Considering getting a cheap ($100-150) Used Secondary Laptop For Electronics Projects, Lenovo Thinkpads On EBay. Good Idea? Lack of AC adapters?

Cyber_Akuma

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I am from the US and am looking to get a cheap secondary laptop to dedicate to using for my electronics projects. A lot of the software for some of the hardware like chip programmers I don't fully trust and don't want it on the same computer I would be using any sensitive accounts on, on top of that I want a second laptop dedicated to just keep in the cabinet with all my other electronics /soldering equipment rather than dragging my main one there all the time and mixing all of the diagnostic and electronics software with my games and all sorts of other random programs that have nothing to do with electronics work.

I was thinking about getting a used Lenovo Thinkpad from eBay, something at least 8th gen so I can upgrade it to Windows 11 and it won't become useless after 2025 when Windows 10 hits EoL. I am not going to be gaming on it so GPU is not a concern, and none of the software should really tax the CPU much either (maybe at most digital oscilloscope software that sends a lot of data over the USB port, MAYBE I can use it for my 3D printers too in which case slicing software is a bit CPU heavy). I figured I would go with an enterprise model like a Thinkpad because on top of them usually being cheaper used as they are less desirable than consumer models, it should be easier to upgrade/repair than said consumer laptops and is more likely to have more ports that would be useful for connecting to such equipment.

Many of the listings I saw are around $80-150, some missing RAM or a HDD, which is not an issue for me as I can easily install my own and likely would anyway (though it can be an issue if the HDD caddy is missing). More annoying however is how many are missing the battery and almost ALL of them are missing the AC adapter of all things! (How do people have lots of hundreds of old corporate laptops but no AC adapters for them?). Also a worry is if it's BIOS-locked or has Computrace enabled.



This feels like the lack of an AC adapter and battery instantly drops the laptop into the "useless" category for me, what am I supposed to do if it has no battery and AC adapter (Although the lack of an AC adapter is the one I mostly care about)? Getting a new laptop battery is notoriously not worth it, with official ones being absurdly expensive (if they are still being made/sold) and marketplaces littered with unofficial ones that crap out in six months. I am not expecting a battery to be in good condition for older laptops, but just enough so I can move it around a bit before plugging it back in would be nice. The bigger issue however is lack of AC adapter. Same deal, if you can even find official ones they tend to be expensive, and unofficial ones that can be dodgy are expensive. Just where did all these AC adapters and batteries go if they have all these laptops lying around? Are they intentionally not including them to sell them separately for more money?

However, I did notice one thing that might make it easier on me. I noticed that many of them don't appear to have a dedicated charging/barrel port, but appear to charge by USB-C. Is this a charging standard or are the USB-C charging ports also proprietary? Can I use any USB adapter that provides enough amperage or does it specifically need to be made for the laptop? I know that in the past the barrel-type chargers have had data pins where laptops would reject unofficial ones or refuse to charge the battery/run at full performance or so with 3rd party ones, does the same thing happen with laptops that charge with USB-C? Or can I use any USB-C adapter that provides enough power?

Is this a good idea? Getting a used Thinkpad for this purpose? Or is that a better route I can go? Would eBay be a good place to get something like this in the US or are there better places for it? What do I do about the lack of AC adapters (or possibly even battery) without spending either more than the laptop would cost on an official battery/character or get some random knockoff battery/charger that might be dodgy and die after six months?

I know that $100-150 is VERY low, but I am talking about a used non-gaming laptop with a CPU that's from 2018 that I just need as a secondary system to run electronics/diagnostic software on and lookup guides/schematics.
 

Ralston18

Titan
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If the laptop is only going to be kept "in a cabinet" my suggestion would be to look for a older desktop or even an All-in-One.

No battery/charger issues and likely a desktop will cost less. Someone may even have an old one they would be willing to give you. Ask around....

Plus, a desktop wil give you more options if an upgrade of some sort (more RAM for example) does happen to be needed.

A desktop may not fit in a cabinet per se but if the desktop/laptop is in continual use then why move anything around at all? Set it up and leave it in place. Much simpler and more likely having it always ready will be much more conducive to actually using it.

Also you may be able to come up with some sort of rack mount (DIY or otherwise) that could prove additionally handy for your projects.

Google "DIY computer rack mounts". Revise the search criteria as necessary to focus on ideas of interest.

Bit of a project in itself.

Just my thoughts on the matter.
 

Cyber_Akuma

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If the laptop is only going to be kept "in a cabinet" my suggestion would be to look for a older desktop or even an All-in-One.

To clarify, I am going to keep it in a cabinet with the rest of my electronics tools, but I will it taking it out along with any other tools while I am doing any work with them, it's not going to permanently remain in the cabinet. I just meant that I will consider it part of all of the other tools rather than a generic laptop that I would use for other tasks outside of electronics work.
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
Fair enough.

However, it may be overall easier to just leave out the computer (whatever it is) setup and ready to go.

Saves some time and effort.

Barring of course that the cabinet is needed to keep the enclosed tools from disappearing when you are not around......
 

Cyber_Akuma

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However, it may be overall easier to just leave out the computer (whatever it is) setup and ready to go.

I'm not sure what you mean by that. I am going to need a Windows PC for some of the hardware I will be working with, it's not just there to lookup things on the internet. The chip programmer will need to be connected to a PC, and I am considering starting out with a budget Oscilloscope that connects to a PC instead of being a self-contained model with it's own screen for now. Depending how the video microscope I am working on turns out I might need to connect that to a PC to use it as well.

And the cabinet it just to keep everything organized in there and be easy to move them around to where I need in one piece, because I know the tools will end up all over the house and I will never find what I am looking for if I don't keep them all in one place.
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
Ahh....

"easy to move them around"

Not a fixed cabinet as in a workshop.

A rolling /movable cabinet with doors and drawers - correct?

Much like they use in hospitals or other technical environments. Or hotels with rolling video presentation equipment. Moveable "tool" chest.

You "go onsite" take out what you need and work. Finish, pack up, and go to the next project.

A laptop would practically and literally be a better fit then.

(y)
 
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Co BIY

Splendid
I am from the US and am looking to get a cheap secondary laptop to dedicate to using for my electronics projects. A lot of the software for some of the hardware like chip programmers I don't fully trust and don't want it on the same computer I would be More annoying however is how many are missing the battery and almost ALL of them are missing the AC adapter of all things! (How do people have lots of hundreds of old corporate laptops but no AC adapters for them?).
Just where did all these AC adapters and batteries go if they have all these laptops lying around? Are they intentionally not including them to sell them separately for more money?

You are dealing with the remains of a corporate fleet - already picked over by the cubicle hordes.

The workers with the remaining laptops grabbed the AC adapter so they could have one installed at their desk and one at home and one in their travel bag. Same with the batteries.

You will have much better luck with a local seller selling a single laptop. It will still have the battery and cord.