When a computer is returned to a brick and mortar retailer or to manufacturer offering online direct sales, the first stop is the tech bench. There, the tech, having a variety of diagnostic tools at his disposal, performs a series of tests to determine what’s wrong with the unit. This process is called the computer bench test.
Bench testing is a thorough systematic process that checks the computer’s monitor, operating system, CPU and peripherals’ performance. Once system boot up problems and bad parts are identified, the next step is to replace the parts and again check overall performance.
What does burn-in mean?
After repairs are completed, the tech energizes the computer and leaves it running for a specified time. This can be anything from 3 to 30 days depending upon what the company’s repair polity stipulates. The number of days during which the computer runs is called the burn-in period.
In any electronics device repair, when new parts are installed, techs hold the opinion that if something works beyond a burn in period, most likely it will last for years.
The reason is that anything that can go wrong usually does in the first few seconds, minutes or hours, especially when power is initially reapplied. Why? Because when you turn on a device, it must have some sort of protective circuit built in, or the power surge will fry the components on the motherboard.
And generally electronic devices do last, provided they are not dropped, abused or experience massive power surges from lightning striking a building nearby.
Back in the old days…
Back in the old days 40 years ago or so, electronic dohickeys were considered reliable if they worked beyond a 90 day burn-in period. Back then most devices contained tubes and circuits that were a bit more cranky.
That was then. Today in our digital world, if nothing fails after a shorter burn-in, the computers are considered fixed and the machine ready for resale. And this must be done as quickly as possible.
When a computer is returned, the retailer or manufacturer takes a direct hit in its profit margin. Repaired units that sit in a warehouse don’t add to the bottom line. They must be sold quickly to recoup some of the loss margin on the unit.
So what does this mean for you?
Because of the volume of returned computers and the availability of a lot of nifty diagnostic tools, repair is easier and faster. Repaired returns are shipped back to the retailer or manufacturer’s direct sales warehouse as soon as possible. And since these repaired units have to sold as used or refurbished, it benefits the retailer or manufacturer to move these returned and repaired units quickly.
And that’s where you benefit because now you know that the returned items are just as good as new stock. Don’t buy the argument that you are buying someone else’s problems. Problem areas have been identified and fixed, if the computer required repair in the first place, because folks return computers for a variety of reasons.
So keep an eye out on manufacturer’s web sites for refurbished or recertified computers, and look for open box deals at your local big box retailer. With returned computers, you should be able to pick them up at a 30% to 50% savings over retail.
Other posts in the series
Buying an open box computer
How to save money when buying a new or used computer in a down economy