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Refurbished vs. Open Box vs. Factory Recertified

We come across this all the time when shopping the big box stores.  You see tons of new computers on the shelf and then you will see that one computer that is listed as "Open Box" or "Refurbished".  Online you may see the "Factory Recertified" page.  You ask yourself, what does that mean exactly?  Is it safe to buy?  What can I expect?

Well let's start first by defining what each term means, because I am sure many of you have a wrong impression of what they are.

Open Box

Open Box means that exactly.  Somebody purchased the computer, opened it, changed their mind (for many reasons) and returned the computer back to the store.  The price is discounted because nobody is going to pay full price for a computer that has been opened by somebody else.  The reduction is typically 15%, which, ironically but not a coincidence, is the same amount that most retailers charge for returning an open item.  You did not really think they were going to eat that loss did you?  The only issue with open box merchandise is that it may be damaged.  Yes, the store typically will check the item for damage and any other issues, but the problem is that they are not qualified to determine if the item is defective, even though they may try.  So when you buy an open box, you may indeed be buying bad equipment, you just do not know for sure.  To be fair, most open box items are simply people changing their minds, so most are in good working condition with little use and wear.  Also, that demo computer that has been on display for months are typically finally sold as an open box.   If buying an open box computer, make sure you get some warranty on it, if you can


The difference with Factory Recertified is that the computer actually was returned to the manufacturer, cleaned, checked and repackaged.  The manufacturer certifies the working condition of the computer.   In fact, almost all Factory Recertified items will have a full manufacturer warranty as if it were sold new.  In that sense, you have some assurance with the computer.  You will primarily see Factory Recertified online.  Most retailers do not carry much of any Factory Recertified merchandise.  Typically,  Factory Recertified computers are computers that were returned to the manufacturer for various reasons.  Some include a customer changing their mind, maybe a defect or warranty issue.  Regardless, whatever may have been wrong with the computer has been addressed.


Refurbished is similar to Factory Recertifed, with one big difference.  A refurbished could have been fixed by anyone.  The problem with this is that you do not know who did it and if they are qualified to do the job.  So in that sense, you are taking a bigger risk, because you do not know if the problem has been properly addressed.  To be fair, most stores will make sure it is done by a qualified professional, but again, you do not know for sure.

Final Verdict

If tempted to buy a computer either Refurbished, factory recertified or open box, it is more preferable to buy a Factory Recertified system.  It has gone through more scrutiny to assure that it is fine and you will more than likely have a full warranty with it.  In many instances you may be fine with the an open box or refurbished, the decision and risk is yours.  This article was intended to inform you of what you may or may not be getting into by choosing computers in these states.