Go Refurb'd: Behind the scenes of a Refurbished Computer


Refurbished devices are gaining popularity as lot of awareness is being created through media. As a result, there are a growing number of consumers - individuals, businesses and institutions - expressing their willingness to purchase refurbished devices. But ever wondered how a desktop or laptop is refurbished?

What exactly happens in the refurbishment process? This article is an attempt to help you understand the intricacies of PC refurbishment industry. The term 'refurbished' literally means to restore, renovate, or recondition, which implies PCs are restored to good working condition for reuse. PC refurbishment is done either by manufacturers themselves or by licensed refurbishers. Let us understand the different steps involved in PC refurbishment process.

  1. Sourcing cores

    A core is a laptop or desktop and its components that come into the assembly line of refurbishment. Wondering where do they come from? Here are the various channels from where refurbishers source the cores:

Asset Recovery: The biggest sourcing channel for refurbishers is by extending IT asset recovery services to larger business organizations and institutions. Asset recovery is a proven practice to unlock the remaining value of the IT capital assets and/or to stipulate with the local laws of solid waste management. Asset recovery is done in order to liquidate idle assets, redeploy the assets for internal purpose, unlocking the value from surplus assets or just disposing the assets as per t ..

Dead-On-Arrival: A certain percentage of computers arrive at retailers place in dead condition due to improper handling during transit or any other reason. As selling them is not an option, retailers return such DOA stocks to OEMs, who in turn may refurbish or sell them in secondary market through auctions.

Upgradation: Individual consumers dispose off their used laptops and desktops to upgrade to newer models to unlock the value which can partly fund to purchase their new device. Upgrades happen in two scenarios:

(a) When the consumer aspires to buy a new model which they dream of laying their hands on,
(b) Their existing device is thoroughly used and reaches a stage when it can be disposed off. Consumers dispose their devices through retailer-sponsored exchange programmes or sell to refurbishers directly through their online portals. Whichever the case, those devices find their way to refurbishing and recycling facilities.

Salvage of parts: Usable parts and components often come out as by products in a computer recycling plant. They can be capacitors, ICs, and RAM dims among others. Such components in working condition are very helpful to refurbishers in repairing cores.

  1. Sanitization

    Once the core enters the assembly line, it first goes through a sanitization process. This involves removal of stickers, cleaning the exteriors and panels with special chemicals to remove accumulated dust. On the inside, high pressure air is blown to remove dust accumulated in cooling ducts, cooling fan, processor, and on the inner walls of the casings.

  2. Triage

    Since all qualities of cores land in a refurbishing facility, every lot of cores undergoes the triage. It is the process of sorting and grading the cores based on the physical damage and the degree of functionality. Some may be in good working condition, while others need repairs and/or parts replacement. A small percentage may be in dead condition and could be sent to recycling facilities after salvaging useful parts from them.

Triaging eliminates unusable cores from the lot and segregates the usable ones according to their working condition. Cores are first examined for any major cosmetic and/or internal damage. Then cores are disassembled to identify damaged components (if any) like leaking capacitors, burnt-out ICs, damaged motherboards, etc. Then a complete diagnosis is performed on all critical components like battery, monitor, power supply, HDD and optical drive to understand their functioning.

  1. Data wipe

    Refurbishers make it mandatory to wipe out any existing data on the hard disks. A simple formatting is not sufficient to remove the data entirely, as data still stays on the hard disk after formatting. Hence, refurbishers use high level data erasing software to accomplish this task. Hard drives that are intended to be reused should be reformatted in accordance with the Guidelines for Media Sanitization published in the National Institute of Standards and Te ..
  2. Repairs, replacement & reassembly

    This is the most critical step of PC refurbishing. Cores that could be repaired call for small to medium repair works and replacement of parts. Hardware issues like loose connections, troubleshooting, and dry soldering are repaired and fixed, while missing/defective components are replaced and such parts may include RAM, graphic cards, capacitors, ICs and even hard disks in some cases. Once through with repairs and replacements,  ..
  3. Testing and quality control

    A comprehensive testing of the refurbished PC is a must, as this step plays a crucial role in the improving the reputation of the refurbisher. Each PC is shaken to check for any rattling sounds indicating loosely held components or any small components/tools left inside by mistake. CPU, RAM and HDD are tested thoroughly to deliver optimum computing power. All the tests are logged, printed and attached to the respective devices. If any flag ..
  4. Cosmetic repairs

    The devices going out of the refurbishing facility must also look good as far as possible. Used PCs usually come with scratches, blemishes, dents, etc. All such issues are addressed in this stage. Scratches and cosmetic blemishes are removed as far as possible and dents in metallic parts are restored to original-like condition. Cosmetic paint work is also carried out wherever necessary.

  5. Software installation & licensing

    Microsoft provides licensed Windows OS and MS Office at special prices for refurbished PCs. However, this licensing is available only through Microsoft registered refurbishers. This way customers buying from such refurbishers benefit from the authentic OS and software. Once the OS, tools like MS Office and all the updates are installed, licenses are activated making them genuine.

  6. Packaging & shipping

    Finally, the device is re-packaged under the brand of the refurbisher or private labeled for re-commerce service provider and shipped to market for re-sale. This approach ensures that refurbished computers are as good as new computers and get ready for another innings with another customer. Of course this industry is in need of sound business processes, industry standards, accreditations and benchmarks for quality, regulations by Government w ..

Save Energy, Save Planet!

By using a refurbished computer, customers extend their support in two things:
(a) reducing the huge carbon footprint in the manufacturing of new laptops and desktops,
(b) employment and livelihood to skilled and semi-skilled people, who could otherwise end up unemployed.

Today we tout about latest energy efficient computers that consume lesser power. But the reality is that a lot of energy is spent to produce such computers.


About 227 to 270kg (500 to 595 pounds) of carbon dioxide is emitted in manufacturing one laptop computer. About 70 per cent of the energy a laptop consumes in its lifetime is used in producing it. These figures represent the ugly truth behind manufacturing new computers. One of the better ways to reduce this burden on the environment is to use refurbished computers and extend their useful life.