Buying a Used MacBook? 12 Things You Should Check

Buying a used MacBook can help you save great money. That said, it can be a risky affair if you don’t know what to check when buying a used MacBook. Don’t you worry as we’re here with a checklist to help you make the right decision. We’ll tell you everything you need to consider when going for a second-hand Mac. This will give you peace of mind that you aren’t tricked into buying a stolen or duplicate machine. Also, we’ll help you run a few checks so you don’t end up buying a Mac with any hardware issues. On that note, let’s begin!

1. Double-Check the Specs

The first and foremost thing you need to do before buying a refurbished MacBook is to double-check the specifications as the seller described. Does the owner claim the MacBook Pro is only a year-old model? Does he say the Mac runs on an M2 processor? Is the seller charging you for a 512GB storage model? Well, it’s a smart idea to double-check everything so you don’t have to regret it later.

Go to Apple Menu -> About this Mac from the top-left of the screen. This will show you the Mac’s age, model, chip, memory, serial number, and other important details.

About This Mac section

To check Mac’s storage, click on More Info and navigate to the Storage section. Make sure the MacBook has the same storage space as the one marketed by the seller.

Check Mac's storage

2. Check iCloud Activation Lock Status

If you’re buying a used MacBook (2018 or a later model), it’s crucial to check the iCloud Activation Lock Status. It’s a security feature that prevents someone from using an Apple device (iPhone, iPad, or Mac) that has been lost or stolen. The owner has to remove the Activation Lock before selling the device. If the feature is enabled, it means the second-hand MacBook you’re planning to buy is still linked to the old owner.

To know the Activation Lock status, click on the Apple icon and press & hold the Option key. Now, click on System Information. This will bring up all the hardware details of the machine, including the Activation Lock status.

Check Mac's battery condition

If it is enabled, ask the seller to go to System Settings -> Apple ID -> iCloud. Now, click on Show More Apps, choose Find My Mac, and ask the seller to turn Off Find My Mac. For this, the seller needs the Apple ID password.

Check Mac's battery condition

If they cannot complete this or refuse to unlock Find My Mac due to any reason, the Mac might be stolen.

3. Check Whether the MacBook Is Original or Not

One of the major concerns while buying used gear is to ensure that the device is original. Today, spammers are clever enough to spoof hardware data. Thankfully, there’s a simple way to check whether the MacBook you’re buying is original or not. To make sure you’re getting the correct and genuine product, you can verify the Serial Number on Apple’s Check Coverage page. It’s an Apple service that lets you verify the warranty status of an Apple device.

On the page, enter the Mac’s serial number, solve a CAPTCHA, and hit the Submit button. This will instantly bring up the results, showing the purchase date, limited warranty, and other details.

Verify Serial Number of a MacBook

If you see any discrepancies between the serial numbers, just cancel the purchase.

4. Do a Physical Inspection and Check All the I/O Ports

This is fairly obvious, but we’re just reminding you to check if the Mac is in good condition. Start by carefully inspecting the body of the MacBook for any visible signs of physical damage like scratches, dents, or any stubborn marks. Next, check all the screws at the bottom of the Mac. If you see any loose screws, it may indicate that the Mac has been recently serviced by a third-party repair service.

Also, double-check the display hinges are sturdy enough to hold the case and the screen together. Otherwise, the screen could casually fall on the keyboard. Don’t forget to open the lid and check the screen for any visible scratches or marks.

In case you find any physical damage, you can use it to bargain with the seller.

Once you’re done with the physical inspection, you must check all the ports. It’s super easy to do it. Depending on the ports the machine has, connect a USB drive, headphones, or a USB-C accessory to ensure all the ports are working just fine.

5. Check the Battery Condition

When buying a used MacBook, knowing the battery condition is indispensable. After all, you wouldn’t want to invest in a machine that dies after an hour or so of use. To check the Mac’s battery condition, here’s what you need to do:

  • Click on the Apple logo and hold down the Option key.
  • Select System Information and choose Power from the left sidebar.
  • Under the Health Information section, make sure to check the Cycle count and Condition.
Check Mac's battery condition

The Condition should say “Normal“. In case the Mac says “Service Battery”, “Service Recommendation”, or “Replace Soon”, the battery isn’t in good condition. You’ll experience a lower battery life or even unexpected shutdowns.

Talking about the charge count, it varies from model to model. Generally, Mac batteries tend to last between 300 to 1,000 charge cycles. The thumb rule is- “The less the cycle count, the better the battery”.

In case the Mac’s battery needs replacement, you must factor that price into the sale.

6. Test the Keyboard

Don’t forget to check the built-in keyboard on the MacBook, especially when you’re buying an older model. Open a built-in text editor or the Notes app and make sure the keyboard feels and behaves as it should. Try all the keys, including the Space bar, Caps lock, Function key, Power button, and the Touch ID sensor (if there). We also recommend checking the emoji keyboard on your Mac. Also, make sure the trackpad feels smooth and works nicely.

7. Check the Camera

Honestly speaking, many users forget to check the camera when buying a used MacBook. Make sure you don’t forget this. After all, you’ll be using your Mac to make FaceTime calls, attend video meetings, and more. Open the FaceTime app, and if the camera turns on, you’re sorted!

8. Check Display, Speakers, and Network

The simplest way to check the network and speakers on a MacBook is to play a YouTube video. Connect your MacBook to a Wi-Fi network or use your phone’s hotspot and open YouTube in the Safari browser. If you can play the video with proper audio, you’re good to go. In case you can’t connect the machine to a network or it doesn’t play the video with a proper sound, you must reconsider your decision. In case you come across any display problems on the Mac, forget about making the deal.

9. Make Sure the Mac Isn’t Enrolled in MDM or DEP

Just like the Activation Lock status, it’s mandatory to check if the used MacBook you’re trying to buy is enrolled in a Device Management Program. Many corporations, businesses, and educational institutes often buy Macs wholesale from Apple. These are known as MDM or DEP devices. Such Macs would have a profile set up and managed by the company’s IT administrator.

Remember, it’s illegal to buy a Mac that has an MDM or DEP profile. You cannot reset such devices. Also, there’s a high chance that the machine is stolen.

To verify if there’s a DEP lock on the MacBook, open Terminal (using the Spotlight search or Launchpad -> Others -> Terminal). Then, type the following command and hit the Return key.

profiles status -type enrollment

If you see “No” for both Enrolled via DEP and MDM Enrollment, great! In case you see “Yes” for either of them, just cancel the purchase. The used MacBook you’re planning to buy is probably a stolen device.

Check if a Mac is enrolled in MDM or DEP program

10. Check the charging accessories

When buying a refurbished MacBook, you must ask the seller to provide you a first-party, Apple power adapter and the charging cable. They will have Apple’s signature white logo recessed into the side. Also, you must check the charging cable for any signs of damage like bends, exposed wires, or cracks. If the seller is offering third-party charging accessories, ask for a discount as they are generally cheaper than Apple’s offerings.

Be cautious of sellers who do not provide the charging accessories in the deal. This may indicate the device is stolen.

11. Make Sure the Firmware Password Is Disabled (Intel Macs)

In case you’re buying an older MacBook model with an Intel processor, you should check if it has a Firmware lock. It’s a hardware security lock that prevents unauthorized users from starting external operating systems on the device. While it’s a useful security feature, it can be a headache if you’re buying a refurbished Mac with a firmware lock set by the old user. In some rare cases, it can also prevent you from rebooting the machine.

Here’s how to check if the Mac has a firmware lock:

  • Shut down the MacBook.
  • While pressing the Command + R keys, turn the Mac on.
  • If you’re prompted to enter the firmware password, ask the seller to disable this feature.

Firmware password can be turned off by going to Utilities -> Firmware Password Utility or Startup Security Utility -> Turn Off Firmware Password.

12. Run Apple Diagnostics

The final thing we recommend doing when buying a used MacBook is to run Apple Diagnostics (or Apple Hardware Test on older Macs). It will do a thorough scan and detect any issues with the display, CPU, battery, memory, logic board, or other internal components. In case you’ve forgotten to test any important component of the MacBook, it will help you rule out any Mac issues. So, you must keep this in mind while buying an older MacBook.

On Intel-based Macs, hold down the D key during the startup.

On Apple Silicon Macs, shut down the MacBook and turn it back on while holding the Power button. Continue to hold the key until you see the Startup Options screen. Then, press Command + D.

Once the test is done, you’ll see a reference code. If you see ADP000, you’re sorted. It means nothing’s wrong with the Mac. If you get any other reference code, check out this link.  

Now that you know what to check when buying a used MacBook, go ahead, and make the best deal. In case of any doubts, feel free to ping us in the comments below.

How to test a used MacBook before buying?

To test out a used MacBook, you must run Apple Diagnostics. It will examine the MacBook and detect any issues with the CPU, display, battery, or other internal components.

How to check if a MacBook is stolen before buying it?

You can check the macOS Activation Lock status and verify the serial number of the MacBook on Apple’s Check Coverage page to determine if the Mac is stolen or not.

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