As you know, Apple Care doesn’t cover all repairs. If your Mac is older than three years, was damaged, dropped, cracked, broken or had liquids spilled on it, Apple Care won’t fix it. New machines aside, let’s look at the following situation: Your three year old iBook is broken and you can’t afford a new one. What do you do?
Before we even get into the following subject, you must be competent and comfortable with computers. If the thought of taking apart a computer or laptop gives you nausea, find someone who knows what they are doing and give them some money to fix it. As always, the internet and its websites, while sources of information, are not responsible for what you do with it. Now, let’s continue on.
New Parts vs Used Parts:
Once you know what part(s) you need to fix your Mac, should you buy a new part or a used part? This really depends on the part itself and how old the computer is. New parts can get expensive, especially when its an older computer.
Always know the value of your computer before looking for parts. If your computer is worth much less than the cost of fixing it, you may want to put that money into a new model. For example, if your older iBook is worth about $250 in perfect condition, don’t spend $500 fixing it. If you are really strapped for money and only have $500, but you desperately need a computer right away, get either a used Mac or >gasp< a cheap PC.
With an older model, you want to look more at sourcing used parts. Its more difficult and expensive to find a new part. With a newer model, if it's not a warranty issue (dropped, spilled) consider a new part.
Note: When buying “new” parts (especially motherboards) from the manufacturer, more than likely the part will be refurbished. As long as it was tested and works, your refurbished part will be just as good as new.
Special case: Hard Drives
If you need a new hard drive for your computer, always buy new. First, you don’t know what condition the drive is in if used – it could fail right away or years later. Remember, your data is the most valuable part of your Mac. Second, a new replacement drive is inexpensive and has a good chance of being larger and faster than your original.
Sources for New Parts:
My favorite place to shop online for parts is New Egg. They have an incredible selection and great prices. Don’t even think of buying memory or hard drives elsewhere. The only downside to New Egg is that you are more than likely looking for Apple parts.
iFixit.com has a great selection of iBook, MacBook, PowerBook, MacBookPro and even iPod parts. They even publish iFixit guides with complete part replacement instructions.
Note: If you are even thinking about repairing an iMac, don’t. The special tools, training and skill required isn’t worth it. Take it to a reputable repair shop or locate one. Especially with the newer iMacs. You do not want a simple repair (hard drive) to turn into much more (cracked screen).
Getting to know your local independent computer repair center is a good thing. Some of them may be able to sell you parts. If they won’t sell you new parts, they may be able to salvage used parts, like a junkyard will for automobiles, and sell them to you.
Sources for Used Parts:
While independent computer shops / repair centers are a great source of parts, they aren’t the only game out there. Ebay, CraigsList and local classifieds are also great sources for parts.
Ebay is probably the best place to find used parts. Without geographic restrictions, you have a wider area to source parts. Often you can get a decent deal, especially with older, used parts. A word to the wise about Ebay though – Beware of product descriptions and research the seller. I had a very bad experience with the seller of a Gateway motherboard.
Craigslist or local classifieds is sometimes a good place to find a broken Mac for parts. Craigslist even offers RSS feeds to subscribe to the listings you are looking for. As with Ebay, be careful of what you are buying. In my experience, most listings with local classifieds are priced outrageously for older computers. (Especially laptops). It doesn’t hurt to look though, you might get lucky.
Independent Computer Shops are also a great source of either parts, or refurbished computers. Most are PC-centric but a good computer shop won’t discriminate. Many of them offer buyback when you get a new computer through them. They in turn will sell the used computer or use it for parts. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, I have has good experiences with Springboard Media.
When you have your parts and are ready to begin your repair, don’t forget the iFixit Guide for your Mac’s model. They are well written and very helpful. Good Luck!