What should I look for when buying a laptop?

Michael Torrie torriem at gmail.com
Sun Nov 29 07:46:34 MST 2015


On 11/28/2015 10:12 AM, Charles Curley wrote:
> On Sat, 28 Nov 2015 10:00:15 -0700
> Nicholas Stewart <nicholas4 at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
>> Thanks everyone for the advice!  I will definitely checkout Lenovo.
>> And I may have to increase my budget from $400 to something a bit
>> higher.
> 
> Alternatively, consider buying a refurbished machine. However, expect
> to buy a new battery (~~$100), more RAM (~~$100), and consider
> replacing the hard drive with an SSD. I bought two of my T61s used,
> and made those upgrades.

Just be careful buying used machines.  Most brand-name laptops (Dell,
Lenovo, Toshiba, etc) today come with tracking software in the BIOS (a
rootkit actually) that owners can use to track their laptops in the
event that they are stolen.  This is done through the services of a
company called CompuTrace.  Make sure that any used laptop you buy do
not computrace is enabled in the BIOS or EFI.  Once it's enabled, only
the CompuTrace company can disable it (remotely, running Windows). And
they'll require proof of legitimate purchase to disable it.  Once
computrace has been turned off you do have the option in the BIOS or EFI
of permanently disabling this if you choose.

I got bit by this once and the company that sold it to me was not very
helpful, except for assuring me it was not stolen (I have my doubts).
Since I put Linux on it, the computrace rootkit cannot run, so I didn't
do anything further, especially since computrace would have to have
Windows installed to be remotely deactivated.

The interesting thing about this rootkit is that even if you put in a
new hard drive and reinstall Windows, it will install itself and start
phoning home (if CompuTrace was activated).  Interesting concept but the
execution is poor, and the rootkit is easily defeated on Windows since
it's not very smart. I'm always surprised this little gem doesn't get a
whole lot more coverage.


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