9 Things You Can Do With Working & Broken Old Computers | Cake Blog (2023)

Do you have a few older computers in your possession? Some of these computers may be entirely broken and others may be working but are not the latest, preferred model.

In either case, these items can be donated or disposed of safely – often in ways that either benefit you or benefit someone else in your community.

Jump ahead to these sections:

  • What to Do with Old Broken Computers and Laptops
  • What to Do with Old Computers and Laptops that Still Work
  • How to Dispose of an Old Computer if it Cannot Be Donated or Sold

Maybe you feel overwhelmed after inheriting a house full of stuff. If so, getting rid of old computers can be a good place to start. Here are some great ideas for clearing out old technological clutter and putting old parts to new uses.

What to Do with Old Broken Computers and Laptops

9 Things You Can Do With Working & Broken Old Computers | Cake Blog (1)

Older, broken computers and laptops may not let you check email or type up work reports anymore but they still have useful components. Here are some things to do with your older computers and laptops that are no longer functional if you don’t intend to fix them.

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1. Use dual monitors if the display works

Some computers may not function but their monitor or display is still functional. Many people who work on computers enjoy the experience of using a second monitor.

Most operating systems allow you to configure the second monitor so it’s not just a duplicate of your original screen. You could have a reference document open on one screen, for instance, while you type an email on the other screen. This doesn’t get rid of the rest of the broken computer, but it does give the screen portion a new life.

2. Turn an old hard drive into an external hard drive

You can harvest a hard drive out of an older computer and make use of it again. You may be able to recover old documents or photos from the hard drive as well, or you can have it completely wiped to allow for future storage.

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Turning a broken computer’s functional hard drive into an external hard drive may be a good option.

3. Donate to the local school’s computer science teacher

Most high school computer science classes want to be able to use an older-generation computer. That way, they can freely poke around without worrying that they will break it.

Students who want to learn how to repair computers might practice on an old computer. They may harvest parts out of it to add to their custom-built computers.

4. Try selling parts to a computer repair or rebuild shop

Many communities have a repair shop where computer experts can fix common issues or send computers away for major repairs. These stores sometimes also buy computers that are overall non-functional but have functional parts.

You may not get much cash for these items. However, selling them does declutter your home, and they may be willing to give you advice about discarding the rest of the computer safely. They may even take the whole thing off your hands and use it to fix other computers in the future.

5. Sell it for cash online

There are many organizations online that can buy back a computer if they can see a future use for its components. This includes smaller companies as well as big manufacturers like Apple.

This option may be best if your computer is non-functional because of a single break or recent problem. Newer computer models are the best fit for an online reseller.

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6. Find a good e-cycling location near you

Sustainable Electronics offers a directory of places near you that can recycle sustainably. The company may reuse the many precious metals and items that are inside even the least functional computer.

E-Cycling Central also has a database that can help you learn more about the things to look for in a recycler as well.

What to Do with Old Computers and Laptops that Still Work

9 Things You Can Do With Working & Broken Old Computers | Cake Blog (2)

Sometimes you’ll have a need for greater speed or capacity and get a new laptop or computer before your old one actually stops working. You also might also clean out an elderly parent's house and come across a functional but non-used computer.

Here are some ways to get rid of functional laptops and computers and put them to good use.

7. Donate to a friend or family member without a computer or laptop

Losing your computer can result in an in-between time when you need a computer but haven’t had time to save up for a new one.

If you have a friend or family member who currently or doesn’t have a computer, consider donating your old one to them.

8. Donate to an after school program without a computer budget

Many children in kindergarten through high school have computer time during the school day. However, if their homework requires computer access and their families don’t have one, they can fall behind. After school programs that serve low-income children might welcome a functional laptop or computer.

They might want the computer to be reset to have full control over the computer’s software and storage before they can use it. See if the program has any particular stipulations on this type of donation. Just a quick call to an organization in your area like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America could help you be a positive influence on children in your community.


9. Donate to national or international computer distribution charities

Organizations like the World Computer Exchange or the National Cristina Foundation will take a functional, but not fancy, computer and find a new person to use it somewhere around the world. The National Cristina Foundation donates to adults living with disabilities.

The World Computer Exchange uses donations to make it less expensive to get computers into people’s hands all over the world. They help children all over the world understand what a computer can do to give them opportunities.

These organizations may have local chapters, but these large companies often also have websites listings where you can mail your computer.

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How to Dispose of an Old Computer if it Cannot Be Donated or Sold

9 Things You Can Do With Working & Broken Old Computers | Cake Blog (3)

Computers that aren’t salvageable or able to be donated or sold can still be recycled properly. Since computers contain hazardous materials that shouldn’t be placed in landfills, here’s how to dispose of an old computer safely.

Have it evaluated locally or online

There are at least two reasons to have a professional check out your computer first: one is to wipe or destroy anything that could contain personal information, and the other is to evaluate whether any part of the computer is worth selling as parts.

A local computer repair shop may be able to help you with the part of the process or you can work with an online computer components recycling company.

If you recycle it, ask how before tossing it in the trash

One of the easiest ways to recycle a computer is to look into the company that produced it. That company may have a program where it will either pay shipping for you to send it the broken, non-functional computer or they will at least take it back for free to make use of it as long as you foot the shipping bill.

If you choose to recycle your own computer, make sure you contact your own local health or sanitation department to learn how they prefer for you to dispose of hazardous waste.

Some tech-related stores like Best Buy accept a limited number of electronics to recycle. Computers may or may not be one of those items but consider them if your local trash service charges money to recycle computers.

Give Old Computers New Life

You can take the time to evaluate your computers and see what is really functional and non-functional about them. When you do this, you can discover a world of new uses. Make it your New Year’s Resolution idea to get rid of computers you know you won’t use.

You may be able to repurpose the computer in your own home for something like storing important documents. You can also donate it to a deserving individual or send it somewhere else in the world through a charity program. The longer you extend your computer’s useful life, the more environmentally friendly you’ll be.

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Ready to start end-of-life planning and getting more aspects of your affairs in order? Try Cake’s many tools and resources.


  1. “Disposing of Old Computers.” Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information. FTC.gov. consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0010-disposing-old-computers.


Is a 10 year old computer still good? ›

For most desktop PCs, you can expect a minimum three-year lifespan. However, most computers survive five to eight years, depending on the upgrading components. Maintenance is also critical, as dust is very problematic for PC components.

How do I prepare a broken computer for disposal? ›

Here's how to prepare a Windows PC or Mac for proper disposal.
  1. Back Up Your Files. Dropbox file sync. ...
  2. Transfer Software. ...
  3. Wipe Your Hard Drive. ...
  4. Destroy Your Drive. ...
  5. Recycle the Computer.
23 Mar 2022

What can I do with my old HP laptop? ›

Vendors like Office Depot, Best Buy, and HP® accept old computers for recycling in addition to other items such as printers and printer cartridges, smartphones, and tablets. Even the most dated and obsolete computer can contain a number of valuable materials including plastics, copper, gold, and silver, among others.

What parts of an old computer can be reused? ›

As for reusing hardware, common PC parts to consider reusing include your old computer case, case fans, hard drive, optical drive (DVD/CD drive if you still need to use physical disks as not everyone does in 2019), power supply, and Windows too when it comes to software.

Can a PC last 30 years? ›

A desktop computer should last at least three years, especially when properly maintained with routine software updates. However, most can survive an average of five to eight years. Generally, when a desktop fails, all you need to do is fix or replace the problematic component, and it's good to go.

Can a computer last 20 years? ›

A laptop can last for 20 years, and a desktop can fail after only a couple of years. However, given what we talked about above, the tendency is very much that a laptop will have a shorter life than an equivalent desktop.

Can a PC last forever? ›

While neither laptops nor computers have a shelf life—like products in a supermarket—they become slower over time. The average lifespan of a computer could potentially be five to eight years if maintained properly. Old desktop computers can last for a long time if you constantly upgrade or replace defective components.

What should I remove from my old computer before recycling? ›

This is personal data that you don't want to get into the wrong hands when you recycle your computer.
Your data – including:
  1. Usernames.
  2. Passwords.
  3. Confidential data.
  4. Bank account details.
  5. Credit card information.
  6. Browser History.
  7. Photographs.

How do you dispose of broken technology? ›

Here are 4 easy ways to get rid responsibly…
Here are a few ways you can make sure your old tech gets a new home.
  1. Recycle it the responsible way. ...
  2. Trade it in for something new. ...
  3. Sell, sell, sell. ...
  4. Find someone else to love it.
22 Dec 2021

What can you do with old tablets and laptops? ›

Take It to a Recycler

Plenty of nonprofit organizations and local communities offer options to help you recycle old electronics. One group, Call2Recycle, offers drop-off locations for rechargeable batteries and cell phones all over the U.S. To find a location, just enter your ZIP code at Call2Recycle.org.

What parts can you reuse from a laptop? ›

3 Useful Things From an Old Laptop
  • Li Ion Battery pack from the battery.
  • External Hard Disk from the Hard Drive.
  • Display Unit / Digital Photo Frame from the LCD Screen.

What can you do with old unwanted laptops? ›

Here are your options.
  1. Repair your laptop. Instead of buying a new computer, a repair could save you money. ...
  2. Donate your laptop. Charities can refurbish your computer for someone who needs it, or recycle or sell it to raise funds. ...
  3. Sell your laptop. Your old computer may be perfect for someone else.

What are 10 uses computer? ›

They are used in homes, business, educational institutions, research organizations, medical field, government offices, entertainment, etc.
  • Home. ...
  • Medical Field. ...
  • Entertainment. ...
  • Industry. ...
  • Education. ...
  • Government. ...
  • Banking. ...
  • Business.

What are 3 things all computers can do? ›

A computer is an electronic device that manipulates information, or data. It has the ability to store, retrieve, and process data. You may already know that you can use a computer to type documents, send email, play games, and browse the Web.

What are the 4 uses of computer? ›

Uses of Computer
  • Science. Scientists are amongst one of those people who use computers as their primary work tool. ...
  • Government. In the government sector, computers are beneficial. ...
  • Health and Medical. Computers are radically changing the methods of diagnosis in hospitals. ...
  • Education. ...
  • Industry. ...
  • Banking. ...
  • Entertainment. ...
  • Training.

Can a laptop last 20 years? ›

Can a laptop last 20 years? The average lifespan for laptops is 3-5 years. If you take care of it and only use it for simple tasks, it can last 10 years or longer.

How long does a laptop last before it dies? ›

A mid-range laptop should probably last around 4-5 years, though, give-or-take a year or two depending on how you use it. The other thing to factor in is how you treat your laptop for the time that you have it.

Which lasts longer desktop or laptop? ›

Which lasts longer, a laptop or desktop computer? Desktop computers generally last longer than laptops. A laptop's lifespan is generally reckoned to be around three to five years, compared to a desktop computer's lifespan of around five to eight years.

What can computers do 100 years from now? ›

What will the future hold for computers? Assuming microprocessor manufacturers can continue to live up to Moore's Law, the processing power of our computers should double every two years. That would mean computers 100 years from now would be 1,125,899,906,842,624 times more powerful than the current models.

How long should a laptop battery last when fully charged? ›

How long should a laptop battery last after each charge? After the laptop has gone through a full single charge and the power adapter is unplugged, the average laptop battery life is between one and ten hours.

Is a 10 year old computer worth fixing? ›

There are a lot of factors to consider—from how often you use your machine to how you maintain it. But if your laptop is 5 years old or more, paying for a laptop repair probably isn't worth it since you'll likely have to buy a new one soon.

What computer will last the longest? ›

  • HP Pavilion Gaming 15-ec1024AX. The HP Pavilion Gaming 15-ec1024AX laptop weighs 1.98 kg and is a good option if you are looking for a lightweight gaming laptop. ...
  • Acer Nitro 5 AN515-56. ...
  • Asus VivoBook 15. ...
  • 2022 Apple MacBook Air. ...
  • Acer Nitro 5 Intel Core i5.
27 Sept 2022

Should you shut down your PC every night? ›

The short answer is no. The longer answer: It depends. Sleep mode overnight can be beneficial as it can allow it to perform any maintenance tasks scheduled — think full system virus scans, doing a full backup of the hard drive or checking for software updates, says Meister.

What makes a PC last longer? ›


This promotes unavoidable wear and tear and will cause parts to fail after so many uses. All hardware will fail eventually, but making sure your system is as cool as possible is an integral part of extending the life of your computer.

Do you need to wipe laptop before recycling? ›

Before recycling your computer, you must properly wipe your laptop, tablet, or desktop of all sensitive personal information. Most computers contain a return to factory reset option, which will erase all unoriginal programs, software, and files. Make sure to back up anything that you want to use on your new device.

Do I need to wipe hard drive before recycling computer? ›

Reputable e-waste recycling companies always wipe hard drives of all data before taking the computer apart for recycling. But, it's always a good idea to make sure that your devices are completely data-wiped before recycling them, we'll cover ways to do this below.

How do I wipe my computer clean before donating? ›

Open Settings and select Windows Update. Click Advanced Options, then scroll down to Recovery. Click Reset PC then Remove everything.

What can I do with my old gadgets? ›

The obvious options are to sell or donate, but many of us squirrel away old gadgets in a drawer 'just in case' they become useful one day. Getting rid of old tech will not only help you declutter, but you could also potentially make some money - or help out someone else by donating your gadgets.

What can you do with old phones? ›

What to do with your old smartphone
  • Device trade-in. One of the easiest ways to get rid of your old smartphones is to trade it in. ...
  • Sell your old phone. ...
  • Donate a device. ...
  • Recycling electronics. ...
  • Prep your device.
12 Mar 2021

How do you dispose of old digital devices? ›

Although donating and recycling electronic devices conserves natural resources, you may still choose to dispose of e-waste by contacting your local landfill and requesting a designated e-waste drop off location.

How do I remove data from an old computer? ›

Open the Start Menu and select Settings.
  1. Click Update & Security.
  2. Go to the left-hand side, scroll down and click on Recovery.
  3. From there, go to Reset this PC. ...
  4. A prompt will appear with two options, Keep My Files or Remove Everything. ...
  5. Click the Change settings option.
  6. Turn the Data Erasure toggle switch to on.
16 May 2022

Where can I get rid of old computers near me? ›

Best Buy and Staples are the two major retailers that come to mind when it comes to computer and electronics recycling.

Are old laptops worth anything? ›

Your old laptop could be worth more than you think. We buy any laptop, from new and completely unused laptops to older models. Even a laptop that no longer works can have a significant amount of value as a source of parts.

Can I wipe an old work computer? ›

You can wipe a computer's hard drive and return it to its factory conditions with just a few clicks. If you are not keeping the PC, you should be sure it's impossible to recover any old data from the solid-state drive by encrypting the data. When you reset your PC, be sure to choose the option to remove everything.

What should I remove from my computer before recycling? ›

This is personal data that you don't want to get into the wrong hands when you recycle your computer.
Your data – including:
  1. Usernames.
  2. Passwords.
  3. Confidential data.
  4. Bank account details.
  5. Credit card information.
  6. Browser History.
  7. Photographs.

How do I completely wipe my hard drive and operating system? ›

Go to Settings > Change PC Settings > Update and recovery > Recovery. Click Get Started under the Remove everything and reinstall Windows section. Click Next, then choose Fully clean the drive to ensure everything is deleted. Click the Reset button and your drive is wiped, your PC is reset, and Windows is reinstalled.

What electronics can't be thrown away? ›

Examples of e-waste that should NOT be disposed of in your trash bin include: Kitchen equipment: Toasters, coffee makers, microwave ovens. Laboratory equipment: Hot plates, microscopes, calorimeters. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs): Computer monitors, televisions.

How do I get rid of TV? ›

How do you dispose of an old or broken TV?
  1. Donate your TV. ...
  2. Take it to a recycling facility. ...
  3. Return it to the manufacturer. ...
  4. Sell it. ...
  5. Give it away for free. ...
  6. Call a junk removal service, like 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, who can handle all the heavy lifting for you and ensure your old TV is disposed of or recycled responsibly.

How do I dispose of my old HP printer? ›

Original manufacturers: You can also contact the printer's manufacturer. Epson, Canon, HP, Sony, and Samsung all have e-waste recycling and take-back programs, but be sure to contact them first to see if they'll accept your printers. The companies may accept only some devices as part of their take-back programs.

What do I do with my old motherboard and CPU? ›

Old Motherboards Can Be Recycled at Home

If working, the motherboard can be part of a new computer, and donated to a school, church, or other community project. The options for reuse are considerable, not to mention better for the environment than recycling.

Do I need anything from Windows old? ›

Windows. old folder is where the old system files store after upgrading your copy of Windows 10's version. This folder is important when you decide to rollback to the previous version but it will be automatically deleted after 10 days.

How do you wipe a computer clean to sell it Windows XP? ›

The steps are:
  1. Start the computer.
  2. Press and hold the F8 key.
  3. At Advanced Boot Options, choose Repair Your Computer.
  4. Press Enter.
  5. Select a keyboard language and click Next.
  6. If prompted, login with an administrative account.
  7. At the System Recovery Options, choose System Restore or Startup Repair (if this is available)

What parts of a computer are worth money? ›

Valuable & Precious metals – where they are in Computers:

Gold – Printed Circuit Boards, Computer Chips (CPU), connectors / fingers. Silver – Printed Circuit Boards, Computer Chips, keyboard membranes, some capacitors. Platinum – Hard Drives, Circuit board components.

What is the most valuable part of a laptop? ›

The processor is among the most important parts of the laptop because it allows the computer to function. It can read the code stored in the memory of the computer and tell the other parts to do what the code states.


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