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Old links to index-site.com need to be updated to macmaps.com.
This page is divided into these topics:
1. Why to buy used or refurbished
2. How to prevent buying a lemon
3. Websites to mail order and classified stores with used and refurbished Macs and Apple products.
On a separate page, I've included tips for Selling Used Macs.
Why to buy used or refurbished Macs?If you can't afford a modern Mac, or some of your software that you can afford still runs on older Mac operating systems, it might be wise to have an older Mac. Macs have historically always run only the operating system available at the time of their release, and new Mac operating systems. The two exceptions were during the transition from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X (page links to the transition period description), where Mac OS 9 booting was still supported, and later Classic environment was available, but both those are currently gone. Fortunately older versions of Windows will still run on newer Macs, which allows some older software to still run legally without having to rip a ROM from an older machine. For that you can use various virtualization solutions for Windows on Intel Macs, that have been available since the first Intel Mac release in 2006. For all others, an older Mac probably will be needed for older Mac software to run.
How to prevent a lemon purchase?Know the machine you need, by reading the specs for all the machines, and compare with what you need to run. The listing of the stores at the and of this FAQ include some that just software or accessories for older Apple products. Note, this listing was obtained by looking at other websites that discuss used and refurbished Macs. I have not verified the quality of any of these stores, and if you believe something is too good to be true, it probably is. Be aware that most do not offer any warranty on these Macs, and when you get replacement parts, they often are refurbished too. If buying a notebook or Mac Mini, check to make sure the power adapter has no signs of being frayed, and if it does, take a look at this guide on what to do about it. In addition, if a store sells a Mac, they should provide the original installation disks that came with the Mac. If they don't offer it with the Mac, someone has either taken the disks for their own keeping (which is against Apple's license agreement), or the disks got lost, in which case, they should contact Apple for a replacement set to give to you before selling it to you. The disks that come with each Mac have good hardware and software testing programs which may not work on other Macs. Here are the directions for the hardware test on a link for Intel Macs on their restore discs, and PowerPC Macs on their restore disc will help you determine if any user detectable hardware issues are present. These will not give you bad RAM all the time. See my Bad RAM FAQ, in event you have any possibility of bad RAM, due to Kernel panics, and inform the seller to check too before selling it to you.
In addition, the installation software from another Mac may not work on the Mac in question. So don't accept an eMac with an iMac's installation disks, or an iMac G4 with an iMac G5's installations disks. I discuss in this FAQ why that is important. In addition verify when the machine last had its PRAM battery replaced. All Macs except a few notebooks have a PRAM battery, which is also known as the backup battery on Apple's knowledgebase article 86181, which describes which PRAM battery each Mac gets. Unless otherwise stated they have used and refurbished Macs and parts, and sometimes software. Also check Exchange Repair Programs to verify the Mac you are buying isn't under one of these programs, and if it is, check the seller to make sure they aren't selling it because of a problem they are having which may be covered by one of these programs.
In addition, I strongly recommend you learn the specs of any new Mac you buy before you get it. I've written a section of my migrating from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X FAQ with different links on identifying Macs.
Lastly, I wrote a user tip on Apple Support Communities of what to do about buying a Mac without the original installer discs, that offers additional resources.
Stores offering Used and Refurbished Macs and AccessoriesThis list is by no means complete, though if you wish to see another added, or feel one shouldn't be recommended please sign the guestbook. Mail order shops with tollfree U.S. order lines:
http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/mac - Yes this is Apple's own special deals page on a static link!
Lowendmac's Deals page - lists multiple vendors.
http://www.macprices.net - lists multiple authorized desktop resellers of used and refurbished Apple desktops.
MicroReplay buys and sells used computers and parts
http://www.pcprices.net/refurblaptops.shtml - lists multiple authorized laptop resellers of used and refurbished Apple laptops.
http://www.iresq.com/ (formerly Macresq)
http://www.macsales.com/ offers numerous upgrade options, and older operating system software, and now used Macs.
http://www.transintl.com/ upgrade specialist of older Macs
http://www.dttservice.com/ parts and service of old and new Macs.
http://www.powerbookmedic.com parts and service for old and new Mac notebooks.
http://www.notebook-batteries.net all kinds of notebook batteries.
Mail order shops with toll numbers:
http://www.cpused.com/ (in Canada)
http://www.usedmacs.us - no phone number listed. Web form only.
http://www.pbparts.com/ parts and service for Powerbooks and iBooks
http://www.usedmac.ca/ - Canada Mac classifieds
http://www.cancomuk.com/ - European Mac dealer
http://www.themacmarket.com/flash/sell.html (in Canada)
Additional pre-Mac OS X links may be found on my Macintosh Related Links pages.
Note: if any of these stores claim to be Apple Authorized, and give you service you don't feel is credible of an Apple Store, please send an e-mail to the Apple Channel link. Things I would report are demo or refurbished products sold as new, not sending the product advertised, not following up on orders, repairs that are not done in the time frame stated, etc. Note non-authorized places you really are at your own risk. I will though take any off that people have complaints about.