Buying a Laptop

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September 6, 2011

Black laptop on a white background.There are lots of things to consider when buying a laptop. Some are simple while others are not so much.

The first question is: Will this laptop be for a kid? How responsible are they? Is it their first?


If not for a kid, is it for an adult who is: Competent with a PC? business oriented? Hobby oriented? Rough on electronics or cautious?

My first concern is whether I have a particular brand in mind. Is there a brand I would have over others? For example, the best laptop I have ever had was a Sony Vaio that I bought off eBay.

I have had 3 other laptops, one new and 2 others used. These 3 had been supplied to me from my business and I hated them. The Sanyo was for work. Technically my job paid for it, but I bought it off eBay for a very cheap price and I still have it today (10 years later). I would not own a Dell if you gave it to me (personal preference). There is another brand too that I don't care for, but I can't think of it right now.

Okay, you may be asking why I am giving you these opinions. If you are buying the laptop for someone else and they hate it right from the get go, you won't get your money's worth out of it. The person you get it for will be reluctant to use it and dawdle at the prospect of doing so.


Now, if it is for you, then you know your preferences. If you have never had a laptop, talk to people that do. Ask them if you can play with their laptop a bit and see how it "feels". Different laptops feel different than others. I like the Vaio I have because the keyboard has standard size keys. That was my selling point.

Now, let's get right to bullet points for things you have to consider.

And if you look into some of the newer laptops there are all kinds of "extras" being built in that may some day be required or expected.

Let's talk about 13. Can the laptop handle a SATA hard drive or are you limited to an IDE drive. You can get a pretty big IDE drive, but the larger drives nowadays require SATA compatibility. I have a 500 gig hard drive in my laptop and I never thought it would not be enough, until last week :(

Can the memory be expanded, how many slots does the laptop have for memory, how many are currently being used and if you can switch them out how big a memory card can you put in it?


Now let me point out something not so obvious. I have a laptop I love. And I have a dedicated laptop case I love as well. I bought a newer laptop of the same type, but with a larger screen. Imagine my surprise when I found out the sucker didn't fit in my laptop case. Needless to say that laptop is on eBay and I'm still using my old laptop and case. :)

Now let me point out something else that is a major consideration, the operating system. This is really the second most important aspect of buying a PC or laptop of any kind. Some operating systems are no longer supported. Some jobs require a certain operating system. You may have friends that know a lot about one version of Windows, but are clueless if you have anything else. These are the people that will be helping you with your laptop in times of crisis. Make sure your running an OS you can get help with.


I was in the IT business for years, from DOS through Windows XP. My parents bought a PC with Windows Vista and were looking for me to help them with it. After about, hmmm, a year, I think I finally have the bugger under control. I have yet to see a Windows 7 and personally I regret the day someone with that OS asks for help. I would have better luck with a Linux system which I only have a small inkling of.

So there is a bunch of food for thought. If you have questions or want suggestions feel free to drop me a message. I'll be glad to help.

Oh! I almost forgot. How much are you willing to spend? That can help decide on many factors alone. Good hunting.

Source: Years of IT professional experience

By Suntydt from Tazewell, TN


9 Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

January 29, 2009

Since living frugally is the trend now a days due to economic recession around the world, I would like to ask about the second hand laptops sold at Ebay. What is a good price to pay for one? Thank you.



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January 29, 20090 found this helpful

I just read an article on and the writer advised never to buy a second hand desktop or laptop computer.

There are lots of ways of saving money, but purchase a new laptop.


I would hate to see you get burned on eBay.

February 2, 20090 found this helpful

I've been using a desktop computer I bought for $25 for about 2 years now. It had a minor problem a few months back that cost me under $100 to fix. I see nothing wrong with buying used. It sure saved me alot of money and is lasting a long time (knocking on wood here).

February 3, 20090 found this helpful

I've heard that mini laptops, called netbooks, are like the new wave of laptops, but they are less expensive, smaller, have not as big operating systems, but are perfect for certain groups of people who don't need as much. I've seen netbooks listed for around $250-$300. I'd be leary about purchasing a laptop on eBay, so if a netbook sounds like it'd fit you, I'd check into it.


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February 3, 20090 found this helpful

I for one have purchased many items on EBAY including laptops and desktops. You must know as much as going into Best Buy, etc for what you want.
Ebay purchasing--check the feedback, if you don't know anything about EBAY, find an ebay store or someone in your friendships who do. Either way you purchase you can't be stupid.
There are many times RETURNS are put on ebay, college students at the end of the year/semester is the best time as they are graduating, etc. They want to move on their school stuff to different needs. I have spent as little as $200 for a complete desktop unit. $150 for laptop. I know how to add my own things such as more power, memory. Check with a computer repair place, they take in computers the same way when people update.
When I update, I call friends who do not have computers (yes, there are) and see who wants my last one. And I have contacted small private or religious schools who have taken them too.
You need to learn to maintain your computers, open them up, clean them off, air in the can is good. I have Barbie attachements for the vacuum which we use for alot.
Either way you buy, you must be savy to get your money's worth.

By dee (Guest Post)
February 6, 20090 found this helpful

I, would not but a secondhand laptop computer personally. Because I have came out with some bad merchandise in the past. But If you must buy used go to the pawn shop they give 30 days warranties on them. I don't think you will get a warranty on Ebay. You also can shop with HP. They have computer that are refurbished and they give warranty.

February 9, 20090 found this helpful

If you really need a laptop and you don't have money you can try to buy second hand laptop. Be sure to check the packages as well as the terms and condition if you are going to buy the laptop. If there is a 7 days replacement, change item or anything that will satisfy you. You can also try to look at this site and compare them to those you have search.

March 9, 20090 found this helpful

Check out the Freecycle Network ( and see if there is a group in your area.

New, or even 2nd hand laptops are well out of my range, so I put a request for an old one, "maybe something to old to sell" is what I posted. I got a ten year old Toshiba Satellite. It runs Linux just fine, and can handle most Microsoft formats, such as Word .doc, Excel .xls, and so on.

The laptop I am writing this with, is a also about ten years old - it was a corporate throw-away. Again running Linux. And no, you do not have to be a geek/nerd to use Linux these days. In many many cases, such as installing (free) software, it is even easier!


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January 20, 2011

I need to find out where to get really decent newer laptops for cheap or trade.

By Delilah from Bolivar, MO


January 20, 20110 found this helpful deals in factory reconditioned machines; however you can buy a good Ipad for less than a laptop and a fraction of the weight.

January 20, 20110 found this helpful

I don't know where your located at by i'm in Waco, Tx. and out here the goodwill has there own computer store. You might start there & chech it out. Take care & ride safe, Lou Anne


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January 20, 20110 found this helpful

Check out Craigslist for your area in the computer section. You said you wanted something newer so do your research before you buy. You can also go to some "Rent To Own" stores and get something but make sure you can makes the payments and make sure you have the option of paying off early without penalty.

As the person below mentioned you can try Goodwill. You can also try a pawnshop. Just be careful, if you aren't that PC savy take a friend or relative who is.
Same with the Craigslist laptops.

January 22, 20110 found this helpful

You should check out and Both have good buys and if you have a credit card, they both have up to five months to pay it off, usually at only $150.00 a month with no interest. Yvonne

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December 29, 2009

I am looking for a laptop for travel use. It will only be used for internet and word processing. Any input appreciated.

By Anniev from NC


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December 29, 20090 found this helpful

Different laptops have different pluses and minuses. I purchased a VIAO because of larger key and what seems to be a more dependable touch pad. I also found to my surprise that it has built in wireless networking capabilities that was easy to set up (found this out in a hospital with no tech help to set up the feed). The screen is a nice size with good resolution and over all I think it is much better than Dell which seems to have gotten shotty over time with their products.

December 30, 20090 found this helpful

I love my netbook. It is small, has an extra-long battery life (close to 8 hours), and a relatively large keyboard for a netbook. There are not a lot of "bells and whistles", but is has USB ports, built in internet, etc.

If it was my only laptop, I would also have gotten an external CD drive, as that would be useful (and they are not expensive).

The compact size, good memory size, etc. are so nice for travel.

Look around, they have different features; are not terribly expensive, and tthere are a lot of sales right now.

Also be aware that if yours does not come with word processing software, you can download windows compatible software for FREE at open office (dot) org. It is reliable and easy, just remember to save documents as .doc, so they are easily opened by Word.


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January 1, 20100 found this helpful

Visit the Kim Kamando website. She has a 3 hour radio show every week nationwide all about computers, etc. She answered this very same question about a week or so ago.


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January 3, 20100 found this helpful

I bought a compaq a year ago. Its what I wanted, all my desktops have always been compaq so I wouldnt look at anything else. Regretting that now. Not because I dont love my laptop, I do, but my sister in law got an acer and I like it better, lol. Its so much lighter, mine is so dang heavy, plus so much cheaper. She uses hers for school and work and travels with it all the time. So look into Acers.

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September 6, 2013

I'm a teen and am trying to get a job so I can have money to buy food and clothes for my family and me. I figured having a laptop would make it a lot easier to be organized. I want something sleek, easy-to-use, and portable. I love the way Apple keys are so easy to push, but I can't afford that! Please help.

By Bekerz


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September 8, 20130 found this helpful

If your family needs food and clothes, I don't think you really need a laptop. Go get a job first. Look for part time jobs in food service or in grocery stores. You can also do odd jobs for people - mowing lawns, shoveling snow, walking dogs, checking on homes and feeding pets for people on holidays, household chores and housecleaning.


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September 9, 20130 found this helpful

I agree with the above answer.
If you are still planning on a purchase, there are many stores that have refurbished computers. My son takes people's computers 'they are done with', whether updating, etc and refurbishes them as a hobby. They go to people in need who could not afford the initial purchase. They pay the update/repair cost, usually under $50, come with antivirus on. We have been able to keep many computers out of landfills this way. For the better part, they have been going to older persons who don't care for high speed, high memory, etc.

For someone who has little necessities in his family life, it is alot to complain about how easy the keys might work. That is for someone who can walk into any store and pick up any computer.

I have my same keyboard from 10 years ago, even tho I am 3 computers news. Can I afford new? Yes, but why buy more than I need? Watch when computers go on sale. Ask retail store when the turn over is. I was able to get my $700 computer for $350. Another place, watch ads from local colleges. Many students had to have computers for classes, but find when finishing 4 years, they want to update, etc. Many times you can pick them up for $50 to $100. Check just before semester ending times. Have secured many that way for people too.

January 1, 20150 found this helpful

An important expense with any computer is getting online, accessing the web,searching, etc. Is Connecting To The Internet. It's called wifi. The $ charge can range from $20 a month upwards. There are free access places like the library, your school, community centers, MacDonalds, etc.

Think of it like having a car, if you can't buy gas; it just stays parked. Research & get a job before you pay anything for computer use.

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November 24, 2012

Notebook or a laptop? Which is a better buy? What should I avoid when buying a computer, common mistakes?

By Ginny from Bryan, TX


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November 25, 20120 found this helpful

The choice really depends on what you want to be able to do.

The main drawbacks to notebooks are their screens are small in detail, they have no outputs (USB, printer ports, many don't have audio in/out puts), hard drives are limited in size and there is some software unavailable.
The advantages are their portability and some have longer battery capacity than laptops.

The laptops are just about opposite of everything I just listed for notebooks.

What I would suggest is listing every feature for both separately. Don't be concerned with which model has what, just make a list for each. Then go thru each and mark which features you want to have available. Once you figure out which will do what you need you can start searching for which models have those features.

For example, I have stayed away from notebooks because I have yet to find one with USB ports to be able to easily transfer data from the notebook to a PC/laptop via thumb drive. You have to send things out to the internet with the notebook and then fetch it from the PC. That would be terribly inconvenient for me.


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November 26, 20120 found this helpful

I went from a PC to a MacBook (Apple laptop) in 2010 and have never regretted the switch. I looked at notebooks but the laptop was the final choice-a laptop has everything a PC or iMac features, but in a convenient, portable, compact unit. My screen is a good size for me at 15", and it has several USB ports and two headphone jacks. I didn't see any notebooks with decent sized screens or any ports-since back-ups and upload ability are important to me, going with the laptop was practically a no-brainer once I got a look at both. I can even play DVDs on my MacBook.

Another huge plus, I took it to the US with me in the spring of 2011 and had no trouble using it there-used a transformer with my UK power cord, my son set me up on the wireless, and I was sending emails back to the UK within hours of my arrival to the US:) I was able to plug into his printer too. I think the storage on a laptop is far superior to a notebook as well.

I think a laptop is going to weigh a bit more than a notebook, but not by much. I can slip my MacBook into a messenger bag and carry it comfortably or I can use the wheelie bag-lovely for travelling to sewing and crafting meet-ups because the bag holds my MacBook (with my crafting files handy:) AND my crafting supplies.

I love my laptop so much I will never go back to a desktop unit again, even an iMac (my husband loves his but doesn't hesitate to 'glom' onto my MacBook when we travel, LOL!)

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April 28, 2016

This is a page about buying a laptop for a college student. Defining your computer needs is the first step before buying a laptop.

Young woman at a dorm room desk using a laptop


ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

December 29, 2009

I am thinking of purchasing a laptop for graduate classes. Any suggestions? Do's? Don'ts? How powerful, yet lightweight can one be?


August 12, 2009

Buying Laptops Advice. I'm buying two laptop computers for my nephews who are attending technical school. They are disadvantaged, parents very poor, poorer than I am.

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