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What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying Used Computer Software?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Buying used computer software can have a number of advantages and disadvantages, some of which may be unforeseen. One of the major advantages to such software is that it is typically cheaper, sometimes a great deal cheaper, than buying new software. Sometimes programs may be out of print and are no longer available, at which point buying the software used may be the only way to acquire it. There are some downsides to buying used computer software, such as the fact that the software may not have a valid license needed to actually use it, that such software may be sold or purchased illegally, and that the software could be damaged or corrupted and unusable.

Used computer software typically refers to any type of software program on a physical media, such as a compact disc (CD), purchased through resale. This means that such a program was previously owned by someone else, who is then reselling the software. One of the biggest advantages to purchasing such used computer software is that the resale price is often cheaper than the original retail price. This difference in cost can be quite noteworthy, as used software may cost less than half of the original price.

Older pieces of computer software may be out of print, which means they are no longer being produced or made available by the company that originally released the program. This means that such programs can only be found as used computer software. Reliable resellers who deal in used software can often be a valuable asset for those interested in finding old or rare computer programs.

Buying used computer software does have some downsides, however, which should be carefully considered by anyone interested in such software. These programs might have licenses or terms of use that prohibit reselling the software under certain terms. This means that buying or selling such programs used may actually be illegal, or may at least constitute a violation of the license provided with the program.

Many software programs require a key or code that must be entered during installation of the software, to validate the installation. These keys can sometimes only be valid for a single use, and require Internet authentication, which could make these keys unusable when purchased as used software. This means such a purchase would be a waste of money and a new key or copy of the software would need to be purchased. Used computer software can also potentially be damaged by a previous user, and the new purchaser may not be able to get a replacement as easily as someone purchasing the program from a retailer or from the manufacturer.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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