Second Hand Components, a Quick Buyers Guide

A common question I get asked by a lot of my friends and family is “I found this part on this website, it’s B-Grade. Is it OK to use?”

My first answer would be no, buying new is better because you have the full warranty and what not, but now manufacturing processes have improved to the point that components are lasting years beyond their given warranty, maybe it’s worth it? Also most websites offer a 90 day warranty and a faulty product will normally fail in that time.

Let’s take a little look into the main components and what I would recommend you should buy new or what you could buy used. I will focus more on private sellers for this post as that will likely be where most buyers will source second hand parts.


A computer is generally made up of the following main components:

  • Processor
  • Motherboard
  • Power Supply
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Storage (SSD and HDD)
  • Graphics Card

Processor

I was in two minds with this, a processor is normally the most expensive part in your entire system apart from your graphics card. I would have normally recommended buying this new because of this fact.

Now, after a fair amount of experience removing processors out of motherboards, leaving them on tables, boxes, clothes and other non-favourable places, I would actually say buy used.

I’ve learnt that processors generally don’t “fail” on their own, external factors such as poor power, poor motherboard contacts or overclocking will cause a failure long before the processor would fail from wear and tear.

You can save a lot of money, but here are some recommendations.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the CPU – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller. Avoid overclocked processors if possible, only consider them if you want a guaranteed overclock or it is a last resort;
  • Avoid de-lidded processors – This trend is great to reduce the temperatures of your processor and there are tools which take most of the risk out, but you can’t always guarantee if there is any damage;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point;
  • Buying older processors, check the pins – Not as much of an issue in recent years, but older processors have pins which can be easily bent,

Would I buy used?

Yes


Motherboard

Motherboards actually follow a similar theme to processors. I have used and abused many motherboards. Thrown them around, built systems on carpet and even held a motherboard by the heat sinks while walking between systems.

As long as you’re not completely ruthless and bend a motherboard to the point of cracking, you should be OK.

Motherboards tend to have a lower saving potential because they are generally cheaper. Bigger savings can be made if you want more expensive (£250+) motherboards.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the motherboard – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller. Avoid motherboards that have been modified;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point;
  • You can check the socket pins – Same as with the processors, newer motherboards have pins within the socket. The worst part about this is that damage can happen during posting if the socket cover wasn’t put on properly. Make sure it has insurance!!!

Would I buy used?

Yes, in-fact, my motherboard is used!


Power Supply

Power supplies are a tough one, they supply the life into your system and is vital to make sure they are in peak condition.

While power supplies are being made better and better each year, they’re cheap enough to buy new and the potential savings to be made are minimal.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the seller – Check any build logs and make sure the seller hasn’t used and abused it;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point;
  • You’re desperate!!

Would I buy used?

No


Memory (RAM)

 

Memory has lifetime warranty and in some cases is transferable to other buyers (check the manufacturer website first).

Same as with processors, RAM doesn’t die without some abuse either via overclocking or bending.

Due to the increase in memory prices, resale values have held strong and probably doesn’t make sense to buy used.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the memory – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller. Avoid overclocked memory if possible, only consider them if you want a guaranteed overclock or it is a last resort;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point.

Would I buy used?

Yes


Storage (SSD and HDD)

 

This is a tough one, probably the toughest on the list. We all need storage, but typically someone owns a HDD or SSD over the course of 2-3 computer builds (3-5 years). At this stage, any working units are stripped of all data and sold on at extremely cheap prices.

There is also a security element to this, as technology advances, its getting easier to pull data from storage drives, even if they have been stripped of all tangible data. This then leads to drives being destroyed.

Probably the biggest concern for buyers is the performance of the SSD with the early performance and longevity issues posed. While these issues aren’t as prominent, most people are put off because of this.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the drive – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller;
  • The buyer will provide performance screen shots – This should be common practice now with programs such as CrystalDisk and SSDLife being free and can provide a lot of information for prospective buyers;

  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point.

Would I buy used?

No


Graphics Card

Graphics cards are probably the most sold and bought component in the used market next to cases, fans and peripherals.

This category carries the same risks as processors with previous owners overclocking and removing heat sinks to perform modifications such as water cooling. Graphics cards are also more prone to failure compared to other components (storage excluded) with artifacts being the main tell to the failure.

Strangely, the higher risk in failure doesn’t actually put many people off as the potential savings outweigh the risk. In some cases, you can buy a 6-8 month old graphics card for around 20% cheaper.

You can save a lot of money, but follow the following recommendations.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the GPU – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller. Avoid overclocked graphics cards if possible, only consider them if you want a guaranteed overclocked or it is a last resort;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point.

Would I buy used?

Yes


Summary

So there we have it, my recommendations when buying used parts. I could go further into it, but this is designed to be a very high level buying guide.

I would always recommend buying brand new components, you then have the full warranties available and you know that the parts haven’t been tampered with.

Used parts are good if you are on a budget or in a pinch if a part isn’t available. I personally look at sale forums to check out used parts before buying new. My motherboard is used and it saved nearly 30% just 2 months after launch (Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7). I know some review companies sell samples after a review for up to 60% less than retail, yes, at one point I knew of a NVIDIA GTX 980Ti being sold for £300 just days after release.

The best place I’ve found for used parts is the OverclockersUK forums. You need to rack up posts or be a member for a set amount of time to be able to view the marketplace, but most sellers are very trustworthy and sell parts are very good rates.

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