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Questions to ask when buying a compact Mac on eBay?


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I've never bought a vintage Mac from eBay and many sellers have computers for sale "as is" with no returns.  Apart from whether or not the machine works / boots, what are some questions I can ask the seller (who may not be as versed in Macs) to insure that I go in with an informed decision?  Thanks!

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As-is is usually always stated just as a CYA maneuver to not get bad feedback etc. Most people who are reputable will answer of it starts, chimes, screen turns on, boots a disk, etc. If they don’t have the tools to open the machine, there is always the chance of a nasty surprise. However if the price is right, that can be worth the risk, especially if it does indeed function.

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Most people selling these things on eBay seem to know almost nothing about them, so I think it's probably a bridge too far to ask a normal seller to open up the case of one of these computers. In the end, it's always a bit of a gamble. I've bought many computers sold as not working that turned out to be just fine when I got them in hand, or they only required very minimal troubleshooting. But others have been hopeless cases where I basically lost money on the deal. I would think an SE would be significantly more risky than many other models, but for $100 maybe the risk is worth it (assuming you think you are capable of recapping it).

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Even with the fan running, it could still have a MAXplosion inside (someone correct me if I'm wrong about that).  Or it could be as simple as disconnected cables inside.  I personally would be a little leary of this particular one because of the massive difference in yellowing between the front and back bucket.  I like Mighty Jabba's take on this - as long as you are technically capable, it might be worth the risk.

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If looking for a compact Mac in 2020, unless it has been torn down, recapped and/or rebuilt there is very high chance it will not work.  That's why the ready to ship, rebuilt machines cost substantially more.  If you are looking for a "fixer upper", you can probably get something cheap but be prepared to buy another for parts - it's not unheard of for people here to merge together two Macs into one.  As Might Jabba mentioned, the SE/30, while a nice Mac, is probably one of the biggest headaches to maintain and repair - the SE, Plus are usually much more solid.  Classics less so if unmaintained (nearly all are decimated from old batteries unless checked).

 

When picking up, even if you can't get into a Mac inspect the vents and underside for rust/corrosion/battery leakage - it's sometimes subtle.  I've walked away from a few sales from generally unwitting sellers who are selling an "untested", visible pristine Mac but it's clear the innards are toast once you peer around vents and notice orange/brown discolouration.

 

JB

Edited by Byrd
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