Last Updated: January 11, 2022
Many of us have old electronics put away in our attics for various reasons: old age, malfunctioning software, older hardware, insufficient specs, etc. Countless computers and other pieces of electronic equipment become obsolete in the span of just several years. Yet, what to do with old computers remains a mystery to many. This article addresses this issue.
Computer Usage Statistics
In recent decades, computer usage has become increasingly important in our society. We use computers to look for jobs, gather information, and take part in public discourse.
- In 2019, around half of private households globally were thought to have at least one computer at home. In developed countries, PC ownership was close to 80%, and a third of households were estimated to have a PC.
- In 2020, the percentage of individuals who have access to computers in developed countries rose to nearly 90%.
What matters when considering what to do with computers is how durable they are. In 2021, there will be many different types of computers, but the most durable one to date is thought to be the Dell Latitude 5420 Rugged Business laptop. This line from Dell was specifically designed to endure harsh conditions, including drops, humidity, water, dust, and extreme heat.
When buying a computer, it can be challenging to determine its durability. Therefore the best option is to opt for a business laptop rather than a consumer one.
Regardless of how durable your computer is, each has an expiration date because its parts have an expected lifetime. Still, the most common reason for computer breakdown is human error. So at one point or another, a computer owner will need to consider computer disposal.
The moving parts in a computer are more likely to give out earlier than the rest. When age is the issue, early warning signs include slowing down and extra noise. The actual ‘break’ typically occurs after a crash or when you try to turn on the computer in the morning.
|NOTE: 96% of computer users have reported experiencing a computer breakdown.|
What to Do With Old Computers That Work
Most computer users end up replacing an old machine in favor of a shiny new one, often with better specs. But is an old computer of any use? Yes. There are many things you can do with your old computer, especially if it’s still functioning properly. For example, consider the following four usages.
Donate It to Charity
If your computer isn’t too archaic, you can donate it to charity. Many nonprofits accept old, functional computers and send them to underdeveloped countries—provided that their specifications are high enough.
Environmental activists argue that donations of computers are an excellent way to reduce the ‘digital divide’—the economic, educational, and social inequality between those who have computers and Internet access and those who do not. In addition, families without a computer would greatly benefit from a donation in this technology-driven age.
You can also donate your old computer to a local school (or hospital), where it could be used in a computer lab or as a testbed for students to take apart and reassemble.
Gift It to a Relative or Friend
If you have an old PC that’s functional, you can ask around to see if friends or family members need one. Your old PC might be insufficient for your needs, but it could benefit someone who needs it.
You could gift your computer to a nephew, for example, who can use it for school research, writing projects, and doing homework.
Old computers are an excellent gift for elderly users, such as a parent or grandparent. Computers for seniors don’t need to have high specs or fancy features. Instead, the elderly have relatively moderate needs that include, for example, Facebook, email, or basic web browsing. Old PCs are perfect for these basic tasks.
Regardless of whether you give your old PC to a nephew or your grandparents, bear in mind that you will likely become the go-to person for tech support. To avoid confusion that comes with modern technology, it’s best to make sure you get rid of the little idiosyncrasies from the equation—install a simple system and teach your nephew or grandparents how to use email and surf the web.
But before disposing of old laptops—whether you’re giving them away to nonprofits or relatives—erase the hard drive and reinstall the operating system from scratch. This will ensure that any sensitive information you might have on your devices will not be misused by the new user.
Not everyone can afford a new PC. There are always those looking for a second-hand computer on eBay or a second PC for their family. Your old PC might be just the right thing they need, at the right price.
All you need are a few good pictures of your old PC and list its technical specifications. Make sure you highlight what your old machine can and cannot do to avoid misleading potential buyers.
Additionally, many tech-savvy individuals—willing to pay good money—know precisely what to do with their oldies and are specifically looking for older machines online. Some collectors gather specific ‘vintage’ types of older hardware from the 80s and early 90s.
Convert It to a Home Server
Turning your old PC into a file server is an excellent idea if you know your way around computers. Reconfigure your old computer to act as shared storage for the electronic devices you have in your home or as a repository for automatic PC backups. Because it’s working solely as a storage space, you won’t need a monitor, speakers, or a mouse. (It’s one of the cool things to do with old computers.)
A term that is often thrown around when discussing converting an old PC to a home server is NAS. which stands for Network Attached Storage. It refers to a set of hard drives connected to a network that allows all devices in the household to have access to them.
Home servers can perform more tasks than just store data; they can download files and stream media to all devices. But because NAS devices have improved over time to include more functionality, the terms are now used almost interchangeably.
What’s great about NAS? First, it gives you complete control over the security of your data and gives every computer in the home access to all your music, photo, and video libraries. What’s more, you can find it online for free, and you won’t have to consider computer disposal options. (You can also convert your old PC into a server via the Ubuntu server edition.)
|NOTE: You must delete all sensitive information from your old PC. If you’re not sure about wiping a hard drive properly, you can employ hard drive wipe software. This will erase data in such a way as never to be retrieved.|
What to Do With Your Old Computer That Doesn’t Work
Just because your old PC doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that it’s completely useless. For example, consider the three following usages for your old computer that doesn’t work.
Experiment With It
Nowadays, the tech-savvy prefer building their own PCs. It’s a cost-effective and customizable solution that ensures you have a computer that perfectly meets your needs.
If you’re building a new PC, then some parts of the old PC might come in handy and reduce the cost of a new system. For example, the power supply, optical drive, and (sometimes) memory modules are parts that can often be salvaged.
Depending on how many parts you keep, the line between an upgrade and a new machine can become hazy. But it doesn’t matter if you keep the graphic card and get a new motherboard, as long as the older hardware is functional and works for you.
There are other things to do with an old computer that no longer works. If you’re not financially ready to buy new parts, you can use your old PC to learn how computers are built and what it takes to build a new one. You can take it apart and put it back together, and try to figure out what works and what doesn’t and why. The learning experience is always worth it.
If your hard drive still works, you can turn it into an external hard drive to store photos, videos, and documents. Be sure to learn how to clone a hard drive before you start experimenting with it.
Sell the Parts That Work
Even if your computer doesn’t work, you can still get some cash from the parts that do. While most repair shops buy computers that are functional, fix the common issues, and resell or donate them, some shops could take your non-functional computer for a small price and use the functional part(s) to make a whole PC.
There’s no guarantee that they’ll be willing to pay for the parts, but it will take the old PC off your hands. What’s more, they know how to dispose of old computers safely.
If you can’t find a store that would pay for old parts, you can try selling the components online. Many big organizations (like Apple) and small ones are willing to buy a PC if they think they can use the components.
Dispose of It Safely
If your PC is too old and its components are not salvageable, the only option you have left is to get rid of it. But don’t simply throw it away. Most PCs are made of hazardous materials that are bad for the environment and don’t belong in landfills.
Your old PC also contains sensitive information, such as account numbers, license keys, passwords, resignation numbers, medical information, tax returns, and other personal documents.
Before getting rid of old computers, make sure that you save all the data you need. You can then delete sensitive information by wiping the hard drive, ensuring that your information won’t end up being used by identity thieves.
If you have used your computer for business purposes, you’ll need to check with your employers about managing the information on it. Some laws require that specific data security protocols are followed when deleting work-related data.
Once you take care of the data, you’ll need to consider recycling options. Recycling computers is the only way to ensure that your old machine doesn’t end up in a landfill. Ask around about local electronic recyclers. Many electronic stores, non-profit organizations, and computer manufacturers have recycling or donation programs.
|One of the best things you can do with an old PC is to donate it or give it to a friend or relative.|
|If you want to put it to good use, you can turn it into a home server.|
|Old PCs can prove to be convenient storage spaces.|
|You can salvage functional parts of your old PC and save some money when building a new one.|
|Always recycle. Computers contain hazardous materials that can be dangerous to the environment.|
Old PCs can have many uses, especially if they’re in good working condition. Not all computers have to have quad-core systems and high-end graphics to be put to good use.
If you have an old computer that’s still functional, you can turn it into a home server or sell it. You can also gift it to a friend or relative or donate it to charity.
If your old PC no longer works, you can use some of the functional components to build a new PC, sell them to someone, or simply get rid of it. But remember to always recycle old computers—avoid throwing them away.
The easiest way to recycle an old PC is to take it to a local retailer with a computer recycling program. Additionally, most computer manufacturers offer take-back recycling. (You can find more information on your manufacturer’s website.) Another option is to look for non-profits that can give you some pointers or recycling options.
Most communities have a place for electronic equipment disposal, which is typically connected to recycling organizations or a municipal sanitary landfill. You’ll need to do your research, though. There might be limited hours, and some states have laws that dictate what to do with old computers that you wish to throw away.
No. Old electronics are full of toxins that could damage the environment, such as cadmium, arsenic, and lead, which do not belong in a landfill. The best option is to recycle—but don’t forget to scrap your sensitive information before getting rid of your old PC.