The aim of this website is to help traders understand and make better use of technology.
The intention is to be the number one resource for traders around the world, to use and come to for their trading and technology questions. For genuinely helpful advice on all aspects of computing as it regards to trading.
Today however I want to discuss a more negative aspect of our industry, to shine a light on some shady tactics that I’ve seen other companies using online.
It’s something that I’ve noticed one company in the UK doing for some time, and today I have seen a second doing exactly the same thing, and to be honest it really annoys me.
I’m talking about companies marketing and selling supposedly new computers built with second-hand components.
Before I get into exactly who is doing this, I’ll give you a brief introduction into how the computer industry works, once you understand this you will quickly see how it’s easy for someone in my position to spot when others are acting dishonestly.
How The Computer Industry Works
Computers are built with components like processors, RAM, hard drives, and graphics cards. Some of these components are regularly updated and replaced by manufacturers, some will essentially stay the same for many years.
For example, a solid state hard drive we use in our computer builds over at Multiple Monitors has not changed for 3 – 4 years now. You can buy the same drive now as you could 3 years ago, same branding, same technology, brand new, no difference at all.
Other components change more regularly. Up until recently Intel released a new generation of CPUs pretty much every year.
When a new series of CPUs are released the manufacturers tend to stop producing the previous generation chips. This does depend on a few factors but in most cases, new processors replace older generations completely.
When these chips are no longer in production, distributors and retailers will soon run out of stock. Occasionally a retailer or distributor will be left with an inventory of older chips but they will do their best to move them on quickly as possible.
Who wants to buy an older, slower CPU when there is a new one, that’s better in all aspects of performance, at pretty much the same price?
Now, some of the massive computer manufacturers, Dell or HP size companies, will buy a lot of CPUs so they could potentially be left with lots of them when a new chip release arrives. But for any smaller computer retailers, like Multiple Monitors, they will not have warehouses full of CPUs.
All this is to say, once a chip is no longer in production, it will become difficult to get hold of. Within a year of production stopping there might be the odd one at the odd retailer but that’s pretty much it.
Selling Old as New
So, based on this, how is it that two different retailers here in the UK are selling ‘new’ computers with old processors in them?
When I say old, I don’t mean a year old, or even two years.
At the time of writing (November 2019) I can see one retailer advertising a new computer for sale on their homepage which features a CPU that is over six and a half years old!
Now this isn’t advertised as a trading PC, but the retailer does claim to offer them elsewhere on their website.
But if we are talking about trading computers, then I’ve got another example for you, and its worse.
There’s another company here in the UK that claim to specialise in trading computers. Incidentally I personally had to threaten them with a lawyer a few years ago as they had literally copied and pasted parts of our website on to theirs.
Well, they have for sale, a ‘trading computer’ built with a CPU that is over 7 years old.
Let’s ignore the fact that they are trying to claim their machine is a trading PC when it probably couldn’t even run a basic charting program, although that is pretty ridiculous.
Want to know who these two companies are? Click on the following two thumbnails.
Where Are They Getting These Parts From?
If you ask them directly how they are supplying these parts new although they have been out of production for many years, you will get claims that the parts are brand new but have been left over from old stock of theirs.
This is crap.
There are two ways they are securing the parts.
- They are purchasing bulk lots of used computers from companies who are clearing out their old stock of computers, either because they are doing a company wide upgrade, or they have gone bust.
We often get offered bulk lots of used computer equipment like this, I’d say we get emailed at least once a month and we don’t even look for stock like this. For someone actively seeking used bulk computer lots they are easy to find.
- They are buying machines off used marketplaces like eBay.
The Trading PCs owner also has another company name and they have been an eBay seller for years. If you look at their eBay store you can see feedback from items they sell, and crucially items they buy.
There are regularly examples of purchases from other ebay sellers who only sell used / refurbished computer parts.
This took me about 5 minutes to discover once I realised something fishy was going on.
However they secure these parts, they are essentially buying them used and cheap, then they strip down the machines, put them in a new case, and resell them as new to unsuspecting customers.
It’s a complete con.
Both companies will deny this is going on, but it’s pretty obvious when you look at the facts:
- They are actively selling computers containing processors that are 6 – 7 years old.
- Both these processors were discontinued a long time ago and no distributor in the UK has any stock of these parts.
- Neither of the processors were particularly high end when new so performance wise they are very poor now. Modern CPU’s offer a lot more performance for a lower ‘RRP’ price than the older ones. Based on this why would anyone building computers use these parts without some ulterior motive to do so?
You could make the argument that both those computers are cheap however they are lying about the condition of them and £500 is still a big chunk of money to spend / waste on something like that.
How to Tell If Something You’re Looking at Is Old / Used
If you are considering a new computer purchase then whether you are in the UK, Europe, or in the US, there are a few quick ways to check the age of the computer you are buying:
- Look at the processor model number and then the motherboard make and model. Both should be listed but sometimes the motherboard used might be ambiguous, in this case just the CPU model number will do.
- Type the CPU model number into Google. For Intel processors the main Intel website will be in the first few results, this will lead to a page showing the launch date of the chip. For AMD chips, go to a website instead called CPUBenchmark.net – click on search then enter the CPU name, from the list click on the CPU again to see details. Look for the ‘CPU first seen on charts’ entry.
This will show you the launch date of the CPU which may start alarm bells ringing.
- Now go back to Google, enter the model number again and then see if there are any adverts for companies selling those CPUs or motherboards, no ads generally means the item is discontinued. Ads for used items on eBay is another red flag.
As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, if you are potentially looking to purchase a new computer for trading or any other purpose then it really is worth spending a small amount of time doing your research beforehand.
Not everyone selling equipment online is dodgy, but like most things in life, there are always the odd one or two that will act dishonestly so you do have to be careful.
And always remember, if something is cheap then there is usually a reason for it.
Hopefully this advice might save you from making a mistake or stop you being taken advantage of, if it does then my job for today is done.