What to do with that old computer

You’ve made the decision to replace your computer with a newer, better, faster, cooler computer. What do you do with the old one?

Back in the day when upgrading was option, it was a simple matter to upgrade one component this month and a different component the next. Eventually, you had a new computer, but it was as if nothing changed. This couldn’t be kept up as the industry found better ways of doing things which required new hardware which was not compatible with the old. Basically, it got to the point where to upgrade one thing required a whole new computer around it.

What are your choices for dealing with the old computer? If it’s old enough or abused enough, you may just want to discard it. Check your local dump for details (thankfully my local dump allows e-waste to be dropped off at no charge; they have a specific location at the dump site just for e-waste).

What if it’s not too old? Options include erasing everything on it and reinstalling just as it was when you got it so you could sell it or give it away. The potential problems are two-fold. First, you need to make sure you have another copy of your data and you need to make sure you’ve completely erased everything so the next person doesn’t have access to your personal files. Secondly, do you have the original install discs? On many computers (HP and Compaq in particular, but other brands as well) you hit a particular key on the keyboard when you first power up the computer and it takes you to a special setup routine which can do the erase and reinstall procedure for you (note that the erase done here isn’t a secure one, but should be good enough for most people).

Another common option (and one I’ve done myself a few times) is to repurpose the computer for some other task. How about a central calendar? If your old computer is a Mac, you have one built in. For a PC, you could use Mozilla Thunderbird with the Lightning plugin. Alternatively you could set up a web browser to point to a Google Calendar that you’ve created.

If the computer is small enough, you could put it in your kitchen to run a recipe database. You can run a software title on your computer or, my favorite, just look up recipes on the internet.

Many more options are available to get the most out of your old computer. Experiment with Linux, make a personal file and print server, build your own Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The possibilities are nearly endless.

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