What not to overlook in buying a used PC

Buying used can save money, but be sure you get all the pieces of the purchase

Buying gear on eBay or Craigslist is a great way to save money and spare the planet a little e-waste -- especially if you're technical enough to troubleshoot problems that might frustrate a lesser geek into selling short. But be sure you get everything that should come with the machines you buy, a hard-luck lesson Gripe Line reader Bob recently learned.

Bob had written in seeking help with an HP TX1000-series tablet laptop he was having trouble with. "The integrated wireless LAN has disappeared," he says. "It is not even showing up under the devices or after re-installing the drivers."

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Bob had tried to self-service the problem, and in researching it, he came across similar complaints online.

"I've read stories of customers having repairs done by HP only to have the same issue reoccur," he says. "I've read many posts about design flaws, Nvidia chip issues, overheating, etc. I would like to get some firm answers and resolution to this issue once and for all." So he asked if I would contact HP for him and sort out the disparate reports he was hearing on the Web about what was causing this problem.

When I contacted HP, I discovered that Bob's problems with this computer were more than technical.

"In following up with the customer to see if we could help," a spokesperson told me, "we found that he had purchased the device off Craigslist for $300. We explained that the warranty stayed with the original owner, so there wasn't much we could do for him."

As it turns out, a simple transfer of ownership might have gotten Bob the warranty that now uselessly resides with the original owner. With something difficult to troubleshoot or an issue that might be a design flaw or requires a hardware replacement, that warranty can be essential.

According to an HP Total Care document [PDF] on the matter, "In the event a covered product ... is transferred with the sale of a used hardware product, registration ... is to occur within ten days of purchase from previous owner. HP IS NOT OBLIGATED TO PROVIDE SUPPORT SERVICES IF CUSTOMER OR HP AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE DOES NOT REGISTER HARDWARE PRODUCT AS STATED HEREIN."

The deal appears to be pretty much the same at Dell.com. Though you may be able to get the warranty on your own if you have enough information on the seller, Dell's policy states, "In order to take advantage of any remaining warranty (if applicable) for a Dell System purchased through an auction site or through a third party, you will need to complete the transfer of ownership form by providing either or both of the following pieces of information: Previous Owner Information, Service Tag and Express Code."

Unfortunately, it appears that Bob is stuck self-servicing the problem, as he can't send it for the HP techs to check it out.

Caveat emptor.

Got gripes? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "What not to overlook in buying a used PC," was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

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