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The Computer Corner


By Charles Miller


What exactly does ‘refurbished’ mean?


An Atención reader who was shopping for a new computer wrote to me this week with a question: “What exactly does ‘refurbished’ mean?” The words “preowned,” “refurbished,” “certified,” and “recertified” sometimes appear in product descriptions or in advertising, so it might benefit shoppers to have a better understanding of these.

For the most part, this is a legal question, because sellers are usually required to disclose if the product they sell is new or not. I will start off by defining what these terms do not mean, because it is wrong to assume they mean “used,” “defective” or “poor condition.” While the exact usage of the terms varies from company to company, these terms always refer to an item that is not absolutely new.

‘Refurbished’ means that a product has been restored to like-new condition, though the definition of “like-new” varies too. Factory-refurbished or manufacturer-refurbished means the product has been checked out by the manufacturer. Other “refurbs” might have been checked out and/or repaired by other third-party companies, not the manufacturer. It is important to determine who did the refurbishing; I always prefer the manufacturer over some unknown third party.

‘Certified’ generally denotes that a product has been tested to ensure it is in good working order but not repaired because it was never broken. Some retail stores call this “open box,” meaning that it was a customer return that was checked out and found to be completely okay when the customer returned the item for a refund, but the item cannot legally be sold ‘as-new’ again.

“Preowned” is simply a fancy term for used. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but caveat emptor.

It is often possible to get more information about refurbished products from the manufacturer’s website. Apple is a good example of transparency, because its website clearly explains that ‘refurbished’ means a new battery, all the original accessories, a one-year warranty, and even a brand new box.

A one-year warranty is about as good as it gets for refurbished products. Products refurbished by a third party usually have a shorter warranty, sometimes as short as 30 days. Also, the buyer-protection programs offered by some credit card companies explicitly exclude refurbished items. “Refurbs” can also have a different return policy than new items. Read all the fine print before buying!

Personally, when I have purchased a refurbished laptop, I feel am getting the benefit of somebody else finding what was wrong with it, and the problem is now fixed. If I bought new, then I would be the one dealing with the problem. Buying refurbished products will save you money and can sometimes be an amazing deal. Most refurbished items are as good as new, and some may even actually be new, so buying a refurbished product is something to consider.


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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