Why are desktop computers so cheap?

I recently bought a used desktop computer for what seemed like next to nothing. $240 for a machine more powerful than my much-more-expensive 2019 MacBook Pro, most notably due to its 32GB of RAM. Desktops have always been cheaper than equivalently powerful laptops, Windows computers cheaper than Macs, and used computers cheaper than new, so this isn’t totally shocking. But the extent of the difference still surprised me. For instance, buying a new desktop from Dell with similar specs to the used one I just got would cost $1399.

So why is the used discount so big right now? My guess is that its one more knock-on effect of work-from-home. Remote work has been the most persistent change from Covid, and there’s been a huge decline in the demand for office space, with occupancy rates still half of pre-Covid levels.

This means that offices are on sale relative to their pre-Covid prices. Office REITs are down 37% over the past year even after the Covid-induced drop of the previous two years. So it makes sense that all sorts of office equipment is on sale too. Offices tend to be full of employer-owned desktop computers, but when employees work from home they typically use their own machine or a company laptop. That means less demand for office desktops going forward, and a big overhang of existing office desktops that are being under-used. Employers realizing this may just sell them off cheap. Several things about the refurbished desktop I bought, such as its Windows Pro software, indicate that it used to be in an office.