I use old computers

Wed, 10 May 2023

And You Can Too!

It’s almost like using Arch.

If you don’t bring it up unsolicited, are you doing it right?

I’ve read about the phenomenon of using older, off-lease hardware on several of my favorite nerd blogs. So here’s my take on it. Now is a great time to buy an old, used computer

New Computers are so freaking expensive.

Good ones, anyway. So people often buy the $500 machine from the big box store or Amazon. Those often have reasonable guts, but they’re built sooo poorly. Horrible screens, trampoline keyboards, brittle plastic cases and hinges that seem designed to fail after two years.

Gaming laptops are no better. I’ve purchased some fairly expensive gaming machines (ostensibly for people to edit video on) before and was horrified at the poor build quality and maintainability. Firmware support evaporates as soon as the machine is first marketed. Also, good luck finding parts second hand.

I’ve recently been tempted by the gaming laptop’s siren song. A recent-ish i7 with a 512SSD and 16GB of ram can be had around that magic $600 mark and, wow, that’s a lot of horsepower for the money. I needed something to play https://www.zwift.com because my then newest laptop was a potato, with HD4000 graphics and soon to be unsupported. Once upon a time a group of us would get together for DOTA/StarCraft or some such every evening, and it’d be nice to have something recent-ish to play that on in the event it happens again.



This is really the way to go. And I don’t just say that because of the nub. The T and X series are really solid machines. But! There are a few things to note:

There’s more reasons which don’t deserve a whole bullet point. The keebs really are better than anything else I’ve used. Lenovo pushes firmware updates for years…I suspect they have to for any machine which might possibly still be under warranty, and warranty periods for these things can be > 5 years.

Note that Lenovo does not do very well with firmware updates for the non-think machines. I’ve got a Lenovo Yoga Book, which deserves its own fanboy post, that hasn’t had a manufacturer update in years. Gross.

Dell / HP

I’ve used XPS, Spectre and Latitude machines before and they’re…fine. The XPS and Spectres are really nice, meant to ape the Apple cool factor so suits don’t feel so uncool in meetings with the marketing team. Occasionally one of those pops up with a genuinely unique design and is fun to use. I find that most of these are little better than the big-box drivel. Latitudes are generally servicable, and I’m sure HP’s equivelant are too, but I don’t think parts are as easy to find. You generally get a more recent machine for the same money on these, but I think there’s a good reason their resale value flatlines after 3 years.


I’ve not touched a https://frame.work/ yet, but those seem like a really good idea. Maybe someday when I can find one used on eBay for $300. Does anyone know how good the keyboard is on one of those?


Somewhere around the 2 series Intel CPUs, in my opinion, computers became ‘fast enough’. My desktop at work, until a few weeks ago, was an i7-2600. Yep, I’m employed in I.T. and was comfortably running a 10+ year old CPU as my daily. And ya know what? It was fine. The only time it felt sluggish was when running a couple of VMs alongside the rest of the normal workload. SO, to my mind, anything newer than a 2 series is probably OK for most people.

If you’re looking for a computer and willing to live with Win10 or Linux, now is truly the golden era of buying computers. So. Many. People. are dumping perfectly fine machines to meet the Win11 requirements. Good for us!


Businesses throw out some really nice stuff. It’s not difficult to buy a 3-5 year old Precision or ThinkCentre i7 under $500, usually with plenty of RAM. These are machines that, while not pretty, are meant to be serviced by helpdesk staff. One odd thing with those: power supplies. They often use oddly sized PSUs that 1. won’t run a #060 GPU 2. are difficult to find a same-sized replacement for. If you’re a general nerd, this probably doesn’t matter. And let me assure you, Linux on an 8+ series CPU is going to fly.


Whatever, a desktop is a desktop. Just figure out what specifications you’re looking for and go with whatever has cheaper shipping. Just make sure it’s a Precision, Z, Think#, that’ll get firmware updates until every self-respecting accounting firm has updated. For general use, I don’t see why a desktop shouldn’t happily see its 10th+ birthday still churning away doing whatever a normal person wants it to do.


If gaming is your hobby (RGB peripherals > 2, customized mouse, you know who you are), keep doing your thing. Just please let your non-gamer nerdy friend know when you’re upgrading and they’ll save you from the cesspool of Facebook Marketplace negotiations.

If you really really need to run Windows. I kindof get it. Honestly, I’ll have to deal with this at some point in the next year or two as 10 finally goes away. Unless I can find a worthy Lighroom competitor on Linux…


I’m writing all of this partially to self-validate decisions I’ve made and maybe to convince you to make similar decisions. It’s also partially because I think there’s something weird about them (computer industry, big companies, idk pick a handy conspiracy theory) implanting this need to perpetually spend more money, often unnecessarily, on shiny new things. Ultimately, someone has to buy the new things, otherwise who would put them up on eBay for me to eventually find? Still, it’s disheartening to see people throw away money on consumer junk.

OK I started this post days ago and need to get it off my back. I don’t think anyone is actually reading this, but I want to be better at processing ideas. This post would be better with pictures or something. Oh well.