Microsoft Refurbisher experience

I ended up with enough semi-retired computers that I enrolled in the Microsoft Refurbisher program.  
The obvious motivation is to be able to turn around an XP machine with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and to be able to sell them at market prices by getting the operating system for around $30 each.

Now that I'm on board, I see there's this RPK package at 3 price points from around $200 to $400 depending on what you choose.  I'm not planning to launch into anything but small numbers of computers - so I ask the question.  This isn't a main stream activity.

And, I see that the RPK requires a Windows Server operating system - which I don't have.  I guess I could start with one of the 180-day installs.  I have plenty of computers....

Anyway all that seems to be more of an investment than I had expected at this stage.  So, is the RPK really necessary?  I can read the contents but what I need to know is practical experience.
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAsked:
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Gary PattersonVP Technology / Senior Consultant Commented:
RPK is not required to do refurbs, and you can't use it to deply Win 8.0 and 8.1  

But if that level of spending is a barrier, then I'd say you're probably not a good candidate for the program.  You'd be talking about such a small volume that it probably isn't worth fooling with, if you ask me.
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
Gary Patterson:  Thank you.  Well the "business" in that context is "in the margin" of other things.  So, if it adds to better customer experiences and takes minimal resources then there's an incremental benefit.  The volume is small because it doesn't happen often.  But when it happens there should be a "formula" that makes sense.
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Gary PattersonVP Technology / Senior Consultant Commented:
Just some food for thought - you, of course, know your business and customers.  I'm just speaking in generalities.

And of course, I have no idea about your background.  Have you done volume imaging of systems before?

Based on my experience, refurbishing PCs on a small scale is a lousy business.  Even on a small scale it can be time consuming and labor-intensive - with tools or without tools.  I just don't think you'll find it to be a very productive or profitable activity.  

It gets profitable when you can scale it and do dozens or hundreds of systems in one pass.  And if you're going to do that, you're going to want good tools.

If you don't plan on developing this into a profitable operation, why not just partner with a refurbisher who can do it for your customers?  Maybe you make a few bucks in the middle, provide the service, but don't have to set up infrastructure, endure the learning curve, and incur the costs.  If volumes get to the place where it makes economic sense to set yourself up as a refurbisher, then you do it - but now you have adequate flow of systems through the business for it to make economic sense, and a reasonable expectation that your investment in tools, learning and infrastructure is going to pay off.  

And in the meantime, you offload a task that is expensive to do on a low volume basis, still provide refurbishment services (indirectly) to your customers, and you don't have to invest a bunch of time and effort in learning a business you don't currently plan to actually operate on any scale.

That sounds to me like a formula that makes sense.

If you don't plan to make this a profit center, I'd suggest you also ask yourself if your time would be better spent on higher-reward activities.  Like developing new technical skills, acquiring new technical certifications, or acquiring new customers, as opposed to schlepping around a few pieces of old equipment in order to make slim margins - or even lose money once you've assigned a reasonable value to your time.

But you didn't come here asking for business advice.  So here's my thought:  

Even if you're just going to do a few dozen systems a year, RPK is worth the money - if you put any $ value on time. That is, assuming, of course, that you don't already have a good toolset in place for cleaning, imaging, and testing in place already.

Hope that helps.
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
Yes.  That makes a ton of sense and it does help.  I normally say: "We don't sell computers".  And that's made perfect sense for a long time.  Some of my competition does sell computers and I have always wondered why they do it and how they could generate any reasonable margins.
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
Thanks!
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