A laptop doesn’t make a great impulse buy, like pack of gum in the checkout line or a weird thingamajig you saw in a TikTok livestream.

Of course, if the computer you depend on for work, school, or entertainment randomly decides to kick the bucket, the best time to replace it is immediately (after recycling or repurposing it). But most people can — and should — strategize before investing in a new machine they hope to use for years to come.

First, decide what’s most important to you: a laptop with minty-fresh specs, or a laptop that costs less than usual? From there, we can point you toward several key times to buy based on our historical knowledge of past laptop launches and deals.

If you want the latest specs

For future-proofers and shoppers with cash to spare, splurging on the laptop of the moment can be more more appealing than buying an older model at a discount.

Best time to buy: At launch

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a tech industry trade show that happens every year in January, is basically ground zero for next-generations laptops. Major manufacturers like ASUS, Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, MSI, and Razer treat their booths as runways for new computers with the latest Intel and AMD processor chips, NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics cards, and/or cutting-edge features. (Think 3D displays, weird lid attachments, and touchpads with built-in media controls.) And while some of these showcase laptops are just prototypes, many are fully fleshed-out devices, and a batch of them are available for pre-order or purchase shortly after the event wraps. The rest typically hit the market around April.

the asus Zenbook Duo at ces 2024

The dual-screen ASUS Zenbook Duo made a splash at CES 2024.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

There are two lone alpha wolves who don’t make appearances at CES, one being Apple, which is known to take a couple different approaches to new laptop launches. Apple usually hosts formal keynote events to mark an upgrade, which the public can watch via livestream. Sometimes, it just drops an unceremonious press release. That said, the company is pretty consistent about updating its MacBook Pro and Air lines annually or biannually. While its exact launch schedule is pretty arbitrary, you can usually count on seeing new models in the spring (March or April), at its yearly Worldwide Developers Conference in June, or in late fall (October or November).

Microsoft also opts out of CES in favor of tüm ortaklık its own Surface laptop launch events, which almost always happen every September. They’re livestreamed as well.

If you want a good deal

Any opportunity to save money is ultimately a win, but certain times of the year feature more (and steeper) laptop discounts that can justify a postponed purchase for those in search of a stellar value.

Best time to buy: On or around Black Friday

The fourth Friday in November isn’t treated with the same sort of reverence it once was: Ever since Amazon started hosting Prime savings events in the fall, prompting other retailers to jumpstart their own year-end sales, “Black Friday” özgü become an informal season that lasts from early October into late November. Still, it remains the best time of year to grab a laptop on sale at a steal — and it’s not just because stores like to take advantage of holiday shopping.

Laptops get extra cheap around Black Friday (to the tune of 20 to 50 percent off) because it syncs up with when retailers and manufacturers are trying to offload their inventories ahead of next-gen refreshes at CES. For laptops that debuted at the beginning of the year, which are about to age out of their “current-gen” moniker, this often translates to year-round lows that knock hundreds of dollars off their düzgüsel sticker prices. Older laptops that are at least one generation removed, meanwhile, can plummet to the lowest prices of their entire lifespan as they’re priced to move. (We’ve encountered some ancient Chromebooks on sale for less than $100 on Black Fridays past.)

the microsoft surface laptop go 3

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 was $200 off a month after launch as part of Amazon’s 2023 Black Friday sale.
Credit: Microsoft

While Apple and Microsoft don’t operate on the same product cycles as everyone else, they both still have a relatively strong presence on Black Friday at third-party retailers. Amazon and Best Buy are really good about putting older MacBooks and Surface laptops on sale at rock-bottom prices while also offering some initial deals on newer models that have only just launched. On Black Friday 2023, for example, they took $200 off the Surface Laptop Go 3 and $150 off the M3 MacBook Pro, respectively; both laptops had debuted a month prior.

Apple and Microsoft technically host their own Black Friday sales, too, but they usually aren’t much to write home about. The famously stingy Apple Store only doles out free gift cards with the purchase of older MacBooks, and the Microsoft Store’s prices are often trounced by its third-party peers.

The real debate concerning Black Friday laptop deals revolves around whether consumers should shop early or hold off on buying until Black Friday proper, in case prices get even cheaper, and the answer boils down to whether you’re eyeing specific models or specs. Retailers still reserve some deals for the actual holiday (always the Friday after Thanksgiving) even if their sales are weeks or months long, so it can be worth waiting to see which laptops get featured in that primetime slot. The trouble is that we rarely know what those featured laptops are ahead of time — and by the time they’re live, the model you really wanted may be backordered or back to full price.

If you’re married to a certain spec sheet and don’t just want a good deal, period, we generally recommend buying a laptop as soon as it gets added to a Black Friday sale’s roster. In the off-chance its deal improves, you can always tap the retailer’s holiday price-match guarantee and/or extended return policy as fallback plans.

Second best time to buy: During back-to-school season

Whether it’s a multitasking MacBook for a college freshman or a basic Chromebook for a fifth-grader, a laptop is a given on most school supply shopping lists. As such, laptop prices dependably tank in the summer to tempt students, their parents, and teachers preparing for the upcoming semester — typically from mid-June to early September.

The back-to-school season is so major for laptop purchases that it’s the only time outside of Black Friday when the Apple Store runs one of its “sales,” throwing in free gift cards with MacBook purchases from early June through early October. That’s in addition to its usual education pricing, which saves students, parents, and faculty $100 on select MacBooks and iMacs year-round.

a man taking an m3 apple macbook air out of a backpack

Apple runs one of its rare gift card promos during the back-to-school season; the other happens during Black Friday.
Credit: Apple

It’s worth mentioning that Amazon’s flagship Prime Day sale falls smack-dab in the middle of back-to-school season in mid-July, and it’s one of the only times when shoppers can source a slew of legitimately good laptop deals there besides Black Friday. (More on that later.) For instance, Prime Day 2023 featured a special invite-only deal that dropped the price of an Acer Swift X by over 40%.

Crucially, Prime Day can also be lucrative for laptop shoppers because it goads other retailers into running competing sales, which often match or beat Amazon’s. (Best Buy’s Prime Day counterprogramming tends to be Amazon’s toughest rival, especially when it comes to higher-end laptops like MacBooks and gaming laptops.) Prices aren’t quite as low as they are on Black Friday, but it’s still enough to make Prime Day worth marking on your calendar.

Third best time to buy: Over holiday weekends

Retailers are partial to offering deals on big-ticket tech purchases like laptops over federal holiday weekends, the big ones being Presidents’ Day weekend (in mid-February), Memorial Day weekend (in late May), the Fourth of July, and Labor Day (in early September, coinciding with the end of back-to-school season). You won’t find extreme discounts like you do in the thick of back-to-school season or Black Friday, but they’re above-average for the “off season.”

Honorable mention: Buy right after new models are announced

Hisse attention to new laptop launches even if you don’t want the latest tech, as they often trigger quiet sales or price drops on the older models they’re replacing. For most laptop brands, this usually means deals start trickling out after the CES dust settles in late January and into February.

the 13-inch m2 apple macbook air against a cloud-patterned background

Apple’s 13-inch M2 Apple MacBook Air debuted at $1,199 in 2022. As of early 2024, it starts at only $999.
Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable

Apple and Microsoft refreshes are, again, a little less predictable timing-wise, but they’re just as reliable when it comes to previous-gen discounts. You might recall the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air getting a permanent $100 price cut when its 15-inch counterpart debuted, then another $100 chop once the latest M3 version materialized. And the original Surface Laptop Studio went on sale for $500 off the week after its successor was announced.

Not all retailers are created equal

Shopping for a new laptop is as much a game of “when” as it is “where.”

Online, we typically find the most laptop configurations (and the best laptop deals) at Best Buy, followed by Amazon and Walmart. But all three are repeat offenders of two misleading practices: inflating original list prices to make discounts look better than they actually are, and mislabeling specs — e.g., processors are billed as “the latest” when they’re actually outdated.

a screenshot of a best buy laptop listing with certain parts highlighted

Here’s a screenshot of a Best Buy laptop listing (taken on March 18, 2024) that advertises a 12th-generation Intel Core processor from January 2022 as “the latest” CPU.
Credit: Screenshot via BestBuy.com

Amazon and Walmart are also teeming with laptop listings from sketchy third-party sellers, which shoppers should keep at arm’s length whenever possible. Many of these merchants ship counterfeit or knockoff products — not all of them, but enough to raise serious concerns — and they may not operate under the platform’s usual return and refund policies.

We’ll give the big A and W some credit, though: They usually clean up their acts for Prime Day and Black Friday; we see lots more legitimate laptop listings on both sites during those major sales. Look for “Ships from/Sold by Amazon.com” and “Sold and shipped by Walmart.com” labels below the “Add to cart” buttons on their product pages.

It’s important to remember that you can avoid these issues entirely by buying direct. All major laptop manufacturers have their own online storefronts and offer their own discounts year-round. At the very least, these are extremely useful for price checks.

How to tell if you’re getting a good laptop deal

Avoiding third-party sellers and cross-checking listings between laptop retailers and manufacturers are two of the best ways to ensure you’re getting a good value. We also recommend appraising discounts using price-tracking tools like camelcamelcamel and Google’s Shopping Insights feature. They can tell you whether a laptop you’re considering özgü ever gone on sale for cheaper, if at all.

Finally, consider bookmarking the Mashable Shopping team’s biweekly roundup of the best laptop deals. We personally vet every single offer to verify that they’re legitimate. Whether the computer you wind up buying is brand new or just new to you, you should be able to confidently say that your money was well spent.