Which OS version?

Hi, in need of a new laptop but not got much money. I want to buy a laptop second hand with no OS, buy the OS and then install it myself. I am not sure what version I need to buy? I've seen versions online for as little as £40 but are these legal??? I ideally want Windows 7 Professional 64 bit. Any advice would be really appreciated?

A second-hand laptop will have an operating system. In fact, there would be no simple way for you to test that everything works without one. A laptop running XP or Vista is going to be old enough that if the components are still working, it will be on its last leg (laptops don't have the same physical life expectancy as desktops because everything in them is more delicate). So as a first criterion, I would get one that has Win 7 already loaded.

If you are on a limited budget, you are likely to find that a laptop (appropriately) running Win 7 Pro/64 will be more expensive because it will have a fast processor, 64 bit RAM and probably a lot of it, and a high-capacity hard disk. On one hand, it will be a better investment from the standpoint of being faster, more capable, more easily upgraded, and maybe even higher quality components (unless it is crap hardware on which they loaded a high-end operating system just to sucker buyers). On the other hand, laptops don't have a real long life expectancy, so if it is already used, you are investing in what might be a short remaining life expectancy.

An alternate approach would be to spend as little as possible now to get something to meet your immediate needs with the idea of buying something better when you can afford it and put the cost difference toward the future one. You probably don't need (and wouldn't benefit from) Win 7 Pro unless you are going to be using it to run a network or do software development. The added features in Pro (vs. Home Premium), deal mainly with stuff like group policies that apply only in a network environment. I believe it also comes with an XP kernel, or at least a license for one, to enable you to run XP software in a virtual machine.

If you have a need for Win 7 Pro/64 and are looking for a laptop to load it on, a suitable laptop will already have Win 7/64, either Home Premium or higher. If Home Premium is what is loaded and you need the additional features of Pro, you should be able to upgrade the operating system already on the laptop. You asked an astute question about the cheap online stuff and correctly guessed that the answer is no.

Whatever you get, test it as extensively as possible first. I would seriously consider paying a premium to buy it from a reputable dealer with some form of warranty. That will save you from buying something that fails almost immediately and there is a good chance that the dealer will have tested it.

Joe S

Excellent Member
You might also check into refurbished products from the manufacturers.

Good idea in theory, but be careful. "Manufacturers" is a critical word.

In some cases, "refurbished" means rebuilt to factory specs and thoroughly tested. Much of the time, it means that if (and only if), the owner identified a problem, it got tested for that problem (only), and if a defect was found, they stopped looking for any other potential defects. For possibly the majority of "refurbishing", subsequent customers perform the "testing". The units are simply cosmetically cleaned and put in a new box. If you are really lucky, they might power it on just to confirm that the lights come on and maybe re-image the hard drive. If the next customer discovers a problem, it might get diagnosed and fixed, or it might get repackaged and reshipped again until it gets to a customer who isn't willing to deal with the return hassle.

I would buy a refurbished computer only directly from the original manufacturer or their designated refurbisher. The bottom line is that you want a computer that has been thoroughly tested and everything on it is known to work. If you can get one refurbished by the manufacturer, you are probably in good shape. Otherwise, I would take one thoroughly tested by a reputable local computer dealer over a "refurbished" one from a big box store or third party reseller.

Hey, thanks for the response, overwhelmed! If I explain my situation it may narrow down the possibilities an suggestions (apologies I could have done this before). I work for a large corporate and we're doing a hardware refresh meaning there are may be a number of Dell E4310's available. I get to see these as they come back from the users and they're all in good condition. As it's a corporate environment I won't (rather not) be able to take them with the OS as the licenses aren't transferable. SO, if the laptops are wiped ALL I'd need to do is reinstall an OS. Knowing the hardware I'm looking at I can install a 64bit version and I would like to be able to run a number of 64bit applications. Hence the idea behind buying Win 7 Pro 64bit. My dilemma, I've only ever had computers OS preinstalled or I've reinstalled via MDT/ SCCM so buying an OS to install on a blank laptop is not something I've done before. Working on a budget means I'd like to spend as little as possible BUT remain legal. Does that make answering my query easier? :)

It looks like the E4310 is a 32 bit Vista era laptop. Are you sure these are currently running a 64 bit version of Windows?

Do the computers get thoroughly tested before being wiped? If not, I wouldn't invest any significant money in one. These are old laptops in the worst possible environment (used by people who did not personally own them, and not every employee treats company property like their own). Even in the best circumstances, there would not be a lot of expected service life remaining. Add to that some being "rode hard and put away wet" and some possibly having defects if they are not rigorously tested; I wouldn't put a lot of value in the hardware unless I could be sure I was getting my own laptop, knew that I had treated it well, and that everything is working on it. If you can take the laptop at virtually no cost, you can weigh whether it is worth the price of buying a legit copy of Windows.

If you will be using the laptop just for stand-alone personal use, you won't need the Pro version of Windows. What that adds to the Home Premium version is related to running in a networked office environment, so there would be no benefit to you.

Again thanks for your insight, much appreciated. I haven't had to pay for it so as far as that's concerned any outlay is just going to be the budget on an OS. It is about as cosmetically as good as it's likely to get for its age that is no damage or scratches and still running fine, all hardware running as required, no driver issues at all. My research has seen several go on eBay installed with the 64bit Pro edition and although agreed they are not up to date they have i5 core processors and with a SATA III SSD drive and RAM maxed out won't be shabby as far as performance goes? In all honesty what I am after is the 64bit and Professional Ed functionality to run things like 64bit Powershell and not be held back by limits of the editions below the Pro edition all at a price which hasn't meant a remortgage :) Your thoughts?

I did some more checking and found E4310s being sold as 64 bit machines as well as 32 bit machines. I haven't previously seen a computer of a given model number have two versions of motherboards. If the processor is 64 bit enabled, maybe the motherboard is too. I'm not familiar with it. As a laptop, the RAM may be on a "daughter" card so even if the motherboard is dual mode, the RAM card would need to take 64 bit memory. Key question: is the maxed-out RAM 32 or 64 bit? If it is 32 bit, Windows won't be your only cost if you want a 64 bit machine.

It sounds like the laptops at your office have been enhanced--the hardware you describe isn't typical of an off-the-shelf unit. Not too shabby. An SSD drive is a real benefit because an old hard disk would be one of the big concerns for remaining service life. Why is the company replacing them? Preventive maintenance because they reached the end of their "book" service life? What version of windows is currently running on them? If they are running 64 bit Windows you're in good shape. If the current Windows version is 32 bit, you're not looking at a low budget resource.

There is a premium to buy the Pro version of Windows over the Home Premium version. I can't think of anything that won't run on the 64 bit Home Premium version except maybe some esoteric stuff intended for a networked environment. It's your money. I would look at the specs for all of the software I wanted to run to see if any of it requires the Pro version.

In terms of price, the legit Windows costs what it costs. You might find deals or sales where you save a little. Just shop around online at computer chains, office supply chains, Amazon, etc. MS Office has a "student" version at a lower price but with restrictions on license-related stuff. I don't know if there is a similar package for Windows, itself.

Thanks so much for your input, it's been really helpful :)

This website is not affiliated, owned, or endorsed by Microsoft Corporation. It is a member of the Microsoft Partner Program.