Do you have a few older computers in your possession? Some of these computers may be entirely broken and others may be working but are not the latest, preferred model.
In either case, these items can be donated or disposed of safely — often in ways that either benefit you or benefit someone else in your community.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Do with Old Broken Computers and Laptops
- What to Do with Old Computers and Laptops that Still Work
- How to Dispose of an Old Computer if it Cannot Be Donated or Sold
Maybe you feel overwhelmed after inheriting a house full of stuff. If so, getting rid of old computers can be a good place to start. Here are some great ideas for clearing out old technological clutter and putting old parts to new uses.
What to Do with Old Broken Computers and Laptops
Older, broken computers and laptops may not let you check email or type up work reports anymore but they still have useful components. Here are some things to do with your older computers and laptops that are no longer functional if you don’t intend to fix them.
1. Use dual monitors if the display works
Some computers may not function but their monitor or display is still functional. Many people who work on computers enjoy the experience of using a second monitor.
Most operating systems allow you to configure the second monitor so it’s not just a duplicate of your original screen. You could have a reference document open on one screen, for instance, while you type an email on the other screen. This doesn’t get rid of the rest of the broken computer, but it does give the screen portion a new life.
2. Turn an old hard drive into an external hard drive
You can harvest a hard drive out of an older computer and make use of it again. You may be able to recover old documents or photos from the hard drive as well, or you can have it completely wiped to allow for future storage.
Turning a broken computer’s functional hard drive into an external hard drive may be a good option.
3. Donate to the local school’s computer science teacher
Most high school computer science classes want to be able to use an older-generation computer. That way, they can freely poke around without worrying that they will break it.
Students who want to learn how to repair computers might practice on an old computer. They may harvest parts out of it to add to their custom-built computers.
4. Try selling parts to a computer repair or rebuild shop
Many communities have a repair shop where computer experts can fix common issues or send computers away for major repairs. These stores sometimes also buy computers that are overall non-functional but have functional parts.
You may not get much cash for these items. However, selling them does declutter your home, and they may be willing to give you advice about discarding the rest of the computer safely. They may even take the whole thing off your hands and use it to fix other computers in the future.
5. Sell it for cash online
There are many organizations online that can buy back a computer if they can see a future use for its components. This includes smaller companies as well as big manufacturers like Apple.
This option may be best if your computer is non-functional because of a single break or recent problem. Newer computer models are the best fit for an online reseller.
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6. Find a good e-cycling location near you
Sustainable Electronics offers a directory of places near you that can recycle sustainably. The company may reuse the many precious metals and items that are inside even the least functional computer.
E-Cycling Central also has a database that can help you learn more about the things to look for in a recycler as well.
What to Do with Old Computers and Laptops that Still Work
Sometimes you’ll have a need for greater speed or capacity and get a new laptop or computer before your old one actually stops working. You also might also clean out an elderly parent's house and come across a functional but non-used computer.
Here are some ways to get rid of functional laptops and computers and put them to good use.
7. Donate to a friend or family member without a computer or laptop
Losing your computer can result in an in-between time when you need a computer but haven’t had time to save up for a new one.
If you have a friend or family member who currently or doesn’t have a computer, consider donating your old one to them.
8. Donate to an after school program without a computer budget
Many children in kindergarten through high school have computer time during the school day. However, if their homework requires computer access and their families don’t have one, they can fall behind. After school programs that serve low-income children might welcome a functional laptop or computer.
They might want the computer to be reset to have full control over the computer’s software and storage before they can use it. See if the program has any particular stipulations on this type of donation. Just a quick call to an organization in your area like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America could help you be a positive influence on children in your community.
9. Donate to national or international computer distribution charities
Organizations like the World Computer Exchange or the National Cristina Foundation will take a functional, but not fancy, computer and find a new person to use it somewhere around the world. The National Cristina Foundation donates to adults living with disabilities.
The World Computer Exchange uses donations to make it less expensive to get computers into people’s hands all over the world. They help children all over the world understand what a computer can do to give them opportunities.
These organizations may have local chapters, but these large companies often also have websites listings where you can mail your computer.
How to Dispose of an Old Computer if it Cannot Be Donated or Sold
Computers that aren’t salvageable or able to be donated or sold can still be recycled properly. Since computers contain hazardous materials that shouldn’t be placed in landfills, here’s how to dispose of an old computer safely.
Have it evaluated locally or online
There are at least two reasons to have a professional check out your computer first: one is to wipe or destroy anything that could contain personal information, and the other is to evaluate whether any part of the computer is worth selling as parts.
A local computer repair shop may be able to help you with the part of the process or you can work with an online computer components recycling company.
If you recycle it, ask how before tossing it in the trash
One of the easiest ways to recycle a computer is to look into the company that produced it. That company may have a program where it will either pay shipping for you to send it the broken, non-functional computer or they will at least take it back for free to make use of it as long as you foot the shipping bill.
If you choose to recycle your own computer, make sure you contact your own local health or sanitation department to learn how they prefer for you to dispose of hazardous waste.
Some tech-related stores like Best Buy accept a limited number of electronics to recycle. Computers may or may not be one of those items but consider them if your local trash service charges money to recycle computers.
Give Old Computers New Life
You can take the time to evaluate your computers and see what is really functional and non-functional about them. When you do this, you can discover a world of new uses. Make it your New Year’s Resolution idea to get rid of computers you know you won’t use.
You may be able to repurpose the computer in your own home for something like storing important documents. You can also donate it to a deserving individual or send it somewhere else in the world through a charity program. The longer you extend your computer’s useful life, the more environmentally friendly you’ll be.
Ready to start end-of-life planning and getting more aspects of your affairs in order? Try Cake’s many tools and resources.
- “Disposing of Old Computers.” Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information. FTC.gov. consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0010-disposing-old-computers.