6 Mistakes People Make When Buying Used Toughbooks

Posted by Ed Lasher on 6th Jan 2016

1. Basing purchasing decisions on who has the lowest price

Shopping around for the lowest price makes sense if you’re buying a new product. You can be relatively sure your item will be in good condition and any warranties are likely coming from the manufacturer. Buying used equipment is not always so predictable. Not all refurbishers are created equal. Do some research, look for reviews and testimonials, see what kinds of warranties they offer. While it is possible to find a great refurbished Toughbook at a great price (ahem), any amount of money is too much to spend on a laptop that doesn’t work properly.

2. Getting fooled by "Special Edition" Toughbooks

Panasonic never made a chrome Toughbook, but people have taken power tools to them to grind and buff them into shiny oblivion. Tactical rubber bumpers? Floor mats and glue.

3. Buying a Toughbook with a BIOS password

Uses for a pre-owned Toughbook with a BIOS password:

  • Doorstop
  • Paperweight
  • Dancefloor for Barbie® dolls

You may have noticed that nothing on that list has anything to do with computing. That's because, unless you know the password, you aren't getting anywhere with that Toughbook. Unless it's an old model from the '90s, your chance of resetting the password with any of the old methods (removing the CMOS battery, for example) is zero.

When in doubt, ask the seller if there's a BIOS password. If they say yes, please refer to the above list. If they don't know, that's not a good sign. If they say yes, but it can be reset, walk away and don't look back. It may be possible to send a Toughbook to Panasonic—and only Panasonic—to have the password reset, but it'll cost a fortune.

4. Wasting money on unnecessary upgrades

Maybe you don’t really need that  rubber keyboard, but it just looks too cool to pass up. Stop what you are doing now and listen for the collective groan of everyone who has been stuck with an unnecessary rubber keyboard. Those things are not pleasant to use. They feel mushy and unresponsive. But— they are incredibly resistant to liquid ingress. If you are on a boat or in an auto shop with motor oil all over your hands, they are the perfect solution, well worth the extra $200. Not so much if your laptop is mounted inside a vehicle.

5. Overlooking necessary upgrades

The word “upgrade” here only applies for a few sellers out there. If you buy a Toughbook from bobjohnson.com, it will come with all the basics, ready to use straight out of the box. But some other places take custom configuration to the next level, meaning you have to opt for essentials like an operating system, a hard drive, memory, etc. Without those parts, your Toughbook is just an expensive brick.

Even with a turn-key unit, you’ll want to make sure it has all the features you need. Make sure the hard drive is big enough and that you have as much RAM as you’ll need. Sure, you might be able to take care of those upgrades later, but if you select those options at the time of purchase, we’ll handle all the installations to make sure your laptop sings.

6. Shopping on eBay

OK, so this isn’t necessarily a mistake, but you have to be very, very careful. If a deal looks too good to be true, well, you know the rest.

It isn’t always obvious when the Toughbook you’re looking at doesn’t include a hard drive caddy or an OS, or worse, when it’s  locked behind a BIOS password. The most important details are often in the smallest typeface, mentioned in passing and easily overlooked. Getting an almost-complete Toughbook up to working order can be an expensive, time consuming hassle. In some cases, it’s impossible.


Looking for more advice?

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What are some other common mistakes? Do you know of other uses for a BIOS-locked Toughbook? Leave a comment!

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