Posted on: October 11, 2006 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 17

Do you have an old computer that is collecting dust in your basement? Maybe you’ve upgraded since, or maybe you’ve inherited an old machine from one of you relatives. Perhaps you picked up an old laptop at a garage sale that you never actually found a use for. Many of us are the same, with old devices unnecessarily filling up our basements and closets.

It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll find a use for an old computer eventually. The truth is, though, you’re likely never going to be able to bring yourself to do anything with it. If this is you, here’s how you can clear out that clutter and get rid of your old computers.

1. Make sure it isn’t useless.

In our consumerist society, it is too easy to just trash something and move on. Try to avoid getting rid of that old computer if you don’t have to. There are numerous things that your old computer can be used for if it still has some life left.

If it still boots up but runs slowly, consider upgrading it with some new RAM or a lighter operating system to speed it up and make it usable again.

If it’s still usable but you have no use for it, give it to someone that can use it, like a student or child. Many schools will accept machines for computer technology classes in which students are taught how to take apart and repair computers.

Check around locally to see if there are any donation programs that give old computers to a good cause!

Note: Before giving your computer to anybody, be sure to wipe any data that you may have left behind that could be used against you. Continue reading to learn how to protect yourself before doing anything with your old computer.

2. Tear it down for parts.

If that old computer doesn’t boot up, your computer is likely broken. This doesn’t mean the whole machine is junk, however. A computer is made up of several components and it won’t run if one or more of those components is faulty. This means some of those computer parts are actually still perfectly usable!

Do some research to learn the components of your computer so you can figure out what parts might be salvageable. The hard drive, motherboard, RAM, the graphics or network card, the power supply, or even the tower case itself may be in good shape.

If those parts still work, why not use them? If you have several units, you can likely Frankenstein together a machine that will work.

There is some risk involved though, so make sure you know what you are doing before you open up the tower. Remove the power supply carefully and make sure that any capacitors are discharged before you begin. You don’t want to give yourself a nasty shock!

3. Sell it to a computer shop.

If you’re not comfortable with working on a computer, many independent computer repair shops will take that old computer off of your hands to use for spare parts. These shops are able to provide affordable repairs because of the amount of parts they are able to refurbish.

You likely won’t get a lot of money for your broken computers, but $20 is better than the zero dollars you would get back for dumping it! On a side note, you should avoid dumping your old computer in the trash. The next solution will tell you why.

4. Don’t throw it in the trash, recycle it.

If you’ve decided that there really is no use for any part of that computer, you should realize that you shouldn’t simply throw it into your trashcan. It may seem like the easiest solution, but the landfill where most of your trash ends up is no place for electronic waste. Electronic waste, or e-waste, is full of dangerous chemicals and heavy metals that can leech out and damage surrounding water supplies and animal life.

The best option for e-waste is to drop it off at a recycling facility that is equipped to deal with it. Some retailers will have receptacles to accept your e-waste, which they then bring to the recycling facilities for you. A quick Google search will help you to find a nearby place where you can dispose of that computer quickly and safely. Don’t harm others with inconsiderate dumping!

5. Don’t forget to wipe the data!

Before you get rid of any computer, or any device in which you’ve stored personal data, be sure to wipe the memory. Evil individuals often prey on individuals who have forgotten this step. Old computers often contain bank or credit card information, social security numbers, or account login information. It doesn’t take much for a person with bad intentions to steal an identity and wipe out a bank account or max out a credit card.

Protect yourself by wiping that hard drive clean. Simply reformatting a disk does not completely remove the data that’s on it. Erasing the data on the disk does not actually get rid of it: the disk needs to be rewritten with new information overtop of the old data. To perform this stage properly you will need to visit a hard drive refurbishing centre that you trust, or do it yourself with software designed specifically to wipe data.

If you have high-level information such as banking information or worse stored on a hard drive, your best option is to visit the refurbishing centre. If it is mid to low-level information that you are looking to erase, software such as “Active © KillDisk” and “Softpedia DP Wiper” are free and effective methods.

Always make sure that you really do want to get rid of that old computer before following through with it. If it still works, and you look hard enough, there is likely still a use for that old machine. If you do decide that your best option is just to get rid of it, look into selling it to a computer parts store. Otherwise, you need to recycle it. Whatever you decide to do with your old computer, be safe and make sure that it does not contain any personal data. You don’t want your old computer to fall into the wrong hands if you have personal information stored on it!

17 People reacted on this

  1. 1. Go to your local college around finals time.
    2. Charge $1/swing at your old computer (the smaller the computer, the smaller the instrument of destruction should be); advertise this as stress relief.
    3. Make a little money. Have college kids adore you for letting them give in to their destructive nature.

  2. install linux. this will save the cost of buying a new computer. linux will run as good as or better than anything you can buy on a new computer.

  3. For allmost irrevocable hard disk destruction, another usefull thing to do that may be easier than total hammer-inflicted destruction, do the following:
    1: Use a file shredding utility to destroy the most sensitive files you have. These should includew autofill indexes from broswers, accounting software, the like.
    2: Remove the disk and open it. Take the platters and drag (as in, surface contact) magnets across them. Use neodymium rare earth magnets for maximum effect. Do this as much as you like, but scratches in the platter are a good indication that you’ve gone far enough.
    3: Take a pad of steel wool or similar and scrub the platter, as you would a stubbourn peice of grime in saucepan. Do this untill the surface is thoroughly gouged.
    4: Dump the hard disk in with your houshold garbage.

    There. Not much chance of data recovery now.

  4. I concur with wilburforce. Several friends and relatives have asked me, over the years, for advice on upgrading their old, useless PCs and have been amazed to learn that they’re only old and useless if you’re running Windows. I’m sitting here happily running the current version of Mepis Linux on a 6 year old sub-1GHz PC, not because I can’t afford to upgrade, but because there’s *nothing* I need to do that I can’t do on it.

  5. Use old disk drives as door stoppers. Stack them and put a shelf across for a book case. pave a path to your door.

    If you take it apart, you can use the platters as mirrors, but be
    careful of the magnet – do not place it on metal, place it on a
    wooden table and bring the metal towards it – and keep your fingers

  6. Computers have usefull parts for building siple robots and other devises, but do be carfull wheen removing good parts you could hert your self, leave the power box for at least a few days the capasitors can hold the carge for a long time. the most usefull parts I have found are capasitors. you sould wash your hands after handaling the borads and reserch the safe ways to get the goods. dont say I have not warned you. an easyer way would be to donate the computer to an museam.

  7. i just thought of this and it could be fun open the computer’s casing and smash away with a mallet(wear goggles) or drop it from an unused factory building to the parking lot or from atop a lighthouse onto a boulder 😀

  8. hmmmmmmmmmmm… after much thaught i came up with something very very interesting. put the disk into a wood shredder then in the blender then put the shards in a bag and hammer away then drive over it.

  9. Never, ever, EVER throw a computer away unless the motherboard is fried. If you’re tossing a PC because it’s slow, install Linux on it (Debian Linux works well with old PCs). Windows is poorly designed and is the prime reason we see five-year-old Dells and Gateways in the dump already–Windows outdates PCs. Use your old computer for e-mail, word processing, or give it to a kid–or a geek. Geeks LOVE any computer!

  10. There are many good uses of an old computer. For example, open the case of your old computer and place a raw fish inside. Your new raw fish computer will be much faster than anything onthe market today…WOW! Another use would be useing the cd rom drive as a extendable cup holder! How about entering the computer in an illegal puerto rican pit bull fight… I would put my bet on the old computer any day. I also hear old computers make perfect salad shooters, all you need to do is stuff your fresh uncut veggies in the holes in the back, like your audio jack and usb ports, along with your cooling fan holes, and Voila! out of the floppy drive come fresh salad cut to perfection!! I hope this helps anyone with an old computer!

    best regards, Josh

  11. Give the computer to your Grandma, Grandpa, or any older person you know, and tell them it is something you found at the Antique Road Show.

  12. I got relic in the closet. It’s a Phoenix 8088 with a whopping 640K or ram. Sad thing compared to new electronic equipment, it still works. Give your old comp to someone too cheap to buy one. I found a 500 PIII in a dumpster with drives and cards worked fine and they didn’t even wipe the drive either. Too bad there wern’t any scandalous photos stored on it.

  13. *** does everybody want to install linux! it sucks i used it and uninstalled it im using ubuntu now and its ****! vista is gr8 and i mean it ive had no problem with and my buisness has upgraded to it after crashing off the server every 2 hours with mandriva! (linux) seriously xp it or get os X!

  14. If you have a few PCs you need to get rid of (and you are in the UK) you can use the Remploy e-Cycle service. They will help you re-sell, re-use or recycle your old computers.

    Remploy works with disabled people to help them find sustainable employment and economic independence, so by taking advantage of our e-cycle service, you’ll be helping both the environment and other people.

  15. If you have a few PCs you need to get rid of (and you are in the UK) you can use the Remploy e-Cycle service. They will help you re-sell, re-use or recycle your old computers.

    Remploy works with disabled people to help them find sustainable employment and economic independence, so by taking advantage of our e-cycle service, you’ll be helping both the environment and other people.

    You can find out more at

  16. Try Cash For Laptops. They have been around for 7 years and many times they give you a better offer than the competitor sites. The process is much faster and easier than using ebay or craigslist also.

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