Buying a Used CPU or GPU 101

Photo by Pok Rie from PexelsCPUs and GPUs can not only be pricey these days, but also difficult to get your hands on. Conversely, you can likely find yourself A GPU or a CPU with plenty of processing power, and for a bargain on the used market.

We’re computer nerds; we like to upgrade our rigs as soon as a new piece of tech comes out that will boost our processing power and give us buttery smooth framerates at high resolutions. Compulsion, you say? Maybe, but hey, we enjoy it.

That’s good news for bargain shoppers who want to change out their CPU or GPU, because you can very well find either that’s nearly matching in power from this year’s models.  Having that said, there are a lot of bad deals and scams you need to watch out for.

That’s why here at Tisk, we put together a buying guide when shopping around for CPUs and GPUs, so you can avoid the pitfalls, scams, and just bad deals in general.

Take a Deep Dive into The Card’s History

Knowing the history of the card you’re looking at – whether it be a CPU or a GPU – can often be an important step when deciding whether or not to make the purchase. For example, it’s probably a good idea to avoid GPUs that have a history of being used for things like cryptocurrency mining.

Now granted, the current state of the CPU or GPU is more important than where it has been, but it’s good to know how many miles your used product has on it. If the card is an OEM (original equipment manufacturer), you should probably pay a little bit closer attention. These cards are typically sold as part of a pre-built rig and often don’t have any brands on them at all.

In theory, there’s no harm done if you go with an OEM card, but just make sure it performs the same in terms of clocking speeds, and the quality of the build is on par with retail versions.

Make Sure You Test and Inspect the Card

This is arguably the most critical and important thing you should do when buying a used CPU or GPU. If you’re going to be purchasing it directly from someone who is a private seller, the best course of action is to test and inspect the card thoroughly before any money is exchanged at all.

I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often people get duped. You should either be bringing your PC in to their shop, or having the card installed into one of their rigs they have onsite when you get there just to be safe.

Stress testers like FurMark are great programs for making sure there are no overheating problems, glitches, or otherwise faulty behavior before you buy. You’ll also want to be running benchmarks with programs like 3DMark, so you can rest assured that the CPU or the GPU is performing according to your expectations and needs.

Specific to GPUs, one last testing program that’s a good idea to run is GPUZ, which will help ensure the info presented to you about the GPU matches what the seller is claiming the card to be.

A few little wear and tear things to take notice of:

  • If there was overheating with the GPU, the fans might not be operating as well as they should. Check and see if there’s any rattling or squeaking with the fans, and make sure they’re spinning at their intended rpms.
  • Both CPUs and GPUs have thermal paste that can wear down over time. You can reapply the paste if you know what you’re doing, but it still needs to be checked so you know what you’re taking home with you.
  • Make sure none of the mounting components or pins are bent or broken. A little dust is to be expected and not a problem, but visual inspection for anything that looks out of place is always best practice.

Of course, if you find that any of these things are out of line with what the seller tried to sell to you, it’s best to walk. You never know what else might be wrong with the cards.

Use Some Sort of Payment Protection When Purchasing Online

You won’t always be able to go into a store or private seller’s shop and inspect things for yourself. Obviously if you’re going to shelling out the cash online, you have no real way of testing the CPU or GPU until you install them into your computer.

This makes it especially important you stick with online purchasing platforms that offer some degree of protection, so if it turns out you were scammed, you can get your money back.

Here are a couple telltale signs you’re dealing with a scammer:

  • No profile picture – Not everyone likes having their picture taken, but there’s something to be said about trust, or lack thereof, when it comes to selling things online without any photo or backup contact methods.
  • They aren’t answering questions with direct answers – Dodgy answers about straightforward questions means there’s a good chance they’re either have no idea what you’re talking about (which would be odd for someone who is selling a niche piece of machinery), or they don’t want to address things that will scare you away. Pay close attention to their responses and accessibility when it comes to answering your questions.

Pay Close Attention to Return Policies and Shipping

In a general sense, if you make a purchase of eBay, regardless whether or not the seller touts “no refunds or returns,” you can still request a refund if your CPU or GPU isn’t functioning as listed. Even still, you’re much more likely to have a pleasant buying experience from someone who openly states a 30-day return policy.

In addition to this, it’s usually a good idea to buy something that’s manufactured from inside your own country. While there are ways to return faulty products purchased from countries like China, for example, it can be quite the lengthy process, and you’ll pay out of pocket for that extra shipping.

Heck, it might be a couple of weeks before you even get the cards delivered to you in the first place, which could be a real bummer if you wait all that time for your new Graphics card or CPU and they don’t work properly.

Speaking of shipping, you should also pay close attention to their shipping procedures. It’s not really in your control once you make the sale, but you can request proper padding, ESD packaging, etc. beforehand so you can make sure you don’t experience any breakage while your cards are being delivered to you.

Lastly, take a look at the seller’s history if you’re going with an online platform. It’s a big red flag if they’re brand-new and haven’t sold a single item before you. If something looks like it’s just too good to be real, then chances are you’re looking at someone that’s looking to get on over on you.

For GPUs: Nvidia or AMD?

Most of this article is about the buying process itself and how to navigate with safeguards, but this is worth mentioning for a few reasons. I’ll explain.

It’s easy to compare AMD and Nvidia with side-by-side benchmarks. There are a virtually limitless array of YouTube videos that will give you all the information you need. Where it gets tricky is when buying used graphics cards, especially ones that are more than say… two years old. Comparing cards can get tricky at that point, and some models have aged better than others, which can make it hard to pin down a good price.

Pay close attention to the features listed for the cards. Take ray tracing, for example. That’s a technology feature only supported in either Nvidia’s RTX series cards, or AMD’s RX 6000 series. You don’t need ray tracing to operate most games, but it’s quite a quality-of-life improvement and adds some nice visual touches. If you’re one of those people that like to game and be immersed with beautifully rendered graphics, something like ray tracing might be a big deal when making a purchase.

You also want to pay attention to the VRAM, which is becoming more and more of a critical factor in newer games. If you’re going with a GPU doesn’t have much VRAM, you’re probably not going to be maxing out or even putting the settings on High for many of the more graphically intensive games out there.

Other than that, there are no real qualms with choosing either Nvidia or AMD GPUs, just if you’re a gamer, make sure you’re picking one of the more graphically intensive games you play regularly, and make sure it meets and exceeds those specifications.

Avoid the Risk, With Tisk

If at this point, you’re a little hesitant about getting scammed when trying to purchase a good, used CPU or GPU, well that’s a good thing in our opinion. If you keep a watchful eye on your prospective purchase and seller, it can still be an excellent, cost-effective method of updating your rig.

We just want you to be informed and cognizant of the risks involved, so you go into the market with your eyes wide open.

There are much safer, verified companies that allow you to buy the GPU and CPU you’ve been looking for, without any of the risks involved we’ve previously mentioned.

Like us, at Tisk.

Tisk is an online service allowing individuals to sell their PC parts online for cash, as well as purchase tested and certified used parts. With Tisk, people are able to get cash immediately for their used parts, as well as be able to shop for used parts with the same experience and confidence as if they were shopping for new parts.

Tisk’s most important commitment is ensuring that every part sold on its platform is performing as advertised and reliably so. Before selling each part, the Tisk team has spent time meticulously cleaning and inspecting them, before putting them through extensive testing and benchmarking.

This allows Tisk to guarantee that the parts sold on its platform are in perfect working condition. That is why we stand behind each single part we sell with a 100-day money back guarantee. If for any reason parts purchased on Tisk fail or do not perform up to our customers’ expectations, Tisk replaces it for free or provides a full refund. Reusing our parts at a greater scale is a key part in limiting the footprint we have as gamers.

It is as simple as thinking differently about how we shop. Demand for new becomes more reasonable and balanced. With Tisk opening a viable market for used parts, we no longer need to just picture a better future on our screens and can now be a part of making it a reality.

Check out our shop for the CPUs or GPUs you need, here.