Used PC parts can be a great way to save a buck on a new PC build or upgrade, but while some are a good idea, there are certain scenarios where you might not want to buy something used. Which parts should you buy, and which ones should you avoid?
How to Shop for Used PC Parts
First off, we need to go over a few general tips on how to buy used parts on online storefronts. After all, there are thousands of parts available online, and before we can give you advice on specific parts, we should first clarify that there are faulty units of pretty much any part you can think about online.
Check a seller’s reputation, and check whether an item has been tested and is in working condition. Look for sellers with positive feedback, and avoid anyone with a history of selling faulty components.
When you’re checking an item, look at how used it is. In the case of CPUs, RAM, and GPUs, they can be worn (and more prone to failure) if, at any point during their lifetime, they were working under non-ideal conditions, like overclocking, overheating, or in the case of GPUs, if they were used for cryptocurrency mining.
You also need to check if the part is still covered under a manufacturer’s warranty by any chance. If it’s several years old, you might be out of luck, but if it’s a relatively recent item, you might be good. If it doesn’t have a warranty from the manufacturer, check if the seller itself has any sort of warranty or, at a minimum, a return policy. That way, if you do end up getting a dud, you’ll at least be able to get your money back.
Do some research to find out the average market price for the specific part you’re buying. This will help you determine if the price being asked is reasonable for an item and its condition. If a price seems significantly lower than others being offered for the same item, it may be an indication of a problem with the part. And if it seems too high, you’ll be able to identify if it’s a bad deal or not.
Finally, when paying for your purchase, you should also consider using a secure platform such as PayPal to avoid any potential issues. Never wire money directly to the seller or use Zelle, as these payment methods are perfect for scammers.
Should You Buy a Used CPU?
Used CPUs are generally a safe bet. You can get amazing deals on older, formerly high-end CPUs and save a buck or two in the process. By buying a used CPU, however, you need to make sure that whatever motherboard you’re using can fit it.
In the case of older Ryzen CPUs, they’re pretty safe, given how the AM4 socket was used from 2016 to 2022. However, chipset compatibility can be an issue, so you should check that beforehand.
Intel CPUs can be more problematic since Intel tends to change sockets way more frequently. You should first research what’s the socket of whatever motherboard you have, and from there, ensure your BIOS is fully updated and then look for the most powerful (supported) CPU.
Whatever CPU you buy, you should make sure that it has not been overclocked at any point during its lifespan. The CPU listing will normally say whether it has been overclocked or not, but if it doesn’t say that, make sure you ask the seller.
Should You Buy Used RAM?
Used RAM is a pretty safe bet. Unlike with used CPUs, you really only need to check your motherboard’s RAM type (DDR3, DDR4, DDR5) and buy RAM that fits.
Like with CPUs, you should check whether that RAM has been overclocked at any given point, or has overheated. It’s pretty rare for RAM to go bad, which is why RAM is generally considered one of the safest parts to buy used, but you should still take precautions.
Should You Buy a Used Monitor?
Whether a used monitor is a good idea or not will depend on how old it is and how much it has been used. But generally, it’s considered a safe purchase.
Monitors can age, and so can their displays. They might get ghosting, burn-in, color fading, geometric distortion, or dead pixels over their lifetimes. This won’t affect the performance of your PC, but it might be visually unpleasant, which is something you should consider when you’re buying a used monitor. Make sure that the seller is showing pictures of the monitor turned on, and, if possible, videos as well.
If the screen works perfectly, though, you can safely buy it as long as the display outputs on your PC are compatible with the monitor’s inputs. And if they aren’t, you can probably buy an adapter anyway.
Should You Buy a Used Keyboard/Mouse?
Used keyboards or mice are safe, but it depends on the condition of the keyboard or the mouse in question. Usually, if there’s any deal-breaking issue with them, it’ll be visible on a listing’s photos.
You should watch out for issues like sticky keys/buttons or dead keys/buttons, as they can ruin your experience. These issues will normally come with age or poor use, and you should definitely ask the seller whether these issues exist — and have a look at their reputation to see if they have sold any defective stuff in the past.
Once you have cleared all that out, though, you can safely buy these items used. Make sure you can return them, though, just in case.
Should You Buy a Used Graphics Card?
The answer to whether you should buy a used GPU is complicated. By buying a used graphics card, if it’s good, you can save a few bucks to make your PC gaming-capable. But also, cryptocurrency mining has made this specific second-hand market segment more complicated to navigate.
Many of the used graphics cards currently on sale were used by cryptocurrency miners to mine Ethereum before The Merge happened. Those cards were often overclocked, and even if they weren’t, they were still operating under non-optimal conditions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you do buy a used GPU, make sure it hasn’t been used in a crypto mining rig at any point. Otherwise, you might buy a GPU with a shortened lifespan, and you don’t want that — even if you might want to save money.
Should You Buy a Used Motherboard?
The motherboard is what bridges all of your PC’s components together, so you should be very careful if you buy a used motherboard.
In some cases, it’s your only option — like if, for example, you’re getting a used, older CPU that you don’t have a compatible motherboard. It can be really hard to find new motherboards in a number of scenarios, so we’re definitely not advising against it. However, you should exercise increased caution.
Motherboards have a lot of elements to them, from capacitors to chips, heatsinks, jumpers, and batteries. If any part were to fail, it’s hard to predict what would happen. It might be completely fine, or the whole motherboard might just not work at all. Make sure the motherboard is in complete working order before you buy it.
Should You Buy Used Storage? (HDD or SSD)
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t buy used storage devices, especially not hard drives. Hard drives have physical magnetic platters inside that are very fragile and very easy to break. A used hard drive can have bad sectors or mechanical issues that can cause its death at any given moment, and with it, the death of whatever is stored inside it. An SSD can also have problems, but at least those won’t be mechanical problems.
If you do buy used storage for your machine, make sure you don’t use it as your primary drive, and that you don’t store any essential, important files. You can use it — just don’t save anything in there that you don’t mind losing. If you want something to use as your primary drive, just get a new hard drive.
Should You Buy a Used Power Supply? (PSU)
Used power supplies are an absolute negative — you should never buy one.
A used PSU can be very problematic, especially if it’s really old. As power supplies age, the components inside them begin degrading, thus decreasing their capacity to provide power to your computer. In addition, the power it does provide can also be more unstable.
Unlike other used parts, where a defective unit can be inconvenient, a defective power supply can actually be a hazard. If it malfunctions, it can actually kill all of the components in your PC, and it can even put out smoke or even fire.
Possible electrical failures are no joke — the power supply is the one part of your PC you should never underspend on.