10 Things to Know When Buying an Old, Used Mac

Things to check before buying a used Apple computer

Want to buy an old, used Mac? It can be a wise way to save money, but it's not without risks. Here's what you need to know.

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Is It Bad to Buy an Old Mac?

Buying an old, used Mac is a good option for those who like Apple's products but can't afford or don't want to pay new hardware prices.

Apple products are often reliable. The company also has excellent customer support. An old, used Mac likely won't have a warranty remaining, but you can visit an Apple store for help and pay for repairs if necessary.

Still, you should be cautious. This list will help you avoid common problems.

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Check the Used Mac's RAM

A used Mac's RAM is an important specification. RAM is a critical component of any computer.

You'll want at least 4GB of RAM. It's enough for everyday tasks like web browsing, document editing, basic games, and streaming video. If you have more demanding things in mind, like photo editing or complex games, look for a used Mac with 8GB or 16GB of RAM. If you can, aim for having at least 8GB,

Some older Macs have user-serviceable RAM so that you can replace or upgrade it yourself. Check the Mac's specifications to see if this is the case.

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Check the Used Mac's Hard Drive

A used Mac's hard drive stores all the files found on the Mac and its operating system.

Look for a used Mac with at least a 128GB hard drive if you rely heavily on cloud storage. If not, you'll want at least 250GB.

Also, check the type of hard drive installed. It will be a hard disk drive or a solid-state drive. Solid-state drives are quicker and recommended.

Some older Macs have a user-serviceable hard drive you can replace or upgrade. Check the Mac's specifications to confirm this.

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Check the Used Mac's Processor

Many factors impact processor performance in a used Mac, but, in general, you should pay the most attention to a processor's core count.

A dual-core processor is fine for basic, day-to-day tasks. A quad-core processor can handle most tasks, though the most demanding may still run poorly. A six-core or eight-core processor is best for users with demanding needs.

The processor usually isn't user-serviceable, so buy what you need. You probably won't be able to upgrade it.

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Check the Used Mac's Graphics

As is true of the processor, the graphics options you'll find on old, used Macs are difficult to summarize. Still, we can put them in two groups.

Used Macs with integrated graphics (often from Intel) are acceptable for basic use but will struggle in 3D games and content.

Used Mac with dedicated graphics (often from AMD or Nvidia) will handle some 3D games and content.

Be warned, however, even dedicated graphics in Macs more than five years old may not be able to handle modern apps.

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Check the Used Mac's MacOS Compatibility

Apple releases a new version of macOS (formerly known as Mac OS X) every year.

Over time, Apple drops support for older Macs. Those lacking support can't upgrade to the new OS.

Here's the official list of supported Macs for the latest version of macOS, macOS Monterey.

Older, unsupported Macs continue to function but won't receive the latest feature updates.

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Check the Used Mac For Apple Service Programs

Macs have a reputation for reliability, but they're not perfect.

Apple Service Programs often address widespread defects. It's wise to avoid Macs that are not part of a Service Program.

A Service Program will provide a free repair even if you are not the device's original owner. However, most Service Programs eventually expire (typically after five years).

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Buying a Used iMac or MacBook? Examine The Display

An old, used iMac or MacBook will have a built-in display. The display is expensive to repair, so it's important to check it's working.

The Eizo Monitor Test, available online, is an easy way to check. Open it and select the Defective Pixels and Uniformity tests. They will help you spot significant issues like stuck pixels or a failed backlight.

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Buying a Used MacBook? Check The Battery

All batteries degrade with age, but you want to avoid a battery on its last legs.

Please read our guide on checking your MacBook's Battery health for more information.

Also, visually inspect the MacBook's bottom and rear for any signs of a bulge or lump. It's a sign the battery is expanding and needs replacing.

An expanding battery can damage a MacBook and, in the worst case, burst free of its casing. That's a problem you'll want to avoid.

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Check the Used Mac's Ports

Old, used Macs come with a wide variety of ports. Inspect the ports to make sure they are compatible with the devices you need to connect.

Look for signs of damage and wear. A port should never be bent, jagged, or out of square.

If possible, shine a light inside the port to look for excessive dirt or the remains of broken peripherals.

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