This site is a semi-automated evaluation and sanity check for listings found on Craigslist in the DC Metro area.

In brief, I occasionally aquire or buy or buy older laptops that I clean up and fix up as needed then give or sell them for the cost of the upgrades to folks in a group I belong to.

I watch sites like FreeCycle, Craigslist, etc. for good deals. On Craigslist I sometimes see laptops being sold for what the seller realistically thinks is a good price but just is not. These listings are not people trying to scam anyone. I believe the sellers just don't know the actual value of their old laptops.

Since this is all pretty standard, I set up a little program to take the specs for a listing and have it spit out a realistic value for the laptop being listed. Then I send the lister a link to the evaluation page to let them know this exists. Maybe it's a benefit for some readers. Maybe it's mean to the listers. I don't like the overpriced listings and this is what I choose to do about it.

FAQ for Sellers

Q1: Who are you to judge me?
A1: I'm not judging you. I'm putting a realistic value on a laptop I saw for sale.

Q2: Who are you to tell me what I can sell something for?
A2: Sell for what you can get! I'm just putting a realistic value on a laptop I saw for sale.

Q3: Why don't you just shut up and mind your own business?
A3: You've never been on the internet before, have you?

I'm angrier than that: 

Sellers ... remember that buyers don't want to "come out and take a look. See for yourself." Buyers want to have a pretty good idea that they're ready to buy unless they find something unexpected. They don't want to waste an hour driving out "just to look and decide after they see." They'll skip over your listing if you don't give them all the information they need to make a decision. So, give them all the information and don't hide anything unexpected.

FAQ for Buyers


How I Evaluate (as of 2018)

Here's My Base System

A new laptop with something like the following configuration can be found for about $500 most any time on the web or big box store.

Plus, every couple weeks you can find a particular machine or two on special for near a hundred dollars less.

That puts a nice fairly modern machine at around $400. Or $450 with tax.

So we'll set our base price at $500.

Here's My Minimal System

Here's what I consider the minimal specification for any Windows 10 laptop:

Any laptop you can't upgrade to at least these specifications should not be considered outside a specific known purpose. Otherwise, they're ecycle/parts material only.

Here's Why

Operating System / Windows 10

Always check to make sure windows is activated! Otherwise you've got to pay for it!

To check activation status in Windows 10:

Windows 10 Home is fine. Windows 10 Pro if you know you'll need it. (For me, that means the ability to RDP into the laptop.) I don't think running any version of Windows other than Win10 is worth it these days. Microsoft has done a nice job with Win10 and it's the only version they're actively working on. All the other versions are considered in maintenance or unsupported. Unless you have a specific reason to want to run, for example, Win7 then you should be running Windows 10. If you do have a specific need for another version of Windows then you probably know as much or more about computers than I do and can evaluate the worth of a laptop using your own criteria anyway. Feel free to ignore all this.

If you run Linux ... great. Me too on some machines. But the people I deal with are mostly computer novices. I always recommend Windows because it's where novices can most easily find help. (And if you run Linux you probably don't need me to evaluate laptops for you ;-)

If you run Apples ... I don't know anything about Apples.

CPU (Processor)



8 GB is the minimum for Windows 10 64 bit. Less starts to thrash the HD (swap file) around quite a bit and burns out your SSD faster.

You can get Windows 10 to run in 4 GB RAM but unless you're just surfing the web it's pretty painful compared to a full 8 GB. If you're planning on using the laptop for anything other than browsing then you'll want 8 GB. Both to save your SSD and to save your sanity.

Hard Drives

The hard drive is the most variable option here. For older machines you're going to be running SATA I and not SATA III. But just get a SATA III drive anyway. They're actually cheaper than finding an older drive, plus they will be new. You can find a (aprox) 120 GB SSD for about $40 and on sale for $35. A 250 GB SSD goes for about $60 and on sale for about $50-55.

A 120/128 GB is acceptableas long as you know you won't be storing large quantities of movies, videos, flac encoded music, or raw photos. But spring for the 250/256 GB or even 512 GB drive if you can afford the extra $25 - $50.

In general, I don't like to fill up SSDs more than about 80% full so you'll have plenty of reserve space. Some drives include this so YMMV.

A "typical" year old Windows 10 drive with no movies/videos nor huge batches of music or photos will be less than 64 GB so you can use that as a guide.


Display resolution is important as it determines how much information you can put on your screen.

Display size impacts portability. I don't consider it a factor in value unless it's small: 14 inches or below.

Graphics Card

Graphics heavy applications are things like: games, photo and video processing, cryptocurrency mining (which you're not going to really do on a laptop, are you), graphics card optimized (math accelerated) business applications, etc.

Note that Games and Graphics does not include movies/videos. Videos are not particularly demanding these days and will play fine on most integrated graphics chips.

It's unlikely you're buying an old laptop in order to play games. Most of these are going to have either the built in Intel Graphics or a Raedon chip. The Raedon chips are going to be faster for two machines of the same age. If you're looking to play games this is an option but I don't consider it important in determining value.


Annnoyingly, this is impossible to know without having the laptop for a week or so. Some older laptop batteries keep their charge capacity way longer than others. There's even quite a bit of variability within brands. If you plan to use the machine while mobile then consider this in more carefully. If you're typically using the laptop plugged in and only occasionally unplugged then an hour or more at full charge could be fine. (It is for my use anyway.)

You can usually find a fairly cheap third party replacement battery, but they're typically pretty crappy. Purchase only if the original battery won't hold a charge. Be wary of "new" OEM batteries for old laptops. Lithium batteries lose life just sitting there. An eight year old "new" battery may not have much life left!

Battery life can be measured by leaving the machine on in idle with the screen at normal brightness level. Disable sleep/hibernate and screen blanking. Open up a really long youtube video on play on repeat in "theater" mode (top portion of your screen). Measure from 100% charge to about 33% charge left. That time is a reasonable aproximation of battery life under typical use. Games especially other apps too can cut into this quite a bit.


Take a look at the charger and make sure it's the correct brand and power for the machine. The correct charger will have the same brand and/or logo as the machine. You can check online for the expected voltage and wattage for the laptop and charger. A replacement charger may have the incorrect voltage or power capability which could cause it to overhead and catch fire. They're not necessarliy bad, just make sure of the voltage, wattage, and make sure replacement chargers are UL listed.

Depreciation (days go by)



There's excellent and there's good. Anything else should not be considered.

Excellent: This is a machine that really wasn't used much. It looks and feels almost like it came out of the box.

Good: Slight wear only. The keyboard letters don't show much wear with all keycap letters still there. The touchpad doesn't have that glossy center. A few scratches here and there. All screws still in place. Minor/cosmetic case damage only.

Other: Some key caps have letters gone or are significantly worn. The touchpad shows a significant wear spot in the center. There are noticeable case scratches. There are large or a few small locations with case damage. Missing screws. These may still be fine machines, but if you don't know what you're doing then you should probably stay away.

Fan Noise

If you hear fan noises at idle then don't buy at any price. A laptop should be silent at idle! Replacing a fan can be expensive, tedious, and time consuming. It's generally not worth it for these cheapy machines. (Lenovos are generally among the easiest to work on and they usually have good maintenance documentation too.)

If you can, run a CPU stress test to crank the heat way up. The fan will really kick in and you can judge how much it will annoy you at full load. It won't happen often, just often to get on your nerves if it's too loud during testing.

How is the laptop being used?

Most of the time you're wanting a "general purpose" laptop.

If you're looking for a machine for a particular custom use then some of the evaluation criteria won't apply. There's an "ignore" column in the result table. You can check the checkbox to remove the effect of that criteria from the total.

Additional Software

This is tricky because sellers really really want to give this a value. In reality, additional software is worth NOTHING.

The most common thing you'll see if Microsoft Office Some Year. It doesn't matter what year it is, it does NOT increase the value of the laptop. If you're already an Office user then you probably have a subscription and can install it on the laptop. If you want Office then an Office 365 subscription is the way to go. It's crazy cheap for what it is and you get the additional benefit of 1TB One Drive account. The one person subscription is $70 per year ... not bad. Plus you can install it on multiple machines. However, if you're part of a family or have friends a five person subscription is only $100. That's $20 per year per person for the always latest version of Office and the 1TB One Drive account for EACH person. Still think that old tired Office 2015 that's installed is worth anything?

Finally, there's anti-virus software. Never buy or install third party AV software. Windows 10 comes with very capable AV software and it won't muck with your system. Plus it won't constantly nag you to pay for it. Really, if third party AV software is installed you'll never fully get it off the system. Uninstall is just a placebo for software integrated this tightly into the depth of Windows. You'll need to do a reinstall of Windows to remove it. If you have third party AV software on your system it's because some sales person at Best Buy tricked you into getting it (they get paid to activate it on a new Laptop ... tell them NO) or because you need it because your workplace dictates what AV software to use.

Want to stop viruses from getting on your system? Here's how:

  1. Run a Hosts file. I currently use MVPS Hosts but there are lots of others. And DONATE a bit every now and then. I donate yearly because these are just that useful and they take a lot of effort to keep updated.
  2. Install and use the Firefox browser. Or Chrome. Or Both (I do, though I think Firefox is the best these days.)
  3. Install the following browser addons/extensions (they're avaiable for both Firefox and Chrome):
  4. Setup your browser to delete cookies when you exit the browser and only whitelist those few you really want.
  5. Common sense:

The Data

Make and Model Info

Make / Brand:
Mfg. Link for this model:

Tech Specs (from seller's listing and online sites)

Year Made:
Pictures / Photos:
Operating System:
PassMark Score:
Installed RAM: (GB)
Max RAM:
HD Type:
HD Size:
HD Interface:
Display Resolution (W x H):
Display Size (diag. inches):
Battery Life:
Charger Volts and Watts:

To Verify (check these before buying)

Windows Activated:
Fan Noise at Idle:
Fan Noise under Load:
Do Calc Test

The Results

Item Ig. Check to ignore effect Data Effect Notes
Make and Model . . . .
Has Pictures . . . .
Year Made . . .
Condition . . .
Operating System . . .
CPU . . .
RAM: Installed . . .
RAM: Maximum . . .
Hard Drive . . .
Display . . .
Battery Life . . .
Totals . . . .


Take all this with a grain of salt. Adjust it as you see fit or simply ignore it. This may not be for you.

If you did find this useful or even slightly enjoyable then thanks for stopping by.