PCs optimize

Refurbished Macs a smart choice for smart businesses

Erik Eckel recommends refurbished Macs as a smart move when you need to replace a few systems and save money at the same time.

Recommending Macs is easy. Apple boasts outstanding customer satisfaction ratings, excellent failure and repair rates, and a broad product lineup, so when a business needs a new desktop and display, an iMac is an easy call. Have an organization with road warriors constantly working on the go requiring incredibly light and portable laptops? The MacBook Air is a solid bet. Demanding desktop applications, meanwhile, match well with a properly configured Mac Pro. Or, for businesses needing a compromise, a MacBook Pro fits the bill.

But what about refurbished Macs? That's a common question. Fortunately, the answer's easy. Do it.

Here's why

My office works with hundreds of commercial businesses. We frequently purchase refurbished workstations, particularly for cost-savvy clients needing replacement machines in a hurry. Because refurbished machines are already built, and sitting in a warehouse ready to ship, they can be received and deployed quickly.

Another advantage, in my office's informal but thorough real-world experiences, is lower dead-on-arrival rates. I don't know that we've ever had a refurbished machine fail out of the box. My suspicion is the lower failure rate occurs for several reasons: often machines manufacturers resell as refurbished suffer a blemish, the customer changed its mind, a hardware failure occurred, or software corruption occurred and spurred a return. Subsequently, refurbished machines are often repaired and tested by humans before being resold and don't just ship off the end of an automated production line.

Price, however, is potentially the greatest advantage. Here's a recent example. Apple's refurbished Mac store recently listed a 13.3" MacBook Pro powered by an Intel Core i5 2.3GHz CPU, 4GB RAM and a 320GB hard disk for $1,019. Essentially, the same system (13.3" MacBook Pro with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM and a 320GB hard drive) new cost $1,199. That's a $180 difference, not insignificant, especially when needing multiple units.

Warranty concerns shouldn't exist. Apple includes its standard one-year limited warranty with refurbished computers. Typically, my office recommends Mac customers purchase the AppleCare Protection Plan, which extends the limited warranty to three years. Customers purchasing refurbished Apple computers can add the same AppleCare Protection Plan to their systems, too.

Refurbished systems also include all original documentation. Plus, refurbished systems receive new serial numbers.

Exceptions to every rule

There are always exceptions to every rule. Refurbished Macs, while certified to meet Apple's finished goods testing specifications, aren't perfect for every organization. Available inventory changes rapidly. Systems tailored to meet an organization's specific requirements aren't always available, nor is purchasing dozens of refurbished systems typically an option. But smart organizations needing a handful of reliable Macs quickly will do well checking Apple's refurbished inventory prior to purchase.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

38 comments
Slayer_
Slayer_

I can't speak for Mac though, as we are a Microsoft shop.

techgirl123
techgirl123

Really. I just started at this place and everything we use are refurbished macs from mac of all trades, and everything works incredibly smoothly.

joncowden
joncowden

If you want me to take a dump in a box and marked it Guarenteed, I can... I have spare time..... THAT IS EXACTALLY what APPLE doing... Getting you Apple Eaters to eat the crap they are dishing out... A big, whopping $180 discount on a used machine?!? Apple really has it hard for themselves... And I LOOOOVE LOOOOVE LOOOOVE the AGE OLD argument of, "Mac's are better for photo editing, ect ect ect...." BULLCRAP! That argument was along the wayside back when dual-core technology was released. With the amount of cores out now and cheapness of RAM, you can run anything on anything. I would much rather for-go the stainless steel scratch magnet of a case that comes with a MBP and take my $800 on an HP EliteBook with the exact same hardware, or better(which will still be made because, it doesn't suck.) And making it even more solid by a Win/Lyn dual boot... I would then take the other $ saved and go out of town for the weekend ;) I suppose that could be the real underlying difference.. I would rather enjoy life than sit in a seedy basement sipping latte's with the only light in the room coming from the ambient glow of my lighted fruit lid. And the only tan I get is from the super-bright LED screen.... #sike Whilst the author had a solid idea of businesses saving by buying refurbed "machines," it was unwise to say "MACS," especially with a measly $180 savings example. Especially for a company that has failed server platforms and that requires a machine to have 3rd party software to be properly managed in an enterprise environment....

cd003284
cd003284

There are lots of reasons not to go Apple, unless you're already there, especially in a recession, and most of them are financial. The costs of purchase, setup, and transition. After that, the costs of retraining users and IT. The loss of productivity during the transition. The loss of all those spare computers and parts you won't be able to use. The loss of the employees who can't/won't handle the transition and the costs of their replacement. The higher costs, from then on, of everything Apple. So if an organization is already Apple - great idea. If not, terrible idea.

opigg
opigg

Well spoken LMAO!, I agree. Only $180. off for a refurbished Mac which still costs $1018. I recently purchased an ASUS laptop with about the same capabilities (I5, 2.4g, 15.6 inch screen and CD/DVD drive) for $618 total (new) with Windows 7 Professional x64 and got 3 yr warranty and 2yr accident warranty included. I am happy with the ASUS which seems to me a much better value judgment. I can use either but choose pcs because of the significant price difference and Mac hardware is proprietary which limits replacement parts.

tiredoftechrepublic
tiredoftechrepublic

For crying out loud... I can't get over how you Apple supporters and PC supporters love to argue so much, that you totally miss the point. You sound like a bunch of kindergarten children, arguing over which toy is better. LMAO... I am a PC guy, only because, that is what the engineering, surveying and business world, that I am associated with, uses. Way back in 1989, my employer bought a Macintosh II. I took it home, hooked it up to my TV set and learned how to use it. It worked fantastic for my graphics and silk-screening jobs. (The office accountant used a PC, by the way) Now that I use PC's, I don't bash Apple. Get over it, people. Refurbs are a risky choice... I say this because, in 2001, I worked as a pager repair and refurbishing technician. (remember pagers?) We were the State of Georgia's sole supplier of pagers. You would not believe the condition of some of these units and the repairs we did on them. Used SMT components, jumper wires for cracked boards and a new LCD, slap a new case on it, and out the door. Even with the intense procedures used by us to ensure a good product, the return rate for our refurbs was around 10 to 15 percent. Using refurbished equipment may make sense for some companies and for others it will not. It has nothing to do with brand loyalty. It has everything to do with whether you are willing to take the chance to save a few dollars. By the way, all you PC trolls should STHU about Apple, and all you Apple trolls should STHU about PC's. You make me sick, with your bickering about which is better! Neither is better, because they are apples and oranges

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

Since 2000, I have owned 5 Mac laptops. 3 of them failed within 2 years with graphics board problems and were scrapped. 1 failed with a bad drive, and my Macbook Air now has a SSD and is running fine. I have owned a similar number of IBM Thinkpad T40 PC laptops which also failed due to a known problem of the graphics chipset having bad soldering to the motherboard. The difference was the IBM's were less than half the price of the Macs. I have also owned several IBM T60 with zero problems, several HP corporate laptops (eg 6910p) with zero failures and a Dell D610 laptop that failed with bad hard drive, bad display, bad optical drive all within 6 months. In general, my Mac failure rate has been higher than the PC rate, depite the cost difference of the Macs being a lot more than the PC laptops. (In case you are wondering about the high failure rate in general, I am an IT consultant who travels a huge amount and my laptop is highly mobile and used in data centres, race tracks, airports, deserts, hospitals and ships.)

DOSlover
DOSlover

Having seen the degenerating conversation I think the point of the blog was if you ARE looking at getting a 'fleet' of Macs for your business then going the refurbished route with Macs is a fairly safe route. I don't own, nor have ever owned a Mac but I am not going to stop someone else from doing so. Computers are man made machines, not some form of modern religion, although I could be mistaken reading some of the comments. I tend to build my own desktops from new parts and having had a Sony laptop that suffered a hard drive controller failure I bought a laptop from a company that makes laptops, Toshiba. It is now five years old and doing very nicely. Next time I might buy something else. Maybe even a refurbished Mac, it runs Windows as well!

richblundell
richblundell

It was great to read your column Erik. I'm a director in a small business and we have been using refurbished Macs for about a year now. The kit you get looks new and works like new, and because its Apple, it works without the need for us to employ an expensive IT guru. Cost-wise its still slightly more than a PC but you save not only on IT support but also on software, e.g. there's no need to buy Outlook because the Mac comes preloaded with Mail and Calendar. Buying refurb'd Macs was even one of my 'money saving saving tips for small business' in a recent post http://richardblundell.net/2011/08/10-ways-save-money/

Professor8
Professor8

Well, you have to be wary of obsolescence. There are things which just can't run on older hardware; the hardware instruction set gets extended every year or two. The only outright failure I've had on a Mac was a cheapo LG DVD drive. After a long long time the connectors from the lap-top to display get a bit worn and/or loose. I'm told some have managed to crack a power board. OTOH, I've seen a lot of dead PeeeeCeeees.

Justin James
Justin James

What I've found is that many times, the problem that brought something in to be refurbed was hard to detect/diagnose. Things like loose heat sinks on CPUs, flaky memory busses, poorly soldered connections, bad RAM, etc. All the original owner knows is that the system was unstable. So the refurb folks do some diagnostics, everything looks OK, they wipe the drive and put a fresh OS on and call it "done". And the new owner gets a still-flaky machine. I'm not saying that Apple's refurb process is like this (I've never owned a refurb'ed Apple), but everything from phones to DVD players to computers, I've had bad experiences with refurb. J.Ja

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

I've found that refurbs--at least Mac refurbs--are incredibly reliable. Like the author said, they're tested by a real human prior to restocking for sale. However, I've not always found that to be true with the boxes from other manufacturers; Dell has a very poor customer satisfaction rating--almost 30 points below Apple--and even HP has its issues, though mostly with the lower-priced models. I've seen the proof of the old adage, "You get what you pay for; You pay for what you get." You pay cheap, you get cheap. I've never had or serviced a sub-$400 machine that lasted more than a couple years without needing major repairs while one costing $800 or more was usually quite reliable. One of the biggest advantages of a refurb is that you can get a more expensive model for the price of a less expensive one. So I'd rather pay for quality and get quality than get cheap and have to pay again to replace it within months. The argument about a Mac-biased opinion is juvenile, considering that the headline specifically stated Macs and not generic PCs. You don't want a Mac, don't buy a Mac. The article was about Macs.

RechTepublic
RechTepublic

Systems that run Windows and Linux have the same hardware and even greater discounts. Dell's outlet has huge discounts on scratch/dent and refurbished systems. I got a Precision 380 a few years back for $600 off the new price. Simply put, if you want a Mac system you pay more compared to a Windows/Linux system. Every Mac user I know believes that it is worth the extra money and don't think twice about paying it. In fact, some of them even forget that Windows or Linux exist :)

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Most certified pre-owned or refurbished items come at deep discounts. This is near %15? How old are these units? Do you get better deals on older hardware?

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

I just bought a refurb camcorder from JVC and had to send it back for warranty repair after only one use, so yes, I would agree with you. However, I've never had that issue with Apple computers, having owned three different refurbished models over the years with no problems with any of them. Maybe that's just anecdotal data, but Apple's reliability, for me, has been exemplary.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

First off, a $180 discount from an $1100 device is 15%, which is pretty significant for a device guaranteed to be better than new. You may personally believe Apple's products are "crap", but that doesn't mean they are to anybody else. I also don't consider a refurb as a "used machine" simply due to the fact that most of the time their original failure was within the first 90 days, though AppleCare may choose to replace an older one should the failure be significant. The price reduction on the older machine is also higher than one on a newer model. I will agree, somewhat, to your statement about photo editing; but not due to any technical changes, only due to software comparability. I believe the Apple is still faster on average, but the difference is measured in seconds rather than minutes. This is more due to the differences in the operating systems than the hardware, though even there the Mac is faster than an "equivalent" PC of equal or lesser price using Windows on both machines. Your final point is more prejudice than fact because that $180 savings doesn't take into account any corporate discounts that may also apply--as much as an additional 15% for some companies. That would make his example show a total of $360 off the retail price. The Mac is not necessarily going to replace a server--HP and Dell seem to have that market stitched up pretty tight--but rather the desktop used by secretaries, managers, whomever. The desktop environment any more really doesn't care what OS is used, though Apple has more than once demonstrated that the Mac shows better productivity than a Windows machine in the desktop environment. Why? Primarily by fewer desktop support calls and more reliable hardware.

Player_16
Player_16

You can load Windows on Macs. If you have OEM software kicking around, you'll be fine. 2nd hand, or refurbished Macs + OEM's = very little training. The setup can be a bit tedious -due to Windows loading methods- but the Apple Shop can usually help you or your IT person out. When new software and/or hardware is introduced in a work environment, there's always a bit of down time so it's not a 'Bad idea'. You'll still be subjected to the usual foibles of the MS world (viruses, malware, etc.) but your machine maintenance should reduce dramatically.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... since in this last recession Apple grew by double-digit percentages while no other brand grew by more than 7%, excepting netbooks which grew roughly 50% most quarters. You don't have to be invested in Apple to realize it's an economical package once you get your brain past that initial price. In other words, you really do get what you pay for in lifetime capability compared to a much cheaper machine where you have to continually pay for upgrades and updates to hardware and software. Consider this: By the most recent Gartner reports, Windows barely maintains a 50% majority on the internet against all other operating systems. OS X, Android and iOS share most of the rest.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Though from personal experience I've found Apple's refurbs better than anyone else's. I, too, did electronic repair in my day and there really was a difference depending on who did the work. Though I'll admit if it came down to a cracked/broken circuit board I'd either replace the board or the entire device; cost of repair more than the value of the device.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

It doesn't add that much to the cost and greatly improves overall service over the life of the machine. I have yet to pay for a single repair to any Apple computer I've owned. My current iMac is 4 years old; I have a MacBook 1st-gen Intel; an iBook 9-10 years old and a Mac Mini about 7 years old--all still functional and working as well as they did when new. I won't deny that any brand can have some failures, but based on different opinion polls, Macs tend to fail less often than any other brand and the service when getting them repaired is significantly better in most cases. Of course, your experience may be different.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... I believe Toshiba probably makes the best Windows-only PCs currently available. Toshiba also tends to cost more than HP or Dell, too.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

In some ways it reminds me of the old Army Air Corps radio repair where they had a simple rule: "Kick it. If it works, replace it; if it doesn't work, replace it." I've seen how HP and Dell tend to troubleshoot their PCs and I've had to cycle a single machine back for multiple repairs on symptoms that were pretty obvious to me. An intermittent problem is highly unlikely to be software related which narrows the problem to some hardware component, whether it be drives, power supply or mo-bo. You, yourself mention things like loose heat sinks, cold solder joints and other faults that the proper questions asked to the user can expose. Apple, unlike these others, then aims the refurb in the proper direction to resolve the issue, up to and including replacing an entire mo-bo on the first try. I've also seen Apple put a device on an extended testing cycle if the problem is intermittent to try and isolate the exact symptom. I've owned three different Apple computer refurbs over the years and have never had one fail on me--never. I couldn't say the same for any other brand. In every case I donated the computer to someone who needed it, in one case to a mother who couldn't afford one for her child and in other cases to a church and school for repurposing. Of course, having only one Mac fail out of the box out of over 20 different models over the last 20 years (I currently have 5 serving different purposes around the house) which was replaced with a cross-shipped twin and another that had a power supply die after 5 years as a 'mobile' computer (Weekly trips to a second home before I bought a laptop), I can only claim that no other computer brand or model that I've built myself has demonstrated that kind of longevity and reliability.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Not of Apple specifically, but the last three systems I purchased were vendor-certified refurbs with full warranty coverage. (Dells, specifically, but I haven't seen any problems with them personally.) As you noted, you get more bang for your buck. 'Scratch and dents' are also good buys if you don't care what the box looks like. I avoid lease returns though; too much existing wear and tear on the components.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Also, you won't find many egg rolls at an Italian restaurant.

rpollard
rpollard

Apple doesn't make low end systems that don't last. You're paying for high end systems, not cheap systems that have corners cut to save you some money. I bought an HP laptop for $800 and within a year it completely went out. Thanks goodness the warranty still applied. Then after I got it back had 2 more major issues occur. It's cheap and doesn't last like the Mac. Yeah, I know you can get a system that may last for less but it's a gamble as to which company has quality product that is consistent in all their lines for reliability and quality. I'm still searching for that system because our COO wants cheap systems. I have been deploying Lenovo hoping they will last. So far, it looks good. But, it's still a gamble. With Mac I know they will last.

johnpall
johnpall

Being an artist who does a number of my own tasks like photo, video and Professional music editing & production, there simply is no need to go to Windows (for people who like to take it easy)in fact i know that most in my line of work running any form of Windows (Linux ahh no Pro Apps no go)will never let one go near anything online not even for a second and they also have a laptop or basic PC to test external usb devices etc before they allow them to connect to their D.A.W. all this is not necessary on a Mac but a must do on the PC. Macs are not that expensive if you go for older models ,sure a 3ghz core 2 duo may not be the most powerful machine but it runs stuff like Logic Audio , Cubase, Digital Performer, Nuendo, Pro tools & GarageBand without any problems and you can get heaps of Audio Plugins running simultaneously without too many glitches(just don't try pushing it too hard) you can typically pickup a 20" Aluminum Imac for around $500 where i come from i'm sure you guys in the states should be able to pick them up for around $300 they are a rock solid Machine and i've never had any problems what so ever in the last four years, not everyone wants or needs the fastest machine but if you need something faster there are always great deals to be had on refurbished Macs if you look and search hard enough on the web, people who are not tech savvy prefer macs (if they are prepared to take off the Windows colored glasses) from my experience the many fellow artists that now run a Mac tell me how much they enjoy their system whilst not having to worry about things like installing updates for anti/malware/spyware/virus, & different types of Windows updates that pop up in all sorts of places in different boxes etc (unlike Apple software updates all done in one place) also about this software accidentally detecting all kinds of normal plugins and even some perfectly normal apps as dangerous when they simply are not, all this is totally unnecessary on Mac, sure you could go for a totally stripped down version of Win running none of the above but make sure you image your drive regularly cause the smallest thing can make Windows fail i have seen so many versions of XP/Vista and some Win 7 systems lose certain functionality like suddenly losing use of media player or burning software stops working even though the burner will work in another PC, also some ide optical drives do not play well when installing Vista though Win 7 is a little better. Go PC and you may or may not have full use of all software that was originally installed when you 1st got it, you can be very certain that the Mac will run for YEARS on the original install of all software including the OS i personally have a 2007 Imac which originally had Tiger then upgraded to Leopard (so no clean install) and i was originally afraid of doing this thinking i would lose some apps along the way but 98% of apps continued to work and the machine has been great since the upgrade(most people move slow in the Professional Music/Video world due to plugin compatibility) i also do some PC systems for friends (who simply can't be bothered to learn anything new) and did one recently upgrading from Vista to Win 7 and the dreaded media player problem occurred once it upgraded ARGH! Last but not least sound driver software works so easily on the Mac it can work ok on the PC but because the automatic "need to find a driver for this device" bullshit in Win comes up it makes it more confusing than it really needs to be especially other DUMB things like "this driver is not digitally signed" all these things add up to multiple hurdles that the runner (you) needs to jump before one gets to the start line , point being too much work before you even begin to create something, good for tech savvy people like me but not your average just want to install that sound/video card joe lets go! kind of guy not on Windows you don't, cause it was designed around IT so techs could make money from it not to be end user friendly, but if you like it then go ahead displease yourself.

BrokenEagle
BrokenEagle

The author was taking about new machines that had been returned and refurbished and sold on the Apple web site with full warranty and Apple backing. He didn't state this clearly. Machines that are leased for 3 years before being refurbished are sold at a much bigger savings, but without the warranty (unless the seller provides one). Like you I initially thought the author was recommending the older pre-used machines rather than ones that were refurbished for quality control reasons and not because they necessarily needed it.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It's good to have options, now that HP is gone. I'm betting the worst Apple computer is better than the average HP computer was, and certainly better then a dell computer. Does Apple refuse warranty on refurbs if you install Windows?

vl1969
vl1969

if some one is making a blanket statement based on a single episode it is not right. I do not agree that Apple computers are made from better components. I have worked on enough of them to know it is not true. I do concede that those component are put together with more quality work and standards then many PC on the market. I have seen plenty of PCs in non working state after shipping because of dislodge components. Macs are better build and tested , from the same components.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Apple products are made at Foxconn in China. They are the definition of corner cutting. The same company makes many products for DELL and the XBOX. There is a reason that the guys at the local Mac store say that you MUST get AppleCare with every purchase. It's because they do fail and when they do it's way more difficult and expensive to have it repaired. Every Apple owner I know pays too much for the system and then pays even more for an extended warranty. I have never purchased an extended warranty for a PC and I have only sent back a handful of parts in my lifetime. (all replaced for free. Mainly HDD, PSU and GPU) If you want to get top quality parts in a PC, you can. If you want to get the cheapest solution possible, you can. You can do whatever you want. With Apple you get one thing regardless of your requirements. It may be too much or it might not be powerful enough but it's the thing they are selling today so that's what you get.

vl1969
vl1969

just because you got a lemon, doesn't mean all PC are bad. I got one(1) lemon PC in 15 years, S#$T Happens. I am runing 3 PC at home with no hardware issue what so ever. I do have some software issues, but that is becouse I like to tinker with bettas and such, so my PC get poluted with garbage that needs to be cleand out once in a wile. but that's my fault. you do this with mac and you will have the same issue. I know, I have seen it. I had a friend who asked me multiple times to help her with the mac. I told her that I am not qulifyed to do so as I do not know mac systems that well. I can install/upgrade hardware, but soft. is not my forte. she end up going to geec squad and paying over $200 for refresh OS and data backup.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

You took a long time to explain that you don't understand how computers work. It's obvious that you have never owned a PC. I've never had any problems occur because I plugged in a USB device and the only people that do CM like verifing in a test system are large corporations that have too much time on their hands. All of the "benefits" you descibed here are all limitations. For example you don't need to download drivers because you can't install new hardware. This isn't a feature. You need a sound card driver for a PC because you can use any sound card you want. If you want the very best you can get it. With the Mac you get whatever Apple allows you to have and they tell you that it is the best. Don't get me wrong. I like Apple computers. You need to realize that they are not magical. You pay extra for the name brand. It's like designer clothing.

Player_16
Player_16

No. It's software. It's just when you 'open' the machine that you may void the warranty.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... if that means anything. And I've had fewer problems with them than I ever had with a Windows-only PC. Boot Camp ensures the drivers are necessary for all of the iMac's built-in features, including bluetooth and webcam. I do use Windows for my gaming, but all my productivity and web browsing are done in OS X for safety and reliability.

Player_16
Player_16

I know you're setting him straight but don't be mislead or misleading. On the box it says 'Designed in California' for a reason. Now that thing about 'AppleCare'; you must remember you're in a shop and they want to make a sale; they just want to suck you in. The warranty runs out in a year so IF you know that, you can purchase AppleCare near the end of your year. If you sale your gear in that AppleCare period, you can include it in the sale and it caries over. AppleCare is only a peace-of-mind option. Finally, getting one thing regardless, if you're computing needs aren't THAT serious, get a iMac; otherwise, get a Mac Pro and load it up with top gear (cards, RAM) from a qualified, KNOWN distributer; and chances are, your warranty won't be voided. If you choose gear just from Apple, it'll cost ya!

rpollard
rpollard

The lemon theory is a good theory but not a sound one. This is only one of my many personal experiences. I have been working on Macs and PCs since the beginning and I have to say there is absolutely no comparison of the quality between the two. I admit that I haven't bought or would ever buy a PC that costs as much as a Mac because I would just buy the Mac since I value quality more but I wonder if the systems that actually match the Mac in performance and quality would last as long... Again, it's a gamble I'm not willing to take with the experiences I've had and that others have had. You can buy substandard PCs since you probably can afford to just throw them away and buy another one when it goes out just outside of the warranty, but I don't have that kind of money. I want something that I know will last.