This is Part 2 in TechSoup GreenTech's series on buying green IT equipment. See Part 1 here.

We've spoken a good deal on refurbished computers over the years at TechSoup. Here's my general take on the topic:

  • Buying and using refurbished computers is incredibly green. This is mainly because more than 80 percent of the lifetime energy consumption of a new PC occurs before you buy it. It takes huge amounts of energy and materials to manufacture a PC. The longer these devices are in use, the better for the environment. For more on this, see TechSoup's Refurbished Computer Initiative and the Environment as well as a new report by UK-based Computer Aid International called ICT and the Environment ' Report 1.
  • Refurbished computers are good and useful for nonprofits, libraries, and small and medium-sized offices if they're backed by a reputable 90-day or better warranty, are returnable, are under five years old, and are used for basic things like running office applications, data basing, email, using the web, and financial applications. They're not great for use as mission-critical servers, programming, gaming, and graphic design.
  • Refurbished IT equipment should be half the price (or less) of comparable new equipment.
  • It's much better for libraries and nonprofits to get used IT equipment from a reputable refurbisher or manufacturer than raw donated or used IT equipment. Refurbishers test the equipment, repair whatever needs to be fixed, load legal software, and warranty it. It's important to remember that all computers, even new computers, have relatively high component fail rates.

I think it is quite important to get used equipment that's durable. The highest Consumer Reports-rated laptop manufacturer for brand reliability is Toshiba, and 16% of their new computers require repairs or have serious problems. Dell and Lenovo, by the way, rate lowest at 21% of their new computers requiring repairs or having serious problems.

On a little side note, curiously, the Consumer Reports brand reliability ratings for desktop manufacturers are entirely different, with Apple being the top and Gateway being the worst.

In any case, the best set of articles I know of on all this is by my colleague Chris Peters. Check out his Tips for Buying Refurbished Computers on TechSoup.org, and Buying Refurbished Computers and Leasing Computers and Other Equipment on TechSoup for Libraries.

In his pieces, Chris talks about several different places to get good refurbished PCs. They include:

Finally, here's an update on the Microsoft Refurbished PCs Programs that have listings of hundreds of authorized and registered refurbishers. The Microsoft Community Authorized Refurbisher Program is now called the Microsoft Registered Refurbisher Program. That program has a directory of PC refurbishers of all types, all over the world.

Stay tuned for next week's GreenTech update, when we'll be talking about green mobile phones.

Photo: Francis Mariani, CC license