12/22/229:00 am Why You Need To Be Careful When Buying a Used Mac It can be dangerous to buy a used Mac online. There are many scammer who will take your money and leave you with something you didn't expect, or nothing at all. Here's what to look out for and some suggestions on safer places to buy. Check out Why You Need To Be Careful When Buying a Used Mac at YouTube for closed captioning and more options. Video Transcript: Hi, this is Gary with MacMost.com. Let me show you why you need to be very careful when buying a used Mac online. MacMost is brought to you thanks to a great group of more than 1000 supporters. Go to MacMost.com/patreon. There you can read more about the Patreon Campaign. Join us and get exclusive content and course discounts. Buying a used Mac can be a really good idea for somebody that's on a budget and wants to be able to use a Mac without spending a lot of money. It would be great if you could go online and find other people that are selling their older Macs and buy those from them at a much lower price and help them get rid of their old Mac while you get a Mac that is new to you to use. Unfortunately though online used Mac sales have been overrun by scammers. So buying a used Mac is now quite a risk. If you're buying from a site, like Craig's List, E-bay, Facebook, or Next Door you may find you end up with either nothing at all for the money that you sent. You may get a Mac but it may not be the Mac that you thought you were buying, or get scammed in some other way. In the last couple of years I've seen a huge increase in the number of people complaining about exactly this. It's just very risky to buy something online when you send the money first and then you wait to receive something that you'd never seen before and haven't had the ability to checkout for yourself. Some sites, like E-bay, do have some recourse for the buyers. But if you're buying directly from somebody, which you may be doing if you're using a site like Craig's List or Next Door, then there is really no recourse. The seller can simply ghost you afterwards and there's nothing you can do. You've lost your money. Now if you do pay money for a Mac and you actually do get that Mac that doesn't mean that everything is good. A very common thing to happen now is that the Mac you're receiving was actually stolen. Now with a non-tech product you may get a stolen product and you may never know. It really doesn't matter. You still can use it. But Macs can be locked down in a variety of ways. When you get a stolen Mac you may actually get the exact Mac that you thought you were buying but now you find you can't really use it. There are three main ways that Macs can be locked down. One is simply that the Mac is registered to an Apple ID. If you get the Mac and find out in System Preferences or System Settings that it is setup with an iCloud Account then very likely it's tied to that iCloud Account and you can't untie it without knowing the iCloud Account's password. The owner then, who probably had the Mac stolen from them, can simply lock the Mac and there's nothing you can do. The Mac is then useless to you. So after you get your Mac, if it is logged into an iCloud Account, then you know you're in trouble. A second way is there could be a Firmware password set. That's a higher level password that you would need to know in order to do major updates. If you restart your Mac in Recovery Mode, for Intel Macs that is holding down Command R while restarting, it will prompt for a firmware password if there is one. If it prompts you for one and you weren't told that password by the seller then you're in trouble. The third way, and this is really common, is that the Mac is enrolled in a Device Management Program. This is how companies and schools tie Macs to them. If the Mac is enrolled in one of these programs then very likely it was stolen from that company or school. A lot of times stolen from somebody from the inside like a student just took it home with them or an employee quit and never returned their Mac. Instead they try to sell it online or sold it to somebody else who also found they can't use it and now they are trying to sell it to you. There's really nothing you can do if your Mac is enrolled in a Device Management Program. It is stolen and now it is going to be useless to you. You could check for this by going into System Preferences or System Settings and then looking for a category called Profile. If you see a category called Profile or something like that then you're in trouble. Now another problem with buying a used Mac online is that you can't test it before you buy it. There's not much you can do about that. That's just a risk you're going to have to take. But what if you're buying it online and you do get to test it in person. Like you're buying it on Craig's List and you're meeting the seller. Now you can checkout the Mac for those three things I told you before to make sure it is now stolen and you could also test it out. The problem is what sort of tests do you run? This is like buying a car. We all know that you shouldn't buy a car if there is smoke coming out from under the hood or if it's missing a wheel or something. But you have to be a mechanic to really know what to look for and then probably spend a good deal of time inspecting the car. The same is true for computers. There's no video like this you can see or article you can read that suddenly going to turn you into an expert that can spot every potential problem. In general you need to test out all the keys on the keyboard. You've got to checkout all the ports. You've got to look at all the pixels on the screen. You've got to test the battery. You've got to test Blue Tooth. You've got to test Wi-Fi. There's so many different things to consider. There's no simple quick solution to be able to check a Mac and then see if it is okay to buy. Even with a car if you check everything out you may not really notice the problem until you've been driving it for a few days. The same is true with a computer. Now another thing you may not consider when you're buying a used Mac is Macs only get new operating systems for about five years after they come out. Then they only get security support for two more years. So a seven year old Mac is kind of at the end of the road for getting updates. It doesn't mean you can't use a seven year old Mac or even a ten year old Mac. You certainly can. But don't expect to be able to use the latest macOS and its features with that machine. You can check this page that I've got and it tells you for each operation system the requirements. So you can get an idea here for which operating system you can install on any used Mac you're looking at. Now you may think of computers as solid state devices they don't wear out necessarily. But there is one major part that definitely wears out with use. That's the battery in a MacBook. If you buy an older Mac chances are it has an older battery in it and it may soon need to be replaced. That may run a couple hundred dollars depending upon the model and whether or not you can do the work yourself or you have to take it to a shop to get a new battery. But that $400 Mac can quickly turn into a $600 Mac if you find you need a new battery pretty much right away. What you need to do is check battery condition and the number of cycles. How to do that depends on which version of macOS you're looking at. So, for instance, on an older Mac with macOS Monterey or before you may go to the Apple Menu, About This Mac. Then go to System Report and then Battery and look for Condition Cycle Count. If the Cycle Count is more than, say, a few hundred you know the battery has got a fair bit of use on it and at some point you're probably going to need to replace it. If it is anywhere near 1000 it probably needs replacement right now even if the battery Condition says Good. Another thing to be aware of is the Hard Drive. So much older Macs will have a spinning hard disk drive. These are much slower than today's solid state drives that come with all Macs. So sure you could still use it. But don't expect the kind of performance that you would get on a new Mac. Not anywhere close to it. Also of course older drives may be considerably smaller than what you need today. Ten years ago we weren't taking as many high resolution photos with our phones. We certainly weren't taking 4K video. App sizes were a lot smaller. Download speeds were slower and all of that. All of these things really require a larger drive and a ten year old Mac may have one that is way undersized for what you want to do with it. Another issue is that a lot of ads for used Macs try really to trick you or at least rely on the fact that you may not know what an older Mac is worth. For instance here are some examples. Say you see an ad for MacBook Pro, 2.5GHz Dual-Core i5 with Turbo Boost and a 500GB drive. How much do you think that is worth? Maybe $300, $400, $500? Well, it could easily turn out that's describing a 2012 Mac. One that is ten years old. The actual price for that is probably going to be about $160. Not from somebody online but from an actual retailer that has a return policy. So you could see how one of the tricks is to simply leave out the year. Get you all excited about a MacBook Pro which you could buy new now and you'd think well, it's used, it's maybe a few years old and you don't think that it could be ten years old! But even with the year mentioned sometimes it's hard to know the price. For instance how about a 2017 2.3GHz i5 MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM. 16 GB RAM is pretty good and 2017 is only 5 years old. So how much would you pay for that? $600, $800? Well, of course the information left off is that it is a 13" MacBook Pro, the smaller model. Okay. It's also the smallest drive, 256GB, and the actual price is only $400 again from a real store with a real return policy. So you could see how easy it is to over value a used Mac online. So you definitely want to research the prices a little bit. Look at some online sites maybe for stores that aren't near you and you could see what they are charging for a similar Mac. Now what is a safer way to buy a used Mac. Well, one place is the Apple Refurb Store. If you go there you're buying really recent Macs and they are refurbished. These are Macs that people have returned. Apple has a great return policy for new Macs. People return Macs for all sorts of reasons. Like they got one that was too big or too small or not quite right for them. It doesn't mean there was something wrong with the Mac. Plus Apple will go through and check the Mac. As a matter of fact refurbished Macs may be checked for quality much more than the new ones that they sell. You get the Apple Care Warranty from Apple as well. You can return it if something is wrong. You just won't save that much money. Maybe a few hundred dollars off of some models. But you do get a fairly recent Mac. You're not going to find something on the Apple Refurb site that is ten years old. Another good place to buy is from a local store that sells used Macs. Some place that has been there for awhile. Ask about their return policy. You should be able to checkout the Mac right there in the store, and you know if something is wrong with it that you can use their return policy to bring it back. Another good place to buy a used Mac is from a friend or relative. Somebody you know and trust. Even if they don't have one for sale now if you're interested in buying a used Mac in the future you may want to tell them about that and let them know that when they are ready to upgrade that you may want to buy their older Mac. One last piece of advice. When you buy a used Mac, no matter what, the very first thing you want to do with it is a complete Reset. You want to reset it to factory conditions even if the seller told you that they already did that. Resetting to factory conditions will really quickly tell you whether or not it has been locked down with Device Management or Firmware passwords or anything. It will ensure that it is completely cleared off of anything that may have been installed by a previous owner. Hope you found this useful. Thanks for watching. Related Video Tutorials: Calculating Difficult Dates In Mac Numbers ― The Practical Guide To Mac Security: Part 2, Passwords ― The Practical Guide To Mac Security: Part 8, Handling Account Break-Ins ― The Practical Guide To Mac Security: Part 19, Touch ID Comments: 6 Responses to “Why You Need To Be Careful When Buying a Used Mac” Donald Gendron 6 months ago I have considered buying an online Mac Laptop. You saved me a good amount of money. Casey James 6 months ago I have a 10 year old MacBook Pro that I bought 8 years ago, used (refurbished) from Apple. I've never had a problem, but that can't last. Thank you for your very useful tips, especially on how to check battery life and also to buy from a reliable seller. Russell Tolman 6 months ago Thanks for the Info. I sent the link to Family members who are looking at getting a used Mac. Great info for everyone to remember!!! Delmar Knudson 5 months ago Excellent advice and comments, as we always expect from you, Gary. A friend wants to get used to the Mac way of doing things; and is thinking of buying an older Mac (looking at a particular one, an iMac 2014) as an inexpensive way to learn a bit about using a Mac. I sent this to him. Hope you survived the sudden temperature drop, Gary. antanas 4 months ago Very good advice. I was just about to buy a used mac, because it had high RAM. Question on that: if the same app is active on two users on the same macbook pro, does it take double the RAM memory? Gary Rosenzweig 4 months ago antanas: If the app is inactive it shouldn't use much memory at all, regardless. If the memory is needed for something else, then any significant memory an inactive app is using would be swapped out to the drive. Leave a New Comment Related to "Why You Need To Be Careful When Buying a Used Mac" Name (required): Email (will not be published) (required): Comment (Keep comment concise and on-topic.): 0/500 (500 character limit -- please state your comment succinctly and do not try to get around this limit by posting two comments) Δ
I have considered buying an online Mac Laptop. You saved me a good amount of money.
I have a 10 year old MacBook Pro that I bought 8 years ago, used (refurbished) from Apple. I've never had a problem, but that can't last. Thank you for your very useful tips, especially on how to check battery life and also to buy from a reliable seller.
Thanks for the Info. I sent the link to Family members who are looking at getting a used Mac. Great info for everyone to remember!!!
Excellent advice and comments, as we always expect from you, Gary. A friend wants to get used to the Mac way of doing things; and is thinking of buying an older Mac (looking at a particular one, an iMac 2014) as an inexpensive way to learn a bit about using a Mac. I sent this to him. Hope you survived the sudden temperature drop, Gary.
Very good advice. I was just about to buy a used mac, because it had high RAM. Question on that:
if the same app is active on two users on the same macbook pro, does it take double the RAM memory?
antanas: If the app is inactive it shouldn't use much memory at all, regardless. If the memory is needed for something else, then any significant memory an inactive app is using would be swapped out to the drive.