Author Topic: Help me pick a MMM used computer!  (Read 717 times)


  • Handlebar Stache
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Help me pick a MMM used computer!
« on: February 01, 2018, 11:22:46 AM »
I'm looking to replace a very old, dying laptop that I use for business.

Things that I need:
- Windows 7 or above (I use several non-substitutable programs that are Windows 7+ only).
- Storage- above-mentioned programs are ~1GB. Everything else is either on the cloud or thumb drive.
- A million usb ports and the ability to handle 3+ of those going at the same time (barcode scanner, two different label printers, laser printer). This is where my current laptop totally fails- it will recognize one or two things at a time but never reliably. Switching out cords is possible for some tasks but not all. 
- Memory- I don't really know what I need here. The program that bogs down the most at the moment is gimp
- Desktop or laptop is fine. I have a monitor and possibly a keyboard around here already. I do have a non-electronics friendly production process so something that could be tucked away in a milk crate would be a big plus.

I started browsing around and was just overwhelmed by the options. Could some MMM experts give me some guidance?


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Help me pick a MMM used computer!
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2018, 11:53:56 AM »
Almost anything available will do the job power-wise.  The USB port requirement is the only real concern.

If you have no preference as far as laptop vs desktop, go with desktop.  They last longer and are actually upgradable down the road.

I'd go with Windows 10 over 7.  It's not perfect, but support for Win7 is ending in less than two years (Jan 2020).

This has six USB ports, four in the back, and two in the front:

If you need more than that, this guy has eight total:

If you need more than eight for your setup, you could always get an expansion card.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Help me pick a MMM used computer!
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2018, 12:12:43 PM »
These days, I normally recommend on the laptop end a Dell Latitude over a Lenovo Thinkpad, but for your situation specifically if you want a laptop and space savings and the need for greater USB ports, I'm popping into the Wayback Machine a bit.

Buy a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad T series (430/530 is the sweet spot feature/price wise currently), or Dell Latitude E series (The E5430/6430 models are the sweet spots here). US Micro has a good refurbish program, good prices, and decent warranty. Following these recommendations, you shouldn't have to spend more than $200-300 for a solid laptop built like a tank and easy to repair/upgrade.

Don't get too lost in processor speeds. Pretty much any 2-4 core i3/i5 will be plenty for most anyone. The biggest changes hasn't been so much processing speed as power consumption and battery life for some time now. There's some screaming multi-core processors out there, but they're not worth the premium given that all but specialty high-end applications and games don't need them to run. Even Windows 10 doesn't have much beefier system requirements (beyond RAM/graphics) than XP SP3 and Win7. Don't sweat it, and care more about how much RAM the thing has... that'll be the biggest performance booster. Aim for 4-8GB.

Maybe pay a bit more attention to processor speed these days post Meltdown/Specter patching. I'd also try and push you more towards the T430 due to it having UEFI over regular BIOS on the T420 now, but unless the system is actually set up and the OS installed using SecureBoot under UEFI, it won't do you much good (no refurbisher installs Windows in Secure Boot mode - so if you want this, you'll have to enable it in the BIOS yourself which is a small thing if you're planning to replace the hard drive with an SSD anyway).

The best go-to places for shopping for these things are US Micro, Arrow, and EPC. Aim for Windows 10 Pro as your OS.

Probably cheaper now, but I'd specifically steer you toward a Thinkpad T420/T520 or T430/T530 (even despite the lesser keyboard), or even an X220. Why? USB3/Thunderbolt docking stations stink, I've yet to see one work as well as the older docks, and overall I've seen more problems out of them than not. The older style proprietary docks work better, so older laptop it is, and of this proprietary dock era, I prefer Lenovo over Dell. Of the Lenovo docking stations, unless you wind up with a T430 with an Nvidia graphics chipset or a T530, the following docks should work for all the laptops in question:

ThinkPad Mini Dock Plus Series 3 (433810U)
ThinkPad Mini Dock Series 3 (433710U)

Find a dock with a good number of USB ports, and/or add a powered USB splitter to the thing. Shopping for used docks should be straight forward enough. If you don't need the ability to lock the laptop into the docking station, don't worry about getting one that has the keys so long as it's unlocked. Make sure it has a genuine 90W Lenovo power supply with it. When testing it, the laptop should click into place easily, and the eject button should be easy to press - if you have to force it or it's not making a good connection, you likely got a bad dock (it happens). Buy from sellers on Ebay who deal in off-lease computer parts and have multiples units of the same docking station for sale at the same time... just in case. And of course be prudent about who you buy from, but I can't recommend anyone in particular who does keep docking stations in stock all the time.

One last docking station tip if you go this route, make sure the laptop is on and Windows is booted up to the desktop first before you dock it for the very first time. Do not try to boot it from off on the docking station the first time, it won't work. Once the hardware is installed and recognized, you're fine and can boot from the dock after that, but not before.

If you want a desktop specifically, any Dell Optiplex that you find at a good price from the sellers I recommended and specs/form factor that look decent (Intel i5/i7 processors, probably aim for 8GB of RAM).

If you want an SSD with any of these things (laptop or desktop) given we're dealing with refurbs and mechanical drives, buy a sufficiently sized Intel, Samsung or Western Digital in a 2.5" form factor drive, install it yourself, and install Win10 fresh yourself as well. If you go desktop, you might need a 2.5" to 3.5" drive sled adapter as well. You can write the Windows 10 ISO to a USB drive using Rufus.