What to look for when buying computer hardware and software

In this document we cover different things to consider when buying computer, computer hardware, and computer software. Below is a list of locations that sell computer products and things to think about when buying from these locations.

Auctions
Internet
Local Retailer
Mail Order

Auctions

Auctions and On-line auctions are a popular location for people to purchase computer equipment because of the low prices on used products. However, there are several things to watch for when buying through auctions.

  • Scams - On-line auctions are now the number one location where thefts and scams occur. If at all possible look at the sellers history or profile. Always remember if it sounds to be good to true, it probably is.
  • Piracy - Anyone can make their own CD or DVD. Verify that the software you are buying is an authentic copy, documentation is included with the software, and the CD does not appear to be fake. It may be cheaper to get pirated software but it may not work or you may not be able to get updates because it's illegal.
  • On-line Auctions - Companies such as E-bay or Yahoo may provide auctions that other people have the capability of listing products that they are selling. We recommend that if you purchase through an auction that you only pay by check to prevent possible credit card fraud. If you need to user your credit card consider such options as PayPal.
  • Return Policy - Verify the resellers return policy in case the device is not functioning or is not compatible with your computer. Note: software cannot be returned to the place of purchase to help prevent software piracy.
  • Defective or broken - In the case of computers, make sure that if you're buying a computer online that it's in working condition. Some people may sell older broken computers that can be used for replacement parts.

Internet

It is becoming easier, faster, and cheaper to buy over the Internet. However pay close attention to what and from where you are buying.

  • Security - When buying over the Internet verify the purchase is secure. When entering your credit card information look for a small padlock Internet Explorer Padlock / Netscape padlock on your browser toolbar or status bar that indicates the page is secure. If you do not see this icon or the URL doesn't start with "https" we suggest not buying from that company.
  • Well-known company - Make sure the company you buying from is a well-known company. It easy for anyone to setup a website. Quick checks that can be done include: Making sure the company has a domain (e.g. www.computerhope.com), company has contact information, and has past customer reviews.
  • Piracy - Anyone can make their own CD or DVD. Verify that the software you are buying is an authentic copy, documentation is included with the software, and the CD does not appear to be fake.
  • Return Policy - Verify the resellers return policy in case the device is not functioning or is not compatible with your computer. Note: software cannot be returned to the place of purchase to help prevent software piracy.
  • Warranty - Verify the warranty on the product. Make sure you understand if the manufacturer or place of purchase provides it.
  • E-mail receipt - Most companies will provide you with an e-mail confirming that they have received your order. Keep this e-mail until your product has arrived.

Local retailer

A Local Retailer is one of the safest locations to buy computer hardware and software. However, issues can still arise be sure to watch out for any of the below.

  • Incorrect Information - Unfortunately, good help can be hard to find. Its possible for representatives to give you incorrect or false information either to help the sell or because they representative may not know all of the required information. If the sells rep says that a certain hardware device is capable of something see if they can demonstrate it to help certify their claim.
  • Return Policy - Verify the resellers return policy in case the device is not functioning or is not compatible with your computer. Note: software cannot be returned to the place of purchase to help prevent software piracy.
  • Warranty - Verify the warranty on the product. Make sure you understand if the manufacturer or place of purchase provides it.

Mail order

Mail ordering is not as popular today as it has been in the past and can still be an unsafe location to purchase your computer software or hardware. However, taking the correct steps can help prevent issues from occurring.

  • Company information - Ensure that the company provides a valid phone number. Allowing you to speak directly with someone if required.
  • Return Policy - Verify the resellers return policy in case the device is not functioning or is not compatible with your computer. Note: software cannot be returned to the place of purchase to help prevent software piracy.
  • Company - Try determining how long the company has been in business. There have been several mail order companies that have packed up and left overnight leaving you without anyone to contact.
  • Warranty - Verify the warranty on the product. Make sure you understand if the manufacturer or place of purchase provides it.