If you are buying a new laptop directly from the manufacturer or a reputed electronics store then you can be safe in the knowledge that the product is brand new, sealed and never used before. If however, you buy a ‘new’ laptop from a vendor which doesn’t have such a reputation, you may well find that the laptop is not factory new, but rather a refurbished model or an open-box replacement. There is nothing wrong with either of these options of course, but it is still important that you know what kind of laptop you have purchased, as each comes with their own pros and cons. 

Refurbed and Replacements 

Refurbished laptops are laptops which have been purchased brand new and then either returned as faulty or as a result of credit not being paid or something similar. These laptops are sent back to the manufacturer where they are given a full service and diagnostics check, they are repaired using original parts and then rigorously tested so that they pass the same quality control as a new item.

Replacement or open-box laptops are those which have been bought, opened, and then returned by the customer. Refurbished laptops have an unknown lifespan but they are significantly cheaper than a newer model. Replacement laptops should work just as good as new, but they should be sold at a lower cost given they have already been opened and handled. 

Telling the Difference

What should happen here is that a refurbished laptop will have a sticker on the box which clearly marks it as refurbished. Another telltale sign of refurbished laptop if there is no sticker is that at the end of the product number it will have an additional R at the end, indicating that it has been refurbished. In 95% of cases, the laptop you find on sale will have one of these identifiers. 


The price will also be a key indicator here, if you find a ‘new’ Dell laptop in a store on sale for $399 when the brand new price is still $599 then you should approach with caution, especially if it is not shown that it is either an open-box or a refurb. The price is a great way of deciding whether or not the product is, in fact, the real deal. 

Usability and Telltale Signs

Ultimately if a laptop is not marked as being either refurbished or a replacement, it will be hard to tell whether or not you have a brand new product or not. You can keep an eye out for signs, if there are dead pixels on the screen or the boot is slow, alarm bells should start ringing. Sometimes you may even see suspicious stickers if the box says something like ‘designed for Windows XP’ but it is, in fact, running Windows 10, it is likely that the product has been refurbed. 

Keep your eyes out for any of these signs to identify what kind of laptop you have bought. 

Photo by Daniel Korpai