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Pros and Cons of Buying a Used Mac to Replace Your PC

If you’re considering a switch from a PC to a Mac, you likely already know that Macs are more expensive than PCs. Bargain hunting is harder in the Mac world than it is in the PC world. Generally, price reductions happen when the inventory is too high or when a new product is about to be introduced. Because so many PC manufacturers exist, these supply problems happen often for PCs.

Apple, however, has better control of its distribution chain and tries very hard to keep Macintosh clearance sales from happening. They still do appear, but nowhere nearly as often as with PCs, and even when they do, the price cuts are rarely as dramatic.

If you’re ready to buy a Mac, it’s not worth waiting months for one of these sales. Peripheral devices such as printers, scanners, and hard drives are another matter; they’re often discounted. Also, Apple sometimes offers refurbished Macs at its online store. They typically come with the standard Apple warranty. You can search the Apple Store with the keyword refurbished to find what’s on sale.

Apple often offers an education discount, so if you have an affiliation with an educational institution (student, teacher, staff member), bring ID with you when you visit the Apple Store.

Buying a used Mac sacrifices some of the benefits of buying new. There’s something about unpacking a brand-new machine and setting it up that builds confidence. You know that the stuff was recently tested at the factory and should work. You have Apple tech support and, possibly, the people at the retail store to call on if you have trouble. In the worst case, you can return the Mac for a refund.

Switching from one computer system to another is a complex-enough task without having to worry about possible hardware problems. Also you may not find much of a bargain; Macs tend to command higher prices on the used market than PCs of comparable vintage. But if you want to try your luck on the used market, here are some tips:

  • Buy locally, such as from Craig’s List or someone you know, and pick up your Mac in person. That way, you can check it out before you hand over money. You also avoid the risk of product damage during shipping.

  • Buy only a used Mac that has an Intel processor. Choose the About This Mac option from the Apple (app) menu to see the processor type. Macs sold before 2006 use a different microprocessor, the PowerPC (or, if they’re really old, a Motorola 68k series). These models are significantly slower, and Apple support for PowerPC machines is winding down. (The 68k models are for antique computer collectors only.)

  • If possible, find a machine that has time remaining on an AppleCare contract.

  • Don’t pay more than the price of a new, low-end Mac. A new basic machine will likely approach or exceed the performance of a more advanced but older model, for example, and you receive all the benefits of a new unit.

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