommend buying anything that has a sticker on it saying it’s designed for Windows XP or Vista. Windows 7 is acceptable but it’s still wise to do some research beforehand. That means that I can no longer recommend the GX280 which is breaking my heart!
It’s also important to consider what you will be using the computer for because it needs to cope with its purpose. If you are looking for a gaming PC or a PC for advanced photo and video editing, you should be looking for a high spec PC. If it’s for tasks that don’t demand a lot of power, a mid-range PC is suitable. I wouldn’t recommend looking for a second-hand low spec PC as if it was low spec back then, it will be an extremely low spec in 2022!
With the rise of Windows 11, it’s important to understand that the vast majority of these types of PCs won’t run the operating system, which is a shame. To make things worse, Microsoft is ending support for Windows 10 on October 14th, 2025. That just leaves a couple of years of support of a major operating system. But that won’t make your computer unusable, in fact, there are other options outside of Windows. One option is to install a Linux operating system such as Ubuntu. That’s something I recently did to an old unsupported iMac. The full article is available here. Not only did it give the iMac a new lease of life, but it also became a great office PC!
I’ve got an old PC but what next?
Side Note: The next part of this article is for reference only. I am not responsible for any damage made to your PC. You are making changes at your own risk. If you don’t feel confident making these changes, please take your PC to a local repair shop.
Have a look inside
It’s always good to have a look inside of the PC to make sure everything is in order. If it has been in storage for a long time, it may need a clean. The best way to clean a computer is using a can of compressed air. It will blow all the dust off of the components. I recommend doing this in the garden as it can get messy.
Whilst you have the case open, it’s a good idea to check out whether the computer has a mechanical hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD). Due to the fact that an HDD has a spinning disk with a handle that reads data whereas an SSD is a chip, SSD’s are considerably cheaper! It’s also a good idea to check the amount of RAM you have.
In terms of specs, My recommendations are:
- At a minimum: Intel i3 CPU, 240GB SSD, 4GB RAM
- My recommendation: Intel i5 CPU, 500GB SSD, 8GB Ram
At a minimum, I would recommend having an SSD of at least 240 GB, this is fine for everyday use, but if you plan to use your computer for work or if you will be storing more things on it, 500 GB or 480 GB will be better suited.
In terms of RAM, if you plan to use your computer for the basics, 4GB should be enough, but I would recommend going for 8GB. In terms of the processors (CPUs), I left the generations out for a reason and that reason is that computers with CPUs as old as the 1st generation are still actively used by businesses in industry.
Update your operating system
Now that you purchased or dug out your old PC, you need to make sure it powers on. Once the computer has powered on log into it. I then recommend having a look at the system specs. If it’s a Windows PC, press the Windows Key + R, this will bring up the “Run” window. Type msinfo32.exe and press enter.
This will bring up a page showing all the information you need. If your computer is running Windows 8.1, 10, or 11, you should be fine for the time being. But please bear in mind that support for Windows 8.1 ends on January 10th, 2023. If you are using windows 8 (Not 8.1), 7, Vista, XP, or older, those versions of Windows are no longer supported by Microsoft and various other software vendors and they don’t ger security updates. For that reason, you will need to upgrade to an up-to-date operating system. The good news is that if you are running Windows 7 or 8.1, depending on your specs, you may be able to upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge!
Installing a new operating system will wipe your hard drive, so you need to make sure that you have backed up any data onto a removable storage device such as a portable hard drive or a USB Memory stick!
I made a video showing how you can upgrade to Windows 10 here:
Alternatively, you can install a Linux operating system such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint, both of which are great distributions! Installing Linux, you are definitely futureproofing yourself because the hardware requirements aren’t that high but the operating systems are still great. I made a video demonstrating the Ubuntu install process here:
It definitely is worth buying older machines, not only does it save them from becoming e-waste, it gives machines a new lease of life. You may need to perform some upgrades to make them work but once you have they will work. I’ve refurbished old computers time and time again to give them new lives. I actually have two running as servers! The possibilities are endless! These types of PCs are perfect for students, they are perfect as homework PCs, they are perfect for startups. Throughout this article, I’ve mainly been referring to desktop PC’s but the truth of the matter is that the same could be said for laptops.
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I’m a Tech Enthusiast, IT Specialist and Coffee Lover. This is my personal blog where I write about my experience with technology, tips, guides and more.