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Last Christmas I was planning to buy a used MacBook that I can use for inventory management and data entry work. Frankly speaking, I never knew that the process of buying a used MacBook could be a good learning experience for me. I requested my colleague Matt Wilson, who is good with computer hardware, to help me with checking the condition of the MacBook. Matt agreed to it and while we were talking he checked on a few online marketplaces for any recent listings for used MacBooks. We replied to a few listings and set two meetings with MacBook owners, one for Wednesday and the second for Friday.

My requirement was very clear, I wanted the MacBook to be functioning perfectly, and must not make me spend for repairs or failing hardware. And one more important thing was to ensure that it is not a stolen one. In this article, I am going to share my experience and the important points, so it can be helpful to others as well.

Be Cautious on Online Marketplace

Matt says we must be very cautious while checking online listings for used products, we never know who the person is on the other side. In recent times there are a lot of fraudsters on online platforms. We must never take a hasty decision.

Meeting Linda Jones on a Wednesday

As decided, I and Matt went to meet Linda to check the MacBook. Matt had brought along with him accessories that he said will be required for checking the MacBook. We reached the cafe that Linda suggested near her workplace, she was already there waiting for us. Linda’s MacBook is a 2015 MacBook Air 13-inch with 256GB Storage and 8GB Memory. Matt had asked her to bring the invoice and the box also, which she did.

Inspecting the MacBook for Physical Damages

Matt started to inspect the MacBook for any physical damages such as breakages, cracks, and bends on the body and to the screen. He turned the MacBook and checked the screws and said it was all good. I asked him, what did he check the screws for? Matt says, if there be any loose screws, it is possible that the MacBook was repaired/serviced by an unauthorized person.

Note the Serial Number

Next, Matt booted the MacBook to the desktop. Opened the About This Mac, from the Apple icon menu. Here he noted the Serial number and year of make. He then matched the serial number with that on the Box. Matt says, one must check the serial number of the MacBook, we will also check the serial number on Apple’s website.

You can find the serial number in these three ways:

  1. First, by clicking on the Apple icon from the top-left corner of the screen, then click on About This Mac from the menu. From here, note down the MacBook’s serial number.
  2. If, for any reason, the MacBook is not starting, then check on the back of the MacBook. You will see the serial number printer there along with other statutory information.
  3. Alternatively, you can also find the serial number on the box.

Make sure that the serial number on the box matches the serial number displayed on the MacBook’s ‘About this Mac’ window.

Check the Serial Number on Apple’s Website

Go to and input the serial number to know about the warranty details.

Ensure there is no Firmware Password

Matt plugged in an external drive and re-booted the MacBook, and while the Mac was booting (at the point where we hear the start-up chime) he pressed the Option key. This opened the boot options page where in he selected the external drive and continued. I asked him what you did by holding the Option key. He said, he was checking if there is a Firmware password, if there would have been a firmware password set then it will prevent the MacBook to boot from any other external device, and at that point, we would be prompted for it, but as we see no prompts, so there is no firmware password set.

Checking the Display Screen

Next, Matt checks for dead pixels on the screen. For that, he opened a website ( on the browser. He said with the use of this website, we can test the screen with different color screens, and if there are any dead pixels on the screen we will see dark dots on those spots.

Alternative to using the website, we can also use single-color (white, black, red, green, blue) background images and open them one by one in full screen and look for any dots on the screen.

Checking the Keyboards

Matt opened a text editor to test the keyboard, he typed all the characters, he started by typing alphabets first, then numbers, then signs, then used the function keys as well. That’s how he examined all the keys on the keyboard to check whether or not all keys are functioning properly.

Checking the Trackpad

Matt tested the response of the trackpad. Also, by changing the trackpad speed from the System Preferences, he tested again with different speeds.

Checking all the Ports

Matt had brought with him USB drives and wired headsets and a few more accessories to check the MacBook’s ports. He plugged in the USB drives to check the ports, and also plugged in the headphone to the audio jack and test them to ensure that all the ports are functioning properly. There was a problem with the audio jack, and one of the two USB ports, so two red flags as of yet.

Checking the Webcam

Matt opened the Facetime app to test the iSight camera to check whether the camera captures properly or not. And yes, it is working well.

He says, it may sometimes be possible that iSight might not be set as a default camera by the MacBook owner, so while testing, ensure that iSight is set as a default camera.

Checking the Charger

Matt suggests that always prefer to see a MacBook with a genuine charger only. If the owner is using a compatible charger, avoid it. Linda is using a genuine Apple charger, Matt examined the condition of the original charger for any damages and also checked if it’s functioning properly.

Checking the Battery Health

After checking the charger, Matt opened the System Information app on the MacBook -> clicked on ‘Power’ from the left sidebar. Here he reviews the information under the ‘Health Information’ header. Matt says that MacBook batteries go bad after a specific cycle, so we must ensure that the battery cycle count and condition are within good limits. The battery was on the higher side of the cycle count, we may need to replace the battery soon.

Battery’s cycle count limits defer between Mac models, we can visit this link ( to find the information for a specific Macbook model.

Checking the Bluetooth and WiFi

Linda was using Airpods with her MacBook, so we tested it. Then Matt also tried to connect his Bluetooth headset to the MacBook, it is working well.

He then connected the MacBook to his phone’s hotspot, so the WiFi is also working properly.

Checking the Hard Drive Status

Matt opened the Disk Utility app on the MacBook -> and did a scan from First Aid. He said this will take some time, so we waited for the checkup to complete, as it progresses we could see the list of status messages regarding the hard drive scan. Here if any messages are in red color, then there is something wrong with the hard drive. But, this MacBook was good, we didn’t get any red flags.

Run the Apple Diagnostics

Next, Matt ran the Apple Diagnostics app, it is Apple’s built-in tool that detects various hardware problems such as issues with RAM, Sensors, Logic Board or CPU, USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Battery, and more. Matt said that on MacBook models after June 2013, this tool is known as Apple Diagnostics, whereas on models prior to June 2013, you will find Apple Hardware Test.

In this scan, we got to see problems with the Battery, Audio jack, and USB port.

Matt Finished Checking the MacBook and Highlighted the Battery Concern

Matt was done with the checking, and he found three problems, first, the Battery needs replacement (this one is a major concern), second, the Audio jack is not functioning, and lastly, one of the two USB ports is not functioning. Linda acknowledged the concern, she told us she will contact us by the weekends, till then she will check what she can do about the battery. We thanked Linda for inviting us and giving us sufficient time to check her MacBook, and we left the cafe.

Pawn Dealers had a MacBook on Sale

As we walked a few steps from the cafe after meeting Linda, two men approached us and said that even they have a used MacBook on sale, and asked us if we would want to have a look. Matt agreed to it and we went with them to their office at the end of the same street, which turned out to be a pawn shop. They have a 2019 MacBook Air 13-inch Retina for sale.

Matt told them that he want to check the MacBook, which they were not comfortable with. They kept the MacBook in front of us and only allowed us to check for physical damages, and to check further we would need to pay a token amount. We stopped the discussion and left from there.

Matt says one must stay away from such dealers who are reluctant to allow the buyer to check the product. A used computer or smartphone doesn’t come with a warranty, so there is no obligation once a customer pays for it. And if you see the dealer is reluctant to allow you to check the product or wants you to pay a token amount before checking, it is highly possible the product is a stolen one. There will be cases when you see a Locked device, and the dealer will insist you make the payment before they unlock it, never but it.

Got a call from Linda on Friday Morning

I got a call from Linda asking about my decision on her MacBook. She said that she have got an offer from another buyer so wanted to know if we are interested then she will hold, or else she can take the offer in hand. I took Matt on a conference call with Linda, he talked about the battery concern and whether she will fix it or negotiate on it. She said the other person is willing to buy it as it is, so she feels that is a better and faster close. We then decided to leave the deal, so we thanked Linda for making time for us, and we expressed our regret to step out of the deal.

Meeting Paul Wilson on Friday Afternoon

Paul runs an electrical hardware store, he invited us to his store to see the MacBook. He has a 2018 MacBook Air Retina 13-inch with 512GB Storage and 8GB Memory. He had kept the invoice and box ready as per our discussion over the phone.

After the initial talk, Matt started by checking the MacBook in complete detail, just as he did with Linda’s MacBook. After about an hour, he was convinced of the condition of the MacBook and started discussing the final pricing with Paul. After negotiating for about 20 minutes, we finalized the deal and finally bought the MacBook from Paul.

Conclusion: Be Careful and Don’t take Hasty Decisions

The process of buying a used MacBook was a learning experience for me. We need to be very cautious about the condition and ownership before buying it. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, clarify doubts, and take your time to check the MacBook. If the owner or the dealer is not allowing you to check the MacBook thoroughly, or if he is asking for a token money, please don’t go ahead with the deal. Also, you may come across a locked MacBook, which the dealer would promise to unlock only after you make the payment, immediately stop the discussion and leave, and never buy from these dealers. Be alert and safe when buying a used MacBook, and share your experience in the comment section below.

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