How to Recycle an Outdated PC for Further Use

If you're like me or any of my computer geek friends, you're probably familiar with the outdated (or possibly archaic) computer system that spent the last five to seven years gathering dust in your basement. Isn't it a shame to let those wonderful systems go to waste? Not to mention that it's environmentally unfriendly to throw away computers. Well now, with a little magic you can make those old machines fast and fully usable again for free! This magic is called open-source software.


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    Find any computer you deem useless. Now, please note that the word “any” is meant loosely. If you're still using a Commodore 64 or the original IBM 5150 then you are out of luck for this one. There is no specific year in which a machine must be made to be able to recycle it, but you must be aware of your computer's hardware in order to install the appropriate software. As a rule of thumb, make sure your processor and memory are compatible and sufficient for the operating system you wish to install.
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    Once you have found your computer, you will need to fully format it (wipe the hard drive of all data). There are many ways to do this. If you are unable to do this, call your closest computer whiz friend, offer him a cold beverage and have him do it for you. If your buddy can't make it, there is endless documentation online on how to format computers.
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    Now that your computer is formatted you will need to pick an operating system. Again, you need to make sure the hardware inside your box is powerful enough for your operating system. Read the hardware requirements of each operating system before installing it and make an informed decision. Now, you're probably asking me, why would I buy an operating system for a computer that I would deem useless? This is where open-source software comes to the rescue. Linux operating systems are free and open-source which means you can use it for free and view or edit the source code as you see fit. There are other free (less popular) alternatives to Linux such as Solaris or BSD.
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    Pick the Linux distribution you wish to install. Because you can't just “use” Linux. Linux is the kernel of the operating system, not the operating system itself. The most popular distribution is Ubuntu. If your computer can run it, then you should use it as it is very user friendly. The problem with Ubuntu is that it has relatively high hardware requirements especially for very old computers. There are lightweight alternatives such as Puppy Linux that will turn a useless computer with only 64mb of memory into a desktop ready for office or family use.
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    Once your free operating system has been installed, keep using free and open-source software. This can save you a huge amount of money. For almost every commercial software you can think of, there is an equal open-source or free counterpart. A prominent example is, an office suite with the same features as Microsoft Office.
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    Enjoy your “new” computer or give it to grandma. It might not be top of the line, but it will do the job... for free. And it won't matter to grandma, unless she's planning on playing Crisis or Left 4 Dead 2! If you're a business owner and your old Windows computers have lost their touch, this is an easy and free alternative to buying new hardware and new versions of Windows every few years. In these harsh economic times, we can't afford to put computers in the waste bin.


  • Make sure to read documentation on formatting before erasing all of your computer's data. You could potentially damage your computer if you don't know what you are doing.

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Categories: Reduce Recycle and Reuse