Buying factory refurbished equipment is a great way to get a bargain on an otherwise expensive item. Many companies buy their equipment exclusively as refurbished. When many people think of the term "refurbished" they think of old, used, torn apart, rebuilt equipment. However, that is not generally the case at all when it comes to electronics!
Basically, an electronics item can be classified as refurbished if it meets ANY of the following criteria:
Customer Return - Most major retailers have a 30-day return policy for their products and many consumers, for whatever reason, return products within that time period. These are fully functioning items, that are the same as new, but because the box has been opened they must be sold as refurbished. Most of the time, if there is nothing wrong with the product, stores will just reduce the price and resell it as an open box special. However, if there is some sort of defect present in the product, many stores have agreements to return the product to the manufacturer were it is inspected and/or repaired, and then repackaged for sale as a refurbished item.
Shipping Damage - Many times, packages can get damaged in shipping, whether due to mishandling, the elements, or other factors. In most cases the product in the package may be perfectly fine, but the retailer has the option to return the damaged boxes (who wants to put a damaged on box on the shelf?) to the manufacturer for full credit. The manufacturer, then, is obligated to inspect the products and repackage them in new boxes for sale. However, they cannot be sold as new products, so they are relabeled as refurbished units.
Cosmetic Damage - Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a product may have a scratch, dent, or other form of cosmetic damage that does not affect the performance of the unit. The manufacturer has two choices; to sell the unit with it cosmetic damage visible or fix the damage by placing the internal components into a new cabinet or casing. Either way, the product qualifies as refurbished, as the internal mechanisms that may be unaffected by the cosmetic damaged are still checked.
Demonstration Units - Although, at the store level, most retailers sell their old demos off the floor, some manufacturers will take them back, inspect and/or repair them, if needed, and send them back out as refurbished units for sale. This may also apply to demo units used by the manufacturer at trade shows, returned by product reviewers, and internal office use.
Defect During Production - In any assembly line production process, a specific component can show up as defective because a faulty processing chip, power supply, disc loading mechanism, or other factor. Most of the time, this is caught before the product leaves the factory, however, defects can show up after the product hits store shelves. As a result of customer returns, inoperative demos, and excessive product breakdowns within the warranty period of a specific element in the product, a manufacturer may "recall" a product from a specific batch or production run that exhibits the same defect. When this occurs, the manufacturer can repair all the defective units and send them back out to retailers as refurbished units for sale.
The Box Was Merely Opened - Although, technically, there is no issue here other than the box was opened and was sent back to the manufacturer for repacking (or repacked by the retailer), the product is still classifies refurbished, because it was repacked, even though no refurbishing has occurred.
Overstock Items - Most of the time, if a retailer has an overstock of a particular item they simply reduce the price and put the item on sale or clearance. However, sometimes, when a manufacturer introduces a new model, it will "collect" the remaining stock of the older models still on store shelves and redistribute them to specific retailers for quick sale. In this case, the item can be sold either as "a special purchase" or can be labeled as refurbished.
What does this mean to the consumer?
Basically, when an electronic product is shipped back to the manufacturer, for whatever reason, where it is inspected, restored to original specification (if needed), tested and/or repackaged for resale, the item can no longer sold as "new", but can only be sold as "refurbished". Therefore you can get a great machine at a reduced price!