What do I do with my old computer?
January 14, 2005 2:01 PM   Subscribe

I got a new computer. What do I do with my old one?

Specs: 733MHz Celeron, 64 MB Sync DRAM, 20 GB hard drive, 48x CD-ROM, 56 k modem, one 3.5 inch disk drive, Windows ME. Kinda virusy and slow.

I’d like to donate it to some worthy cause. I assume it’s good practice to reformat the hard drive, right? Any other advice?
posted by MrMoonPie to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
Get a receipt, take a deduction? I gave some old hardware and some filing cabinets to these folks who are doing great work. Though the equipment was junk to me, it was perfect for them since all they use it for is to keep a database of parts on hand and a member mailing list.
posted by fixedgear at 2:13 PM on January 14, 2005

That would be an upgrade for me. Care to meet?
posted by grateful at 2:15 PM on January 14, 2005

Before it leaves your home go beyond reformatting, wipe the disk. This involves passing over it many times to make sure the data cannot be resurrect after the fact. A simple reformat won't erase the data. You can find free versions via Google.
posted by sled at 2:16 PM on January 14, 2005

Where I live, most everyone donates their old computer equipment to Free Geek. Anything like that where you are?
posted by Specklet at 2:25 PM on January 14, 2005

Here's a nice and free tool to wipe your disk.

I usually turn old machines into web/email boxes and then give them to needy causes (charities, group homes, etc), but I used my last box to act as a router/firewall for the house. If you don't have a router/firewall already, you might want to try that.
posted by Jairus at 2:27 PM on January 14, 2005

Following-up on Specklet's suggestion how about freecycle? grateful you might what you are looking for there.
posted by mlis at 2:33 PM on January 14, 2005

let me try that again - freecycle.
posted by mlis at 2:49 PM on January 14, 2005

Many municipalities make it easy to donate and recycle old machines. There is a great organization in Canada, ReBoot and I know they have chapters in the U.S.

If you don't want to invest too much time into disposing of your computer consider calling your local school. If they don't need your old computer, they may pass it on to a kid who does.

No matter how old a machine is, parts of it can be recycled. And keeping it out of a landfill is a very good thing.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:51 PM on January 14, 2005

I can't recall if I heard it on the radio or read it on the web, but I did encounter a news item recently about how many "computer recycle" operations actually wind up being horrible polluters. Apparently a lot of them take the computers to Asia (or sell them to middlemen wo do) where they are molten down for certain materials in extremely toxic and unsafe conditions. Putting it into a landfill whole might very well be better than dipping the motherboard in hot mercury out in a rice paddy somewhere, then washing the whole deal off a river with a garden hose, just to get $3 worth of nickel. Seriously, the accounts were frightening.

I don't know what the answer to this is, but yeah, if it is still usable, I think getting the most possible use out of it would be a good idea. I keep a second computer around just to do long-running or processor intensive stuff like video encoding, P2P downloads, etc. I'm sure a school or library wouldn't turn it down.

Good luck!
posted by scarabic at 3:00 PM on January 14, 2005

I just got rid of some stuff on craig's list - there's a free stuff area and people will come get it from you.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:38 PM on January 14, 2005

scarabic, there's an article about that in this month's Harpers.

Try your local literacy organization. They'll probably know of a few deserving GED students or others who could really use it for word processing.

However, the people receiving the donation and the person they'll give it to will probably be clueless about computers, so make it easy for them. Make sure it's working as well as you can make it work--no viruses! Throw in some anti-virus freeware. Throw in any freeware you might think is useful/cool/fun.

Tape a note to the case with the specs and a brief description that a computer illiterate person can understand. Suggest possible uses and note any limitations. If you can box it all up and put another copy of the note with a picture on the outside, even better.

You might find that your targeted donee has been frustrated with donated computers in the past and will decline your offer. If that happens, leave the box with the note in your alley and it will be gone in an hour.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:48 PM on January 14, 2005

I just made an old Blue and White G3 into an Music server.
It's nice to have a single place to put all my MP3s and be able to remotely control them (with applescripts - whee!).
I'm sure you could do something similar with that PC.
posted by milovoo at 3:51 PM on January 14, 2005

scarabic, there's an article about that in this month's Harpers.

Yes, that was it. The "diagram" feature this month.
posted by scarabic at 4:12 PM on January 14, 2005

Best answer: I've prepped machines for donation. The hard drive is wiped with autoclave, then they get whatever OS they came with, OpenOffice, Firefox, JustZipIt free unzip utility, AVG free antivirus, Spybot and Adobe Reader version 5, which make it a pretty useful tool. The install files for the OS and applications go on the drive. The machine is tagged with its specs, i.e. Pentium II, 400 mhz, 4 gig hard drive, 128 meg RAM, 24x CD-ROM, NIC, modem, and a disclaimer that no warrantee at all is provided.

Machines that are too crappy to be donated get the drive wiped and any useful parts stripped; those usually go into donor machines to make them more useful. There is a per pc , per monitor charge to recycle computer equipment. Manufacturing and disposing of pcs is toxic, so it's good to keep it in use as long as possible.

If the logisitics work, grateful can earn his name {insert smiley} and you get a free karma upgrade.
posted by theora55 at 6:56 PM on January 14, 2005

Donate it to your favorite nonprofit or charity. Write it off. Pat yourself on the back next April 15th.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:16 PM on January 14, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, theora55 (and others). I'm doing all that now. I want to donate the cmputer for the tax deduction, and I'm still not sure to whom. But the machine will be in good shape when I do.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:22 AM on January 16, 2005

You can only deduct a gift to charity if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A. If you use the standard deduction, you're out of luck deducting gifts to charity. More precisely, if the value of your donation is less then the standard deduction, you should take the standard deduction.

Only donations to certain charities are deductible. For example, donations to social or sports clubs are not deductible (Form 1040 Instructions, page A-5). See Publication 526 for all the details about charitable contributions.

Former IRS Tax Examiner
posted by Fat Guy at 2:16 PM on January 23, 2005

Response by poster: Following up....

I'm giving my autoclaved computer to these guys. Sorry, grateful, but we need the tax deduction. I'm an active member of the local FreeCycle group, and I got the reference from them.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:05 AM on February 3, 2005

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