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The Reconditioning Process

We are qualified laptop refurbishers with over 10 years experience in this field.  From samples purchased on the online marketplace and at trade fairs it is evident that companies are supplying used laptops as ‘refurbished’ or ‘reconditioned’.

What we found: Completely blocked fans and heatsinks (causing laptops to overheat), dead CMOS batteries, fake chinese power supplies (dangerous to use).
Simply re-installing windows on a used laptop does not constitute ‘refurbishing’ and because of this we have put together this guide on what exactly we do to our laptops during our own extensive reconditioning process.

“If a job is worth doing, It is worth doing properly” - this is one motto that greatly applies to the reliability and future proofing of a used laptop. From our experience the more time and detail that is put into the refurbishing and testing of a laptop the better the outcome and the less likely it is of an inherent fault being found. Online, It would cost us £40 in postage alone for even the slightest inherent fault – our laptops must be rock solid and refurbished to the highest standards. Burn in Testing is extensive and boundless.

When we receive the laptops they are often in large batches usually directly from sources operating with bankrupt companies or corporations that have upgraded their IT equipment. Some laptops will be in excellent condition, some will be well worn, broken laptops will be used for spares if BER – every laptop re-sold by ourselves will be brought back to a good cosmetic condition, this may involve exchanging badly scratched or worn panels, covers with new ones.

Step 1 – Preliminary suitability testing and password removal
Preliminary suitability testing and password removal

Often ex-corporate laptops are passworded. Occasionally we are given the passwords, most of the time we will have to manually remove the password by replicating manufacturer techniques, some of them obtained by our own experience using trial and error.

Step 2 – Laptop Dissasembly
Dust & Fluff Removed

Once the laptop has passed preliminary testing the laptop is stripped down for inspection. This is a long winded affair but it’s a must to double check the integrity of a laptop.

Sometimes fluff and dust has built up between the heatsink and in the fan from previous use.

NB: We have seen ‘refurbished’ laptops being resold to unsuspecting members of the public in this appalling condition.

In this example we are reconditioning a HP Compaq nc6000. This is one of our most popular models. Every nc6000 we recondition is stripped into its individual components as shown below.

The laptop is completely stripped into its individual components The laptop is completely stripped into its individual components

Step 3 - Cleaning the heatsink and fan assembly
Dust is removed from the fan and heatsink and is cleaned

This is one of the most important steps in the reconditioning process. A clean heatsink allows more air flow and aids cooling. A blocked fan will cause an overheating CPU resulting in poor performance (Intel Processors clock right down when running over the maximum temperature)

ProcessorMaximum Temperature
Pentium III75°C
Intel Pentium 464 – 78°C
Intel Pentium Centrino100°C
Intel Pentium Centrino Core Duo100°C

Fluff can often get lodged in the fan preventing its operation completely. Dust gathers on the fan blades causing drag, making the fan more noisy and causing a drop in possible revolutions and cooling performance. All dust and fluff is removed from the fan in every laptop that we supply.

Step 4 - Fresh heatsink compound
Fesh Heatsink Compound Applied

This is necessary when the original compound has gone dry and is operating less efficiently, offering less of a heat exchange between the processor and heatsink. Original compound is removed and fresh compound is applied ensuring maximum heat dissipation to the heatsink.

Step 5 - Cleaning the touchpad assembly
The Touchpad Assembly is Removed and Cleaned

Often dirt and grime builds up at the edges of the touchpad - this hinders pointer accuracy and often causes a glitchy pointer which keeps bouncing back to its previous location - very annoying.

The touchpad is removed from the palmrest and thoroughly cleaned. Ribbon cables are also re-seated.

Step 6 - CMOS Battery Testing and Replacment

Another important step - especially on certain models such as the nc6000 where battery replacement involves stripping the laptop down to get to it.

CMOS uses volatile memory which requires a small amount of power to retain system settings as well as the time and date. A laptop with a low or dead CMOS battery will constantly loose its time and prompt at invalid settings during startup.

We have build a custom CMOS battery tester which enables us to plug battery modules straight in for voltage testing.

The accepted voltage for a CMOS battery is > 2.8 volts, anything below this the battery is replaced for new.

Battery Is Voltage Tested, If it is too low it is replced with a new battery New CMOS battery under test

In this case we have replaced the battery with a new one anyway which is showing a more healthy 3.33 volts. This battery will not need replacing for a long time.

Step 7 - Panel and Cover Replacement.

In this example, the previous corporate owners of this laptop have glued an asset tag onto the lid of the laptop. Asset tags mark the laptop as company property and are often put on with very strong glue - almost impossible to remove without further damage.

In this case we will be replacing the laptop lid with another one in better condition. This process will also be performed for badly scratched or worn lids, in fact also on any other part of the laptop in less than perfect shape.

Original Cover - Damaged By Company Asset Tag Replacement Screen Backlid

Screen hinges are checked, if they are loose or show any signs of fatigue they are replaced. Screen catches can often work loose too, these are replaced during the reconditioning process. Badly scratched or worn hinge covers are replaced in order to increase aesthetics.

Screen Stripped Down
Hinge covers replaced if necessary
Screen Lid Catches Replaced If Broken\Missing
Screen Hinges Replaced If Loose
Step 8 - Reassembly

Once we are happy with the integrity of the internal components the laptop is reassembled. All ribbon cables, daughter boards will be tightly seated and every screw will be as tight as when the laptop first left the factory.

Laptop Re-Asembled It Lives!

Once the laptop is back together, it is fired up to make sure that everything is in good working order. Default BIOS settings are loaded as the CMOS battery has been replaced, new settings are updated and saved.

Step 9 - Software Installation
Hard Disk

Hard disks are securely wiped using Blancco software which writes patterns of meaningless data onto each of the drive’s sectors. Any existing company data is relentlessly overwritten with random binary ‘1’s and ‘0’s making the possibility of data retrieval impossible. This process can be repeated many times depending upon the level of security the data requires.

We do not use restore disks for the following reasons:

  • Restore disks contain out of date drivers and utilities
  • Restore disks come bundled with useless software often slowing down the computer
  • Restore disks often use versions of windows pre-service packed.
  • We like doing things manually

The latest stable drivers are retrieved from the respective manufacturer and installed for each of the components (ie sound card, wireless card etc). Our laptops are installed as new – no one else would have used the operating system. This is a big advantage over a ‘used’ laptop out of the paper for example which would be slowed down with someone else’s programs, file and settings.

Every laptop we supply is installed with a genuine windows installation complete with Windows Certificate of Authenticity (COA).
Windows is Activated to confirm its authenticity. This will also allow windows updates and future service pack installations.

Software installed and windows is activated Activated - We only use genuine windows

Once the laptop is back together, it is fired up to make sure that everything is in good working order. Default BIOS settings are loaded as the CMOS battery has been replaced, new settings are updated and saved.

Step 10 - Testing
Battery is tested

Testing of a laptop is integral to its reliability and our customer satisfaction. From our extensive experience with laptops we have put together a batch of tests which will surface inherent hardware defects. Testing is carried out over a period of between 10 hours to 2 days.

Batteries are tested for one hour with all power management options disabled (ie laptop permanently on). If the battery is depleted before the 1 hour is up, it is replaced. Usually a laptop will have half a charge left after this 1 hour is up indicating an estimated battery time of 1.5 – 2.5 Hours.

Batteries are consumable items and are not included in our warranty. This is due to the possibility of the life of a battery being shortened by user error (ie leaving on charge 24hrs a day).

Several burn in tests are performed to ensure perfect system function. These include:
Memory testing – 1 – 1.5 Hours:

  • Test 0 [Address test, walking ones, no cache]
  • Test 1 [Address test, own address]
  • Test 2 [Moving inversions, ones&zeros].
  • Test 3 [Moving inversions, 8 bit pat]
  • Test 4 [Moving inversions, random pattern].
  • Test 5 [Block move, 64 moves]
  • Test 6 [Moving inversions, 32 bit pat]
  • Test 7 [Random number sequence]
  • Test 8 [Modulo 20, ones&zeros]
  • Test 9 [Bit fade test, 90 min, 2 patterns].

Processor and chipset burn in testing – 1 – 1.5 Hours

Shock testing – exactly what it says on the tin, knocking the laptop and checking for system lock up’s and hardware malfunctions.

Optical Drive – Tested for CD read, DVD read, CD write or DVD write if necessary.
All USB Ports tested – Checked for breaks and tested for functionality.

System components tested

Wireless Network connection tested - Often we perform this test during the battery test procedure. We use CMD and the Ping command to constantly send 65500 bytes of data to our test router

The router then replies. This tests the integrity of the wireless card and will log any drop-outs or connection problems.
LAN RJ45 connections are also tested, although this connection is used for driver installations and so any connection issues would be pronounced.

C:\>ping -l 65500 -t
Pinging with 65500 bytes of data:

Reply from bytes=65500 time=65ms TTL=254
Reply from bytes=65500 time=74ms TTL=254
Reply from bytes=65500 time=71ms TTL=254
Reply from bytes=65500 time=63ms TTL=254
Reply from bytes=65500 time=65ms TTL=254

Step 11 - Cleaning
Cleaned and fully reconditioned

Once a laptop has passed our extensive testing regime it is ready for cleaning.

We use an anti smear multi-surface cleaner which in anti-bacterial and it tried and tested by ourselves as it offers the best results. No residue is left on the screen and it is left crystal clear and in pristine condition.

Micro brushes are used to remove trapped dirt from the grooves in the laptops plastics as well as a soft brush which removes dust and fluff from underneath the keys. Even the ports are cleaned.

Not an ounce of dirt will be found on any of our laptops. Inside or out!

Cleaned and fully reconditioned Cleaned and fully reconditioned

It seems that a ‘refurbished’ laptop may look clean on the outside but on the inside this may be a different matter. Duplicating the steps listed above almost guarantees a reliable future proof laptop.

Don’t believe that we go to this much trouble? Come down to our shop premises in Derby and you can see us in action.