After the excitement of buying a new computer wears off, you're left to figure out what to do with your old computer. Sell it? Reuse it? Recycle it? Follow along as we look at your options.
When upgrading your computer, you might have to make a lot of decisions along the way: Mac or PC? Laptop or desktop? Budget or performance? But one decision you can easily put off until after you've completed your purchase is this: What to do with your old computer? It turns out that computers, not unlike a carpenters hammer, have multiple uses well beyond their original purpose. You can do a lot with an old computer, even if it's no longer in working order. From finding a use for it around the house, to selling or even recycling it, there's sure to be a use for it that fits your needs.
Reuse your old computer
It's simple to reuse an older computer for tasks such as storing important backups or sharing media files and documents. You can enable file sharing to use the older PC as a central document storage location, or you can turn it into a media hub for your home. Imagine, for example, storing all of the family's music on one computer and having access to it from any PC or device.
Windows users can share files between computers, even if some of them are running different operating systems. Alas, the instructions vary, but just follow the Windows Sharing link in the reference section below and select your operating system to get step-by-step directions directly from Microsoft on how to enable file sharing.
Have a Mac? Set up sharing settings by opening System Preferences, clicking on "Sharing," and checking the box next to "File Sharing." From here you can select which folders to share across your local network, set the password required to access the folders.
Another option: If you "wipe" all of your personal information from the computer, you can give it to a child, spouse, or parent. Old computers are a great way to introduce a newbie to computers without spending much -- or any -- money.
Resell your old computer
To help offset the cost of purchasing a new computer, you can always try to sell your old machine. Web sites such as Craigslist and eBay both offer avenues for you to turn your old computer into cash.
When selling on Craigslist you'll have to be prepared to meet potential buyers in person, preferably somewhere public, and deal with enthusiastic negotiators. Don't list your computer for your bottom taking price. You will undoubtedly be asked to drop the price, or perhaps even to trade for another item or service. The higher you list an item, the more negotiating room you'll have when the time comes.
Popular auction site eBay makes it easy to sell almost anything to the highest bidder. Ensure you have some clear photos and a complete description of the PC before listing it on eBay. Include all of the details that you would want to know if you were looking to buy a used computer: Hard drive size, processor speed, the year it was purchased, and so forth.
These sites are also a great place to gauge the current going price for your computer. You can search for a similar model on either site, see the price at which recent auctions have ended, or what current Craigslist ads are asking for. It's a great idea to base your asking price on that.
If you'd rather avoid the potential hassle of bargaining on Craigslist and don't want to worry about the final selling price on eBay, consider trading-in the old PC. Sites like Amazon, eBay and Gazelle (Apple products only) will allow you to trade old electronics in for either cash, or a gift card to the respective stores.
Fill out the required forms on any of the trade-in friendly sites and view the offer. If you're happy with the amount presented, follow the rest of the instructions to send your old computer in. A few days later you have cash in your PayPal account or a gift card in your hands.
Recycle your old computer
If you determine that your computer isn't worth much, or it's so old or rundown that it wouldn't serve much purpose anymore, you can always recycle it.
You can dispose of computer waste by returning the product to the manufacturer, taking the item to a professional waste disposal facility or donating the goods to a non-profit organisation.
You can recycle your old computer for free in many cases. Apple provides a free recycle service, even offering up an Apple gift card in exchange for sending in your old machine. The item doesn't even have to be an Apple product.
If Apple won't accept your item and Best Buy isn't an option, check out Computer Aid International. This organisation has distributed over 150,000 PCs in over 100 countries, making it the global leader in not-for-profit supply of IT equipment
Wipe your old PC
Before you try to sell or get recycle an computer, make sure that you wipe (in other words, erase) the hard drive and re-install the operating system. Doing so will prevent personal information from getting into the wrong hands. After all, you might not know who you're selling the computer to, and who knows what they might do should you leave personal information behind.
To clear your data off a computer running Windows 8, you can use the built in "Remove everything and re-install Windows" feature. You'll need to navigate to the "General" section of "PC Settings" and scroll to the bottom of the page to begin the process. This option will delete all files from your hard drive and re-install Windows 8; rendering your computer ready for a new owner.
Windows 7 users have a bit more work to do. You need to have your Windows 7 installation disk or -- and this isn't as hard as it sounds -- create a bootable disc from an "ISO" file using the Windows 7 ISO Tool found in the links below. Once you verify you have a valid copy of Windows 7 to re-install after wiping your hard drive, download a tool called Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN). Run the tool per its instructions to wipe everything off of your hard drive, including the operating system.
Wipe your old Macintosh
To wipe a Mac, reboot into recovery mode by restarting your computer and holding down the "Command" and "R" keys. You'll boot into Recovery Mode, where you can use the Disk Utility app. Select the "Erase" tab in Disk Utilities and be sure to click on the "Security Options" button to wipe your hard drive with a minimum of three passes. The wipe process will take a very long time, it's best to just let it run overnight. After it's done, you can then re-install OS X using the recovery partition or the installation disk that came with your Mac.
There are plenty of ways to take advantage of an old computer. Turning it into cash, setting up a media centre or simply recycling it are all great options. Most of all, don't feel rushed to make a decision. You've already spent money on the new computer, and your old computer isn't going anywhere.
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