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What you can do with an old laptop or desktop computer

Do you have a laptop or desktop computer you don't use anymore? Maybe it got really slow or even stopped working altogether. It seems like everyone has at least one nowadays. I'm talking about the one in the garage or closet that's doing nothing but taking up space and collecting dust. Here are a few ideas on what you can do with an old computer, working or not.

A laptop and desktop computer ready for recycling
A laptop and desktop computer ready for recycling

What you can do with your old computer if it does work

Give it away

If your old computer is still working reasonably well, giving it to a family member or friend is a great idea. I recommend that you get all your data off of the computer and then create a new user with administrative privileges. Log off and then log back in as the new user and delete your original user profile. If you want to be sure your data cannot be recovered, run a disk defragmenter like Defraggler and then use CCleaner to wipe the free space.

Sell it

eBay and Craigslist can be great places to sell your old computer. If you have the original installation media or have made the recovery media, you can just reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows. Just make sure you securely erase all of your data first. If you don't have the original installation media, you can clean it up. Just like giving it away, create a new administrative user, log off, and back on as a new user. Then delete your old user account and uninstall any software you don't want going with the computer.

Donate it

As long as your old computer runs reasonably well, why not give it another life by donating it to your local school, church, or senior center. Or you can donate it to a non-profit organization like Goodwill and get a tax write-off. Either way, it will get reused. Just make sure you have or make the installation/recovery media, securely wipe the hard drive(s), and reinstall the operating system before donating it.

What you can do with your old computer if it does not work

Recycle it

Just tossing your old computer in the trash is a no-no. In fact, in some states, it's illegal. The materials used to construct it, like lead solder, can contaminate the ground in which it's buried. There are companies that will recycle the materials from your old computer. Just do a search for 'pc recycling' for a company in your area.

Part-it out

The odds are there are some parts of your old computer that can be reused. Here's a list of some of the components that could easily be reused:

Desktop computers
Hard Drives There are two types of hard drive interfaces, SATA (7 pin connection cable) and PATA (40 pin ribbon connection cable). SATA is the de facto standard and is supported by modem motherboards. You can easily add a SATA hard drive to a new desktop, provided you have a place to mount the drive in the case, a spare connection on the motherboard, and an extra power connection. PATA is a different story, as most motherboards nowadays do not support this type of hard drive. The best bet is to find an external enclosure for it and use it as an external hard drive.
CD/DVD Drives There are two types of CD/DVD interfaces, SATA (7 pin connection cable) and PATA (40 pin ribbon connection cable). SATA is the de facto standard and is supported by modem motherboards. You can easily add a SATA cd/dvd to a new desktop, provided you have a spare 5.25" expansion bay in the case, a spare connection on the motherboard, and an extra power connection. PATA is a different story, as most motherboards nowadays do not support this type of CD/DVD drive.
Memory Odds are any newer system will be running faster memory, and you won't be able to use it. But there may be someone who can. eBay or Craigslist would be a good place to sell it if you cannot use it yourself.
Expansion cards PCI, PCI-E, and PCI-X expansion cards can be reused if you have a spare slot on your motherboard and panel on the back of the case. Research the device first to find out if there is a driver for your operating system. With the change from 32-bit to 64-bit operating systems over the last few years, if the hardware has been discontinued, odds are there won't be a 64-bit driver for it.
Laptop computers
Hard Drives There are two types of hard drive interfaces, SATA (7-pin connection cable) and PATA (40 pin ribbon connection cable). SATA is the de facto standard and is supported by modem motherboards. Most laptops only have space for one hard drive internally. If your laptop does have a second hard drive bay, all you need is the hardware and cable to add it in. If your laptop doesn't have a second hard drive bay, you can always put it into a case and use it as an external hard drive.
Memory Odds are any newer system will be running faster memory, and you won't be able to use it. But there may be someone who can. eBay or Craigslist would be a good place to sell it if you cannot use it yourself.

How to tell if your hard drive is SATA or PATA
How to tell if your hard drive is SATA or PATA

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