I've seen many a person with an old computer or two languishing in the garage, the desk drawers, and the far reaches of a closet. If you'd like to clear up the old-computer clutter, here are some options.
1. Sell it.
Sure, you could use craigslist or eBay. But you could also consider services like Gazelle (PCs and Macs) or BuyMyTronics (Macs only) - where you have a guaranteed right-now sale. Simply describe your computer - filling out the online forms - and Gazelle and BuyMyTronics will tell you what they'll pay for it. Both services pay the shipping, so the price quoted is what you'll actually get.
Of course, not all old computers will have any cash value. But it's quick and easy to find out if yours does.
2. Use the manufacturer's take-back program.
Sometimes you can get money this way, too - although the programs vary widely. Look at the reuse and recycling programs offered by Acer, Apple, Dell, Gateway, HP, IBM, Sony and Toshiba.
3. Donate it.
One easy option here (for those in the U.S.) is Goodwill. As the Goodwill web site says:
Goodwill Industries encourages businesses and individuals to donate their new and used computers. Since 2004, Goodwill Industries and Dell, Inc. have worked together to responsibly recycle unwanted electronics at no cost to the public. To date, the Reconnect partnership has collected more than 96 million pounds of electronics.But Goodwill certainly isn't the only option; other organizations also accept computer donations - for good causes. Some examples are the Computer Recycling Center (San Francisco Bay Area), Computers for Schools (Chicago), Computers for Children (New York), the Cristina Foundation (Greenwich, Connecticut), World Computer Exchange (Hull, Massachusetts) and Computer Aid International (London). Each program has its own guidelines as to exactly what can be donated.
Simply take your unwanted electronics — any brand, any condition — to a participating Goodwill store or donation drop-off site. Goodwill will refurbish or recycle the equipment, benefiting communities and putting people to work.
You might also choose to give your computer away on craigslist or Freecycle; people may want even non-working computers for the parts that do work.
4. Recycle it.
Given the other options above - and that recyclers often charge a fee - this may be the last choice. But it sure beats putting computers - with all their hazardous waste - into the garbage. If you go this route, you'll want to find a responsible recycler.
Special note for "vintage" computers: Certain old (and rare) computers might be worth a substantial amount of money. Others would be appreciated by places like the Computer History Museum and the Vintage Computer Festival.
Keeping your data private: While many buy-back, donation and recycling programs promise to wipe all personal data off your computer, you may feel more comfortable doing this yourself. Find instructions on the internet or check with your computer consultant if you're not sure how best to do this. If the computer won't even boot up, some people choose to solve the data-privacy problem by removing the hard drive and physically destroying it.
[photo by David Michael Morris, licensed under Creative Commons]