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I am looking to buy a used pc. I was wondering if it's possible to know how old the PC exactly is since the word of the dealer can't be trusted...

I'll boot Linux from USB on the pc. Is there a way or command to use in Linux that can tell me the exact manufacture date of the PC or something as remotely close to that? I hope my question's clear.

Look, the market I am gonna buy the PC from, mainly deals with used ones. And I am gonna buy in the range: intel I5 to Intel I7. I need good confirmation that the PC I'm buying still has some life left to be drained of.

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    If you don't trust the seller, why are you buying from them? – John Nov 9 at 20:04
  • What version of linux? Is the PC made by a major manufacturer? – Jesse_b Nov 9 at 20:09
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    The individual parts can have different ages, if the seller has e.g. added more RAM, but even if it was bought as a unit, it was assembled by someone. And two computers of the exact same age, might have seen very different usage patterns, so age might not be the thing to judge by. – Henrik - stop hurting Monica Nov 9 at 20:16
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    The age of a PC has almost nothing to do with how much life it has left. In fact the older the PC the more likely it is to last forever since modern electronics are not made to the same standards they used to be. The only thing you should really be concerned with is if it has the specs you want and it doesn't look like someone vomited in the case. – Jesse_b Nov 9 at 20:18
  • @Henrik How should I make a decision then? how can I tell that a PC is really worth buying, given that I don't know how the person who owned it treated it. – user381250 Nov 9 at 20:18
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If dmidecode is available you can run:

dmidecode -t 2

This will provide information including the motherboard model and manufacturer. You can then do a search on that information and find the manufacture date of the motherboard which should tell you approximately how old the PC is. It wont be exact since it's not uncommon for a motherboard to be a few years old before being used.


You could also take a look at /proc/cpuinfo to get information about the CPU model and manufacturer.

less /proc/cpuinfo

Just like the motherboard information though this wont give you anything exact. It is not uncommon for parts to sit around as NOS (new old stock) for years before finally being bought at a reduced price and used in a PC. Say all the parts were manufactured in 2009, that will tell you the PC is less than 10 years old but for all you know it could have been built last year with old parts.


To get information about the installed memory:

dmidecode -t 17

If the PC is made by Dell or HP you can go to the respective manufacturers web portal and search for the service tag/serial number (it's much harder to do this with HP in my experience) and find the exact date of sale.

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You can gain some information from a hard disk with smartctl, but the most relevant parameters are vendor specific. The machine I'm sitting at right now has a Seagate disk and in the "Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:" section there is (among other things):

>   9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032   076   076   000    Old_age   Always       -       21341".

The last number being the actual value.

  • Good call, I would probably care about hard drive usage more than anything else, although hard drives are easily replaced. – Jesse_b Nov 9 at 20:32
  • And how can I make sure that the motherboard isn't damaged or something? I mean I wanna make sure that the CPU just doesn't die out randomly, given it might be the last straw before it finally dies out. – user381250 Nov 9 at 20:34
  • @user381250: I can't confirm how true it is but I've always heard "The majority of hardware failures will happen in the first 24 hours, if it makes it past that it will likely last forever" (obviously not forever but a really long time) Because of that it's almost safer to buy used (as long as there aren't visible signs of neglect/abuse). – Jesse_b Nov 9 at 20:36
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Most major brands have sites for a online warranty check where you have to enter the serial number of the product (look for imprint/sticker on the case or bios information). They will tell you the warranty state (start/end date) and sometimes the manufacturing date, exact model and information about built-in components.

Examples:

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PC models come and go very quickly, the commercial life span of consumer PCs is measured in semesters... et and even the pros models rarely remain on sale more than two years. You can look up the actual model (see the Serial Number tab) on the net and then look up reviews and their publication date, this will give you an age range.

However, the parts that really age are the drives and the battery.

  • The smartmontools package (smartctl command) gives you access to the HDD or SDD SMART info (power-on hours, errors, use of spare sectors/blocks), but be careful with the interpretation, because
    • some manufacturers encode several bytes in a word, so the catastrophic values you see could be normal
    • you don't know if the disk and the PC have been together all along, the disk could be a replacement part already.
  • Same for the battery, there are utilities to report the remaining capacity (brand dependent, unfortunately...), but batteries are (normally) a replaceable item.

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