Buying cheap/used computer, shipped to or within Japan. Advice needed.

I have a couple of friends whose birthdays are coming up, and neither one of them has a computer. I’d like to explore some cheap options of getting them basic setups. Is there any way I can get a setup (monitors, speakers, etc) that doesn’t totally suck for $100-200? Is it cheaper to buy parts and put them together yourself? I know how to install a hard drive and RAM and CD drives and such, at least in a desktop. I’ve never done that with a laptop.

This wouldn’t be a gaming PC or anything, just something that wouldn’t take forever to boot up, connect to the internet, play music and such.

Also, can a system run with no internal HD? I have a spare external that connects to a USB port. I assume it’s the same, but since I’ve never tried doing that I thought I’d ask.

The other problem here is that I’m in Japan, so if I do need something shipped it’s going to jack up the price. Not outside the realm of possibility, but a wrinkle in the plan.

My friends and I bought a few cheap laptops when we were in Japan - around 20,000 yen each IIRC. We found them in classified magazines like Tokyo Classified - basically a guy who would buy old laptops, install software on them and sell them on. They worked fine and there were no problems.

I’m not very knowledgeable about putting computers together, but as far as I remember the advice from everyone was the same - that there are so many cheap computer parts available in Japan (well, Tokyo) that having stuff shipped in wasn’t worth the hassle. If you’re in or near Toyko I’m sure you could pick up a couple of cheap laptops easily enough. There’s a couple of useful sites you can get some advice from, if you haven’t already - gaijinpot and Dave’s ESL Cafe.

If you head down to Akihabara you can find practically anything you want. If you’re too far from the Tokyo area for that to be practical, then mudkicker’s suggestions are best. Getting a computer shipped from overseas is generally a bad idea. It adds a lot to the costs, and there’s no guarantee that you wouldn’t get hit with some kind of import duties. You’d have to do some research to be sure.

I’ve gotten hit with some weird injunctions before. Did you know that a heart rate monitor that people use for cardio training is considered a medical device that you need a license to import? Yeah, that was a waste of over $20 each way in shipping costs for something I couldn’t even use because they turned it back in customs.

Check out the used computer section at Yamada Denki in Hachinohe. Sometimes there are good deals. There’s another decent electric shop in Hachinohe near the Big Donkey restaurant, but I forgot the name. I almost bought a used laptop but Citibank declined the charge for no good reason. Bah!

I got my old desktop at some used computer store in soto-kanda, near akihabara. There were lots of shops with computers lying around in bins. I bought a monitor separately since most of the units at the shops really sucked. I remember paying around 12000 yen for them (Around 1.5 years back), they were barebones dell units. I gave them away to needy friends.

You might want to check out some shops in Shinjuku area too.