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Is it appropriate to ask if I can buy a company's laptop for my personal use? Our code of conduct says that use of the company's resources for personal use should be limited and not interfere with our business, but I haven't found any relevant information for this case where I want to acquire company equipment (old or new) for personal use.

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    If you buy a company's resource then it is your resource and not the company's resource anymore, so your code of conduct doesn't apply. – gnasher729 Mar 13 '15 at 13:12
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    The code of conduct may still apply to the purchase transaction, though (i.e. fair price) – MSalters Mar 13 '15 at 13:33
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    What are you really worried about here? If they don't want to sell you a company laptop, they'll say "no" ... I don't really "get" what the question is, or why you're asking. – HopelessN00b Mar 13 '15 at 13:46
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    Are you planning on using the laptop for personal use in addition to business use? If so, you should ask your company about whether you could do that - some businesses may be against it. – DoubleDouble Mar 13 '15 at 14:50
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    Payment in Kind May be an issue. Depends on jurisdiction. Where I'm from it's the case that for an old (but not written-off) deprecated asset: valueAtTimeOfSaleToEmployee - priceSoldToEmployee = taxable, or for a new asset purchasePrice - priceSoldToEmployee = taxable. – Nathan Cooper Mar 13 '15 at 19:51
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Of course this may vary with company culture, but in in general it is not uncommon for employees to buy (or even receive for free) old company equipment.

Our code of conduct says that company's resource for personnal use should be limited and not interfere with our business

That should not be relevant in your case; you're not planning to use a resource belonging to the company, you're planning to buy it.

Nicely asking about buying the laptop seems perfectly ok to me. However, the company may have a blanket policy against this (for whatever reason), so be prepared to be told "no". Also, some companies lease their equipment, so it may not even be theirs to sell or give away.

Finally, some specific notes about old computers:

  • Many companies will remove (and possibly destroy) hard drives or SSDs when retiring a computer, to avoid data leaks. Technically, running a special deletion program is enough, but some companies feel this to be less secure or more work.
  • The computer will probably not come with a Windows OS license, even if it ran Windows previously (since most companies use volume licensing).
  • The company may retain accessories (docking station, extra batteries, power adapter) to use with other computers of the same model.
  • The company will most likely not give you any type of warranty. Take that into account when deciding whether they charge a fair price.

So even if they agree to sell/give away the computer, you may need to buy some stuff to be able to use it, or it may not be worth it depending on the price they ask.

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    "running a special deletion program is enough" Maybe, maybe not. The only deletion code that has sufficient access to clean the disk is the on-drive implementation of the "Secure Erase" command. So if that implementation is bug-free, software erasure is possible. – Ben Voigt Mar 13 '15 at 15:36
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    The licencing situation is more complex than outlined here in fact. For example many machines come with Windows licences (it's often cheaper to buy them that way, even in bulk) but the software installed on the machine might be a different version (7/8/8.1) or build (home/professional). That still might be ok as many Microsoft licences permit staff to use the software at home too. In practice it's rarely a problem, unless you want to wipe & reinstall the software for some reason. – James Snell Mar 13 '15 at 20:45
  • @BenVoigt: Yes, that's what I was referring to. There's a nice overview on security.s.e: How can I reliably erase all information on a hard drive? - but that's not really relevant here, as it is not OP's decision to make. – sleske Mar 14 '15 at 19:13
  • @JamesSnell: "unless you want to wipe & reinstall the software" As I explained, the company will almost certainly wipe the system, or even destroy the HDD or SSD. So you probably will have to re-install Windows from scratch. – sleske Jun 16 '15 at 10:40
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I think you are conflating two different things.

First you want to purchase hardware from your company. Different companies have different policies around this. For most industries - I would expect that if you were to purchase used equipment from your company they would run a multipass delete over the harddrive prior to the sale. You will receive a computer and will need to purchase software(including an OS and any Office programs you would like to use.)

Honestly - most of the companies that sell their used hardware that I know of overcharge for things like laptops and desktops. By the time they are at a point where they would be 'retired' (prepared to be sold) they're going to be out of date hardware wise and you will get a much nicer computer by buying a new computer. A 2 year old 'top of the line 2 years ago' laptop is, at best, comparable to a mid to low level laptop today. Plus a new laptop won't have been banged around, spilled on, etc for the last couple of years. Finally you'll get a warranty with a new device. A used device will come as is.

But I think your real problem lies with "Our code of conduct says that use of the company's resources for personal use should be limited and not interfere with our business" It sounds like what you want to do is purchase your current computer and use it for personal business along with for business purposes. Thats really the only reason why I would understand your desire to purchase a laptop from your company. From this there's probably some things to clarify.

Most companies are unwilling to allow personally owned devices to be used for business purposes. If you purchase a laptop from your company you will have 2 laptops - the assigned business laptop and the purchased personal laptop. This is because companies like to control what has access to their data, network and infrastructure. This is for both business and compliance reasons.

The standard 'Do not use your work laptop for personal use' also comes from this desire for security. Typically, in my experience as IT and as a Developer, companies put that warning in their code of conduct for 2 reasons:

1) If they ever want to fire you and need a reason they'll see you were asking questions on StackExchange(or whatever) and ding you for using the laptop for personal purposes. This is pretty uncommon in my experience.

2) The second reason is for the safety and security of their networks, hardware and infrastructure. If you got to www.totallynotavirus.com/virus_download.html and then plug into their network you could be a vector for data loss or breach. Folks on this board my or may not remember the ILOVEYOU worm. 50 million infections in the first 10 days it was released and over 10 billion dollars to clean up in the US alone. Folks would get an email with the subject 'ILOVEYOU' and an attached VBS script would auto run and infect their computer. Emails worms aren't as popular now days (the last big one I remember was in 2007) but the recent data breaches at large companies(Target, PSN, etc) show that there are a lot of dangers on the web for companies with sensitive data. The want you to not use your work computer for personal use to help mitigate these risks.

At the end of the day you'd probably be better off buying a non-work computer for your personal business. Additionally very few companies really care if you do some Amazon shopping on your work laptop(or hang out on StackExchange) now and again. However 'adult' or risky activities should absolutely not be done on company equipment. Delicately discuss with your coworkers and peers the reality of the personal use clause in your company.

  • "It sounds like what you want to do is purchase your current computer and use it for personal business along with for business purposes". No, this is not my intention. I just want a personal laptop (but I might want to use it to work from home instead of carrying the company's laptop). In our company, nothing prevents us from copying company's data in an USB key, take it home, and then do whatever you want to do with it. We have other policies to protect our data. I'd like to buy one of the company's laptop because they are the best business machines available. – Brainless Mar 17 '15 at 15:01
  • "I just want a personal laptop (but I might want to use it to work from home instead of carrying the company's laptop)." There is nothing physically preventing you from transferring files on a USB drive this is true. You will probably find that the restrictions and consequences of doing so are much greater than occasionally using your laptop for personal business. That being said, if you like the machines your company uses - go buy one. I'm still a bit in the dark about the benefits you perceive will come from purchasing one from your company. – Nahkki Mar 17 '15 at 16:00
  • "There is nothing physically preventing you from transferring files on a USB drive this is true. You will probably find that the restrictions and consequences of doing so are much greater than occasionally using your laptop for personal business. " I couldn't agree more. I hope that purchasing a laptop from my company will be cheaper than buying it elsewhere, and since I live in China, I will be guaranteed it's not a fake. Those are the only reasons. – Brainless Mar 17 '15 at 16:18
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Sleske has addressed buying of old equipment - however you mention "old or new" in your question.

Typically, a company will not let employees own equipment intended for you to use as part of your job - especially IT equipment. Companies want control, and computers fraught with security risks. Even if you were allowed to use personal equipment, it would likely be under severe restrictions in terms of what software would be allowed on the computer.

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