What Will You Do With Your Old Computer?

by Aaron Wright Apr 25, 2007

A recent article on Gizmondo UK regarding Apple being a not-so-Green company, as awarded by Greenpeace, got me thinking about what we, the users of these state-of-the-art pieces of technology, do when the technology needs to be replaced by something a little more advanced.

Anyone reading Apple Matters will surely know what I mean. How many times in the past ten years have you replaced your household computer with something that holds a little more “oomph?” It’s not something you should be ashamed to admit: once, twice, maybe even three times? I’ve replaced the household computer three times now within the past decade. The first was a Windows ME PC purchased from Tiny Computer, now Time UK, which replaced a Windows 95 beast of a machine (well, it was then). The Windows ME PC was then replaced almost 7 years later by a computer I built myself which ran Windows XP and is still working perfectly now. However, two years ago I decided to replace the household PC once more, with an iMac G5.

Now I technically have two household PCs up and running, but what about the other two machines I mentioned? The very first one was eventually chucked into the trash chute and never seen again—something that I now regret as it hasn’t done any good to the environment. After a coincidental reading of the above article from Gizmondo and a separate discussion with my mother over what to do with the Tiny Computer PC, I’m now having second thoughts about just “throwing” that one away too—so what do I do with it?

The real question should be what do we all do with our old and no longer used computers that are sitting around the household collecting dust?

Unfortunately I know an awful lot of people who are willing to just throw their machines in the bin, not giving a second thought about what it will do to the environment, and this is something that really has to stop.

Instead of throwing it away, how about doing something similar but with a little more thought, such as recycling?

Earth 911 has said that of all the 20 million computers made obsolete back in 1998, only 15% of them were recycled! The National Safety Council is suggesting that around 63 million computers are now currently obsolete, with a further 600 million computers stored elsewhere—if statistics stay the same as they did in 1998, only 90 million out of the 600 million computers will be recycled, with the rest probably being thrown away and causing more damage to our beautiful planet via the toxic cocktail of substances such as lead, mercury, and arsenic which are found in most computers. If you’re considering simply throwing your computer away, please think again and recycle it instead. (Source: Norman Transcript)

If your computer is still running nicely you could always make some money back on it by selling it through services like Ebay, a car boot sale, or an advertisement in your local paper. Chances are you won’t make much but anything is better than nothing. A state-of-the-art computer back in 2005 could catch somewhere near the $300 mark, but the price you sell it at will obviously depend on how well you’ve looked after it and how much you’ve used it.

If you’re not up for selling it, you could always pass it on to charity and let them put it to good use. Unfortunately not every family in the United States can afford a computer, but buying one on the cheap from a charity shop will not only help them out but will also have the money put to good use. It might also be worth noting at this point that should you sell your computer or pass it onto charity, make sure you completely wipe your hard drive, or preferably replace it with a new one of the same specifications—the last thing you want is your personal details in someone else’s hands.

Of course, you could always recondition your old machine and put it to good use at home, for those who just can’t let their first love go. I know of a few friends who like to use their old computers as central servers, either as a dedicated server for their gaming sessions or as a cheap alternative to a hub/router; however, the other factor you have to put into consideration, should you opt for this, is the amount of power that will be used to keep the machine alive—global warming, anyone?

When it comes to getting rid of your old computer you really do have a number of options to choose from, but please let’s all stay away from the “I’ll just throw it in the bin” method. This past Sunday was Earth Day, which over the past thirty years has aimed to make more people in the United States and Canada aware of their environment by suggesting better ways of removing old products from the household while also teaching about pollution risks that smaller items such as decorator’s paint and aerosols cause.

So to anyone out there who is planning to get rid of an old computer within the coming weeks, how will you go about it? Have you put any thought into throwing it away or are you already on board with recycling? How about those that have already parted ways with their old computers: in what way did you go about it?

Hopefully within a few years’ time we can all say that the 600 million unused computers in our homes were all recycled safely.


  • I’ll tell you what I do with old computers.. I let them sit around sucking electricity and running Stanford University’s [email protected] software.. so even though they may not be useful to me, they’re doing something useful..

    Xapplimatic had this to say on Apr 25, 2007 Posts: 15
  • What?  You mean you all don’t have a closet full of old CPU’s worthy of a computer museum?  Am I the only one?

    On a related note, I got my orginal Apple //c from 1984 signed by Woz last week. It still boots! (though the floppies are starting to degrade)

    vb_baysider had this to say on Apr 25, 2007 Posts: 243
  • MacGlee you opinion is based on what because they dare to critize our beloved company? Sometimes I really wonder what it is with your Apple fan boys. They make great computers yes but is their anything remotely green in this apple? no. Please keep it real. Just think about the ipod (which I love) and its not removable battery for sec. See there you go wasn’t too hard wink

    baramuro had this to say on Apr 25, 2007 Posts: 5
  • baramuro,
    If you look at various articles around the internet, you’ll find that Greenpeace has mis-handled their fact and figures to target Apple. Apple actually isn’t any less green than HP, Dell or others in the industry, but Greenpeace is attacking Apple because Apple gets the most press these days.

    I think MacGlee’s difficulty with Greenpeace is that they’re biasing their “facts” against Apple for the purposes of PR, rather than examining Apple’s true environmental record.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Apr 26, 2007 Posts: 243
  • ps—Which I also know isn’t perfect, but I’m trying to put in perspective their singling out Apple over the rest of the industry.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Apr 26, 2007 Posts: 243
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