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Ways to Prepare a Previously Used Computer Before Using It

tips for using a used computer

When buying a used computer from someone, it is important to make sure that the computer is in good working order. Even though you might not be able to tell if there are any problems with it by looking at the outside, there could be serious issues going on inside.

Run Standard Diagnostic Tests To Find Obvious Issues

Purchasing a used computer is an excellent way to save a few bucks. But unless you’re buying from a trusted source, run a few tests on the machine first. For example, you can run memory, processor, and hard drive tests to ensure nothing is damaged.

During this time, you will also be looking for telltale signs like abnormal temperature readings or faults that the software may pick up.

Inspect The Computer For Signs Of Damage

Check for breakage on the screen and underneath if it’s a laptop. Telltale signs of laptop repair include marked screws. In addition, examine the specs to ensure the computer meets your needs. For example, any computer should have at least 8GB of RAM nowadays to perform most tasks.

Physically Clean The Computer Inside and Out

Before using the computer, clean both its inside and outside. This means wiping down all of the surfaces with an antibacterial wipe to make sure there are no germs on it. However, with desktop PCs, it also means opening the case and using compressed air to blow out any dust that may have accumulated.

During this cleaning process, it is ESSENTIAL that you have the computer off and unplugged. If you don't, there is a risk of causing electrical issues.

Check The Battery Life Of A Laptop Computer

Make sure you feel comfortable taking this laptop out in public if that’s what you plan on doing with it. For example, check how long the battery should last when unplugged. If you don’t want to take a charger everywhere just for simple tasks like checking email or working on papers, then this might not be an ideal purchase for your needs unless the batter is still in good condition.

When buying any used product, ask yourself whether or not things look too good to be true? Sometimes you'll see ads for laptop PCs that are far cheaper than they should be. Luckily though, in most cases laptop batteries are relatively in expensive and can transform a "piece of junk" into a fully operational machine for only $100 or so.

The Best Choice Is Usually To Completely Reinstall The Operating System

While few users will have the original restoration disks provided by the manufacturer, the best course is usually to simply wipe the existing computer and completely re-install the operating system and other software. This will not only eliminate any viruses and bloat ware but also any personal settings and files that the previous user may have left on the system.

Most people probably won't have this opportunity so we've gone deeper to provide you with some tips on how to prepare a previously used computer so that you can be as productive as possible.

How to Secure a Used Computer

Now that you have your machine, it's time to secure it to protect your data. The machine could have different types of vulnerabilities or malware that could affect your security and privacy. Even if the previous owner didn't maliciously leave malware to spy on you, they might have been careless.

Remember, this short guide applies to Mac and Windows-powered PC users. After all, Macs get viruses too, and malware threats against Macs now outpace Windows per endpoint. In 2020, Mac threats rose by over 400 percent year-over-year, according to TechRadar.

Download Security Updates

Before anything, check your operating system for security updates because the previous owner of your machine may not have been using them. Both Microsoft and Apple release security updates regularly that malware can exploit.

For example, Microsoft patched the SMB flaw that the dangerous WannaCry ransomware manipulated. Likewise, Apple recently updated its products to protect them from the vicious Pegasus spyware. You should consider buying an authentic new operating system if your machine runs an unlicensed or obsolete copy that can’t update.

Scan for Malware

Malware is a catchall term for any malicious software, from computer viruses to spyware and Trojans. Your operating system’s proprietary antivirus software may only stop relics like viruses. It’s a good idea to download advanced antivirus software with anti-malware technology that can remove a legacy threat like a computer virus and an enhanced threat like ransomware.

Remove Bloatware

Bloatware is a type of trial version third-party software that comes with a computer. While some bloatware can slow down your system, other bloatware may spy on you. Go through your list of programs and remove any useless applications.

Activate Network Security

A firewall is a type of barrier that can shield your network from malicious activity. Start your firewall in your operating system for some network protection. You can also activate your router’s firewall for an added layer of safety.

While all four steps can help enhance your security and privacy on a preowned machine, formatting it and installing a fresh operating system is the safest option. Starting with a clean slate is the most reliable way to eliminate all potentially unwanted programs. It’s also one of the only ways to get rid of a kernel rootkit, which is a type of sneaky malware that sits deep in your computer and can grant a threat actor control of your machine.

Although securing your computer can take time and energy, it’s a vital step in protecting your data. You don’t have to go through the hassle of formatting your purchase, but please run security updates and download anti-malware technology. 

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