Advice on buying older Macs

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by GanChan, Mar 13, 2014.

  1. GanChan macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2005
    I'm not a total stranger to buying refurbished stuff. I bought a pair of refurb Sennheiser HD590 headphones in 2001, and they're still going strong today. I bought a refurb Mac Mini in 2006 (It must have been a 2004 model), and it's STILL working, albeit slowly. Ironically, the 2009 Mini I bought (brand-new) as its replacement just died on me, so I plugged the old one back in to replace IT! :D

    But I can't really run my business from a Chromebook, as much as I like my Samsung. I know I need a local-storage computer, and I know Macs tend to last a long time (and I'm a Mac guy, so there). I'm also dirt poor, and will be for some time to come. With that in mind, I'm checking out places like Mac of All Trades, etc. for yet another refurb -- as long as it's an Intel unit that can run Snow Leopard without choking to death, I'd be satisfied.

    Question is, how far back in time can I reasonably risk going? How long can a Mac reasonably be expected to function, assuming that it's been properly refurbished? If I drop $300-400 on a refurb Mac Pro from 2006 - 2007, for instance, can I expect to get, say 3 more years out of it?

    It's kind of a dumb and unanswerable question, I know. But if any of you veteran used-Mac buyers have some personal experiences to relate, I'd be grateful.
  2. Intell macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    I'd suggest nothing older than a 2009 Mac. A 2006-2007 Mac Pro won't be able to natively run 10.8 or 10.9.
  3. gavinstubbs09 macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2013
    NorCal boonies ~~~by Reno sorta
    I'd shoot for either a 09 iMac or a 2008/9 Mac Pro. Avoid the 1,1 and 2,1 models, although they can run 10.8 & 10.9, things like updating to 10.9.2 can break the OS and you find yourself spending a day reinstalling the OS along with software and stuff.
  4. Altemose macrumors G3


    Mar 26, 2013
    Elkton, Maryland
    Could you get 3 years? Absolutely but you'd be running it until Lion support dies, which is already happening. Lion is going to be getting the chopping block for security updates quite possibly this year. Not to mention the fact that some basic programs like iMovie are having the plug pulled from ML.

    Depending on what you are doing, it may work fine. But I would go for the best you can afford. After all, when the business software supports Mavericks or whatever is next, you are going to want to upgrade.
  5. GanChan thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2005
    I guess it does depend on my intended usage. I'll be using the Mac as the only computer in a one-person business (except for the Chromebook as my mobile unit), mostly creating, submitting and archiving office documents (I'm a writer). I will also be surfing the Web a lot. The main reasons I know I need a full-scale computer and not a Chromebook are:

    1. Certain industry-specific applications such as Scrivener and Screenwriter
    2. A better file management interface than Google Docs can provide
    3. Secure/private file storage for client docs (non-disclosure agreements, contracts, etc.)

    I'd be content to run Snow Leopard indefinitely, as far as functionality goes. I ran it for 5 years on my previous machine....

    My principal concern is the lifespan of the hardware: power supply, HD, PRAM battery etc.
  6. SusanK macrumors 68000

    Oct 9, 2012
  7. Intell macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    No, Apple has not released a security update the last time the released updates for 10.7-10.9.
  8. GanChan thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2005
    Oh, and the 2004 Mini is running the final version of Tiger. :D
  9. RedCroissant, Mar 13, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014

    RedCroissant Suspended

    Aug 13, 2011
    I agree that you should go with the best that you can afford, but you have to decide what kind of Intel machine that you want ( C2D, i3/i5/i7...etc).

    If you're absolutely fine with a C2D, then picking up a machine from 2008 (iMac would be absolutely fine and even early 2009 would be good as well). My original iMac was an early 2009 20" 2.66 GHz C2D with 8GB RAM and a 3TB HDD. It was great and I was using it not only with OS X, but also using Virtualbox with different flavors of LINUX for fun and Windows as well so that I was able to complete my online school requirements.

    And speaking from my experience with PPC Macs, continued support for an OS is not necessarily a deal maker/breaker. I recently owned a PowerMac G5 (2005)quad which had absolutely no support and it was great. That being said, your need for scrivener and other apps along with before internet performance dictates the need for an Intel machine as you already know.

    I have bought or have received lots of used Macs recently and can say that they have all been awesome and actually work the way that they were designed to. A list is as follows:

    2005 12" iBook G4 (2005)
    2005 17" iMac G5 1.9GHz(still working and is my kids' computer)
    200514" iBook G4 1.42GHz (broken FW port but everything else was good)
    2005 PowerMacG5 quad maxed out with original 23" ACD
    2004 20" imac G5 1.8GHz 2GB RAM and 1TB HDD (was my most recent main machine until Flash support was a must-have)
    2003 12" iBook G3 900MHz 640MB RAM
    2002 12" iBook G3 700MHz
    2002 PowermacG4 Quicksilver 733MHz 1.5GB RAM (upgraded by original owner to a 1.2GHz CPU and most recently upgraded by its 4th owner to a DP 1.73GHz CPU running 5? displays, using SATA drives and otherwise being awesome)

    I have also recently been given a 14" iBook G4 1.33GHz by a really generous and kind MR member along with a 2006 Core Solo Mac Mini that was upgraded to be able to run Lion.

    All of these machines have been great, so I am of course biased when it comes to advising someone purchase either a used Mac from CL or a refurbished one from Apple.

    Out of curiosity, what is your budget for this machine?
  10. GanChan thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2005
    Core 2 Duo would be fine. Budget tops out at around $400, unfortunately.
  11. RedCroissant Suspended

    Aug 13, 2011
    Well you'd be surprised what you can get for $400.

    There's a 2007 20" iMac 2.0 GHz 3GB RAM with apple wired ten-key KB and magic mouse for $400 in my area(Phoenix) right now that's been on there for 18 days.

    There's also a 17" iMac 2.0GHz C2D with 3GB RAM, 160GB HDD running Snow Leopard for $170 that's been on there for 2 months.

    And if you're really that hard up for cash right now, there are a quite a few people that would probably be more than willing to help you out. I for one would. So if you need some RAM for a 2009 model iMac, Mac Mini, or MacBook Pro, I can help you out. The same goes for iWork '09, iLife '09, and any version of OS X(yes it would be legal since I could always send you the dvd that I probably wouldn't need anymore), Parallels 5 for Mac, ethernet cables..etc. basically whatever I don't need can be yours depending on where you're located.
  12. SusanK macrumors 68000

    Oct 9, 2012

    Thank you, Intell. I read or heard that Snow Leopard was no longer supported. I didn't remember the source. So many news items about Apple. I hesitate when I just don't remember if the item is fact or fiction.

    Thank you for your response. Much appreciated!


    I have an iBook running Panther. It's great for administering AE with the legacy AU. I still love that old iBook.

    I won't tell you about the Mac running System 7 :)
  13. phoenixsan macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012
    Very tricky....

    question....Ideally, when I had bought a computer, I expect 5 years of trouble-free usage (on some extent), no more, no less.....

    With used or refurb stuff, seems to me you can extract 1.5-3 years more. But the thing is, what software do you run, what things do you perform and so on. For storage, a Mac can even run 10 years.....:eek:

    Snow Leopard hardware is not too hard to find. And 300-400 bucks can buy you something nice. Try out lowendmac or even local eBay sales....:D

  14. GanChan thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2005
    Yeah, it's starting to look like I can find what I want in my price range. Even if it craps out on me after a couple of years, I'll have managed to save up for a brand-new system by then....
    One more question, then: Does leaving a Mac up and running 24/7 (allowing it to go to sleep periodically, of course) hasten its demise, or is constantly shutting it down and powering it up actually worse for it over time?
  15. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    Mac Mini refurbished (2012 model, full warranty) is available at $509 plus tax, so take that price into account when comparing.
  16. phoenixsan macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012
    Oh my friend.....

    There are two main tought schools about computers always on: One assumes that the "electronic stress" (flow of current in the internal components in the moment of start up) reduces the life of the computers. The other holds for the "fact" that continuous flow of current damages power sources and another components.

    And yet, the co$$t of power is another factor to take in account. Me? My main Mac computer only goes off for maintenance work or when required by the system....

    But playing in the safe side, with used Macs, I will shut down them if not used....Only my two cents.....:D

  17. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Definitely two schools of thought on the 24/7 thing. I'm not aware of a conclusive study one way or the other - some of these theories go back to the days of vacuum tube equipment, discrete transistors, electrolytic capacitors all over the place... When you turned on a tube-based TV or stereo, you could hear little tics as the filaments heated and various items expanded from that heat. But the current state of things? The voltages and currents are far lower than they were back when I first started working with electronics. Where once there was a single voltage regulator circuit, in the main power supply, there's now over-voltage and current-limiting circuitry all over the device.

    It's easy to imagine a flood of electrons surging down a dry stream bed, it's another to show that it happens. Digital equipment is all about on/off. It's the nature of the beast. That "flood" would have to exceed normally expected voltages and currents to cause a systemic shock, and again, there's a fair amount of protection against it.

    Nothing is ever completely "off" today. You'll find just about every piece of mains-powered computing equipment draws around 5 watts when "off." Portables are even more miserly, yet still remain on.

    The art of power-saving keeps advancing. The display goes to sleep, the hard drive (if mechanical) goes to sleep, Wi-Fi goes to sleep, animated graphics on web pages are turned off.... So "continuously on" is not the power-eater it used to be.

    Those advances are a good reason to move past Snow Leopard, so long as your new machine supports it - and I recommend that you get a machine capable of Mavericks - that includes a substantial number of the machines capable of running Snow Leopard. Here's the list of Mavericks compatibles. Since that list includes the mid-2007 iMacs, early-2008 Mac Pros, and early-2009 Minis, there's a fair amount of gear in your price range that'll run it.

    My organization runs its Macs 24/7, and has been doing so for more than 15 years. The kind of equipment failures we've had would have little or nothing to do with power-related matters. We've had our share of hard drive failures (who hasn't), but even our oldest equipment put the hard drives to sleep. It's the mechanical items - spinning disk drives and fans - that are most likely to fail under constant-on conditions; ball bearings have their physical limitations. Again, as long as the operating system puts them to sleep, there's little difference between powering-down the system, or letting the system power-down specific components.

    Getting back to your computing needs... Based on the programs you run, a Mac Pro would be a relatively poor value. Hardware-wise, it's overkill, so if you can get a Mini (presuming you already have a workable monitor) or iMac that's a couple of years newer, with a bit more RAM, you'll probably be better off. Plain fact is, there's high demand for older Mac Pros among those who don't want the new Mac Pro. There's going to be less demand for Minis and iMacs, and they're lower-priced items from the start.

    I'm a writer and photographer. But when I write for work, I have to work in InDesign, rather than a (relatively) simple text editor of the sort you use. I'll have a couple of dozen browser tabs open, a couple of desktops, and I often have to have Aperture, Pages, and Numbers up as well. I just retired my 21" late-2008 iMac w/6gb RAM a) because it just couldn't hack it any more b) because a 27" monitor gives me a much bigger desktop, c) it's already maxed-out for RAM, and d) the hard drive was over-full and aging, and there was no point to upgrading the drive when the rest of the machine's limitations weren't going to be addressed by that upgrade.

    And "retirement" is a relative term. It's now been moved into the home, where it's still just fine for routine browsing, "basic" writing, watching Netflix, playing music, etc.
  18. GanChan thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2005
    I'm pretty well set on a Mini at this point. Just about any Intel Mini running Snow Leopard would provide me with the functionality I need, and anything with, say, a 2.0 GHz processor and 2G of RAM would be speedy enough considering the limited multitasking I do. I also prefer a "headless" machine so I can simply swap out a failing monitor or upgrade screen size down the road.
  19. Felasco Guest

    Oct 19, 2012
    I know you said you are dirt poor, so apologies if this idea is unhelpful to you.

    There seem to be two ways to solve this problem. 1) Find the cheapest mac that will meet your needs, or 2) figure out how to bring in a bit more income.

    If you can figure out how to bring in just $2 bucks more per day, you can afford a new machine AND AppleCare so you don't have to worry too much about hardware failures.

    In case it's helpful, here's site which is all about making a living as a writer. I have no relationship with the owner, other than as an occasional reader of her blog.

    She discusses "content mills" which are online sites which will purchase original content for prices like $15 per article. It's no way to get rich (as Carol the author repeatedly reminds us) but if you have time to write 3 articles per month for these sites, you've got a budget for a new Mac.

    Again, my apologies if you already know all this, and it's not helpful to you. Good luck!

    PS: I bought a used 2009 laptop from Mac Of All Trades for $400, and other than one small issue, it's worked A-OK for me. It appears to be too old (not enough RAM) to run Mavericks however. Works great with SnowLeopard.
  20. GanChan thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2005
    Actually, after much thought I've decided that it may be well worth it to apply for 12-month financing on a new (basic) Mini. I HATE buying on credit -- since part of my tight financial situation involves digging myself out of an old debt hole from my young-and-foolish days -- but the monthly payments would be low enough for me to manage, so I shouldn't incur Apple's godawful interest rates as long as I exercise some grown-up organizational skills and common sense. I'm so used to paying the total amount in cash these days that I hadn't taking zero-interest financing into account. :eek: And in the long run, I'll pay less by buying the new device now than I would by buying an interim device now and the new device a couple years later.

    Still, this thread has been immensely helpful and informative, and hopefully it will be enlightening to others who are asking the same questions. I'm grateful for the responses.
  21. Felasco Guest

    Oct 19, 2012
    Ok, cool, good luck.

    Don't forget that a few years from now you can sell the Mini and get at least some of your money back, which effectively reduces the price.

    Don't know if this applies to you at all, but one of my reasons for considering a new Mac is too that I plan to do a lot of writing in the next few years, and the text dictation feature available in the new macs could do much to prevent typing related health problems. There's more than one way to calculate the price of a new mac....
  22. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Well first IMHO you wasted money buying a Chromebook. Although not expensive, they can do almost nothing, assuming you don't really care about your intellectual property be robbed by Google, and overall spied upon by yet another company on top of the NSA.

    On the other hand, maybe you're aiming too low with Snow Leopard, and if you don't need Rosetta, there's no compelling reason to continue running it.

    As other pointed out, a Mac Pro is probably overkill for your needs, and a $400 MP surely would be beaten up.

    Yes they do in-store, although quite limited. Some newer applications just are not built with Snow Leopard support.

    I even heard about a 14-year-old PowerBook that was euthanized because it could no longer perform meaningful work.

    I'd avoid eBay because it's plagued with scam attempts, however you can add Craigslist, as long as you can verify proper working.

    I am part of the "Don't completely turn it off" school. Mechanical disks tend to dislike this kind of treatment (experience speaking). Overall, I don't turn off my Mac unless there's a good reason for it. This doesn't mean you should leave running your machine 24/7 100% CPU. It wastes electricity, and considering how dirty it is in the US, that's probably not wise. Instead, let it go to sleep when unattended, and let power-saving do its job.

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