I'd rather buy any laptop without the hard drive. Most likely they reduced the price to reflect that, AND I would've already ended up buying a newer/better hard drive to replace it anyway.
Originally Posted by yaba-
can a laptop be used without an operating system - until one can be acquired
"A laptop is not usable unless you have some sort of user interface to utilize the components" would be my answer to that. Which, like carnage said, there are free and pay-for alternative user interfaces (operating systems/recovery environments/etc.) that you can use, sure. Those would require to be loaded onto, like you said, either a flash drive and/or CD.