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Scrounging for bargains at CompUSA

Hardware deals appeared scant, but a stroll through the aisles in downtown SF reveal plenty of cheap software, including heavily discounted Windows and Office.

With the CompUSA liquidation in full swing, some of the deals at closing stores have started to get quite interesting.

A cage full of Vista and Office copies--all 40 percent off. Ina Fried/CNET

The hardware was not necessarily much of a bargain. During a recent stroll through the downtown San Francisco store, I found desktops and notebooks discounted 20 percent, and in many cases there was only a well-used demo model for sale. There were also printers (some new in boxes and some demo machines), but I suspect one can get a PC or printer for a better price just by shopping the weekend circulars.

The real bargains were in the software area. While PCs and printers get used, scuffed, and outdated sitting on store shelves, software stays pretty much the same inside its nearly empty box.

Included among the Vista copies were several of the Bill Gates-signed limited edition Ultimate version. Ina Fried/CNET

There were many varieties of Office 2007 as well as many flavors of Windows Vista--all for 40 percent off. There was even a stack of the special Bill Gates-signed limited edition version of Vista Ultimate. On the Office front, there was everything from Office Ultimate for the Home and Student to copies of individual programs such as Word and OneNote.

On the Mac side, there were only a couple of demo Macs--and those were just 15 percent off. However, there were copies of .Mac for 40 percent off the standard $99 price as well as the chance to get AppleCare extended warranties for half the usual price. For those who happen to need a MagSafe power adapter, there was a basket of those located several paces from the now-abandoned Apple Shop.

There wasn't a ton of pro software on either the Mac or PC side, though I did notice several copies of Final Cut Studio 2 in one of the cages.

There weren't many Apple accessories, but they did have a bunch of MagSafe power adapters. Ina Fried/CNET

Speaking of cables, there was also a section that seemed like the dregs from the repair shop featuring a ton of power bricks, cords, and remote controls. It's not for everyone, but if you've been missing a cord and don't mind rummaging, there might be something up your alley.

It's worth noting that not all of the CompUSA stores are closing for good. Systemax acquired the CompUSA name and plans to keep open up to 16 of the stores, also rebranding some of its TigerDirect retail stores with the CompUSA name.

If the business of liquidating stores is a science, with its practitioners knowing just when to drop the discounts a little further, buying from such sales is an art. I'm sure there are plenty of artists out there. What was your best find?