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I had an old home built computer. 166 Pentium, I Meg Hard Disk 32Mb memory with just a CD-Rom running Windows 95 in an AT case. My son had an Elonex with a 366 Pentium 11, 6Meg Hard Disk 64Mb memory with a CD-Rom running Windows 98. It all started with the unsucessful attempt to add a CD-RW and DVD player to his machine. I had been considering upgrading my machine for over a year, but it would require a complete new start. I was also nervous about building a machine with Windows xp due to problems of incompatible or non-existent drivers. By a very roundabout route weighing up various options, including cost, which seemed to rule out a new machine I started to look at Auction Sites. Again being nervous of dealing with unknown Companies or Individuals ( although I had recently bought a Laser Printer from one of the sites ) I kept coming across Compaq and discovered they had their own Auction Site at www.auctions.compaq.co.uk which also carries some Hewlett Packard Equipment. I sucessfully bid for two Identical Computers and Monitors for myself and my son at a total cost for both machines of £885 ( which will reduce when I sell the old machines). The computers are Presario 6240EA and the monitors 17" S7500. Windows xp and all the drivers sorted by the manufacturer. The goods are either End of Range, Discontinued or Refurbished which is what I bid on. Refurbished means it has been delivered to a customer who for some reason returns it. The company then checks and carries out any work and the machine is then retested. Also it "may" have cosmetic blemishes. The packaging may also be tatty where it has been opened and labels torn off. Neither of my machines or monitors have a mark on them - they are just as new. Each machine is three months from first manufacture and has 9 months warranty remaining. Note the Compaq machines do not have monitors but the HP machines being sold at the moment do.
Tips on Buying. Check the machine you are interested in is a current model. Make sure you understand how the bidding works. Take your time, check the prices the machine sells for over two weeks - each Auction lasts a day and finishes at about 5.30 pm though late bidding often carries it past that time. New machines are then put up on the site as the Auctions finish at about 6pm. Only bid when there are several machines available, prices tend to be lower then. The price also seems to vary during the week. Make clear you understand how the Bidding works these are "Dutch" auctions. Don't forget to allow another £35.25 for delivery. Once you have made the decision to go ahead put your bid in as early as possible when the site opens and enter a "Proxy" bid for the maximum you are prepared to pay - based on previous prices. Now sit back and wait. Your bid will increase from an initial £1 to remain a winning bid at the lowest possible price. Now if there were only one machine and somebody put in a Proxy bid 1 minute later the price would race up until one of you hit their bid limit. If their bid were the same you would win since your bid was earlier. However if someone bid £10 more than your top figure they would win since the amount is greater. If there are several machines this is less likely to happen. What if you are outbid - well simply wait until the next day's auction starts and bid again. If you have set a realistic price you will win a machine but not necessarily at the first attempt - be patient. Personally I think it was a great way to buy, but recognise that there could slight marks or damage and make sure the machine is what you want.
You've got the process down to a tee. I purchased a Presario 5432EA in September 2002 through the auction, it broke down and they replaced it with a brand new machine. Definately good service, and a good review!