The Difference Between Used and Refurbished Servers

The Difference Between Used and Refurbished Servers

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. To many, the words “used”, “refurbished”, and “second hand” are all basically interchangeable. To these folks, all terms essentially describe a server that has been used before and now is available for reuse at another organization. Use & Re-Use.

Other individuals prefer that we get more granular with our definitions, though. A used server then is one that is in the same condition it was from the previous user - it has not been reset to factory defaults, tested, nor reconfigured, and is just available to be used again. “Used” in general seems to be an all-encompassing term that describes all types of uses, so we reject that narrow definition of non-reconditioned equipment. But for some, they believe this to be the meaning for “used”.

Refurbished servers, for some, means equipment that has been fully reconditioned, reset to factory defaults, tested, and reconfigured for future use. Yes, that is the case for many refurbished servers, especially almost all that come through a professional refurbisher… But, for many, “refurbished” servers just refers to a second-hand server available for reuse again.

Ultimately, it's important to realize that these differences and definitions are fuzzy, and to make sure that you're asking questions to understand what has been done with the server, in terms of testing, diagnostics and reconditioning - whether labeled “used” or “refurbished”, as you're purchasing.

So, Is Refurbished Considered Used?  

Yes, in general, I would say that used is the over-arching definition of all equipment that is available for reuse. And, while refurbished is an interchangeable term for many individuals, it is always a subset of used, meaning equipment that has been used before. To others, it specifically means equipment that is reconditioned or fixed.

Which Is Better, Refurbished, or Secondhand?  

Refurbished vs Used Servers

Again, these definitions are often used interchangeably, but if one were to consider that refurbished had been fully reconditioned, reset to factory default, tested, given throughput with traffic testing, and cleaned and run with the full diagnostics, then refurbished may be better than secondhand as a general term. Again, these terms are broadly interchangeable.

What's the Difference Between Refurbished and Original?

Well, this is confusing to some users because many used online tech sale listings will be stated as “original”.

Original is important. It's not really a condition term, but a marker of authenticity. When a system is said to be original, the advertiser is stating that it is not inauthentic nor counterfeit.

There was a period when there were multiple counterfeit items floating around the market, often imported from overseas.

After tariffs entered the marketplace in the 2010s, this appears to be much less of an issue, as it is now expensive to import from countries where many of the fakes came out of.

Nonetheless, users should be looking for original, authentic equipment. Any professional refurbisher will only provide equipment that is 100% guaranteed original hardware. Manufacturers won't put inauthentic equipment under maintenance, so selling and acquiring original/legitimate/authentic equipment is of the utmost importance and why many use a short list of suppliers for refurb.

Equipment Can Be Original and New or Refurbished

By stating it's original, we are only stating that it is authentic and manufactured by the manufacturer it is represented as. Original equipment can be new, and original equipment can certainly be used.

The Difference Between Refurbished and Replacement  

Again, refurbished is a statement of condition whereas the replacement is a statement of its process in the ecosystem.

Replacement means that the equipment is a product that is being sent out as a replacement to some equipment that has been purchased. A replacement part could be a refurbished component or a brand new product, just depending on what the independent refurbisher has on hand. In the case of a manufacturer, what they would have on hand (new or used).

Replacement parts from manufacturers, maintenance companies, or independent resellers can be new or refurbished, depending on the stipulations of the maintenance plan and/or or warranty purchased. Refurbished equipment, of course, is used equipment and can often be used to provide a replacement to a customer, but new equipment is often used for replacement parts as well.

Difference Between Renovated and Refurbished  

Difference between renovated and refurbished servers

Renovated is a term that is not often used when it comes to IT hardware. The term reconditioned, remanufactured, or refurbished is typically used in place of the word renovated. Renovation or renovated is a term more frequently used for homes or buildings, but not enterprise IT servers.

Refurbished Servers Provide Guaranteed Performance

That is certainly the case when it comes to buying equipment from a responsible, reliable, independent refurbisher of IT hardware such as Alta technologies. Refurbished servers are guaranteed to perform because of the warranty that's provided with the equipment, the promise of excellence in the reliability of the equipment, and the extended maintenance plans available for putting used servers under hardware maintenance.

Refurbished Servers Provide Factory Settings

When a server is sold by a large and trusted refurb server reseller, the settings will be reset to factory defaults. This way you're able to deploy the server and customize it exactly in the manner needed by your organization or server application.

Proper Testing for Refurbished Servers  

Testing for refurbished servers

Refurbished servers should be fully tested by any organization you are considering for purchase.

  • Equipment should first be cleaned and broken down to its base components.
  • Data is erased from the existing systems and drives to a DOD standard.
  • Those components should be tested thoroughly for any faults.
  • Upon sale, the equipment should be reconfigured exactly to the user's needs and tested once more, running diagnostics across the system.
  • A test report is created and can be provided to the buyer.

Summary: This article delves into the distinctions between used and refurbished servers, offering insights into the key differences, advantages, and considerations for IT infrastructure decisions.

Questions about Refurbished Servers?

Contact us anytime… we’ve been doing business in the secondary market for IT hardware since 1995.
763-475-2900 | 800-546-2582

Additional Reading & Resources:

Author: Corey Donovan

Corey is a reuse advocate with 20 years experience in ITAD and serves as President of Alta Technologies, the gold standard for quality in testing and refurbishing servers, networking and data storage hardware, since 1995.

An active member of the Right-To-Repair movement, Corey also serves on the ASCDI Board, is a member of the Forbes Business Council, Vistage, SIA and UNEDA. He enjoys local adventures with his family and dog, Freya, near Minneapolis, MN.

LinkedIn | Twitter | Bio

E-mail Corey