Once you buy a new computer you may find yourself asking this question. We get many calls both from customers and those who may be moving and prefer not to take the old equipment with. So when asked this question I usually provide the following recommendations:
Use it as a secondary computer for your household. Younger children can learn to type, play older games, and might be able to access the Internet. Keeping the old one can reduce the waiting in line many families experience when everyone wants the computer at once.
Donate your working computer to a local charity that needs computers. Charities in NW Florida like the Helping Hand Mission and Goodwill can resell the computers and make money for their cause. You usually have the option of writing off a reasonable value from your taxes as well.
Sell it yourself. As a computer shop owner I can\'t get enough profit from old PC\'s to make the warranty and customer satisfaction risk worth the time spent rebuilding it. Much like a car, you can get more for your old working computer from advertising it free in a local paper like The EscaRosa Press or on line through ebay.
I think most of us know someone that just can\'t get ahead and might never be able to afford a computer for themselves or their child. A wonderful possibility for a working computer, no matter how old, would be to give it to a child or family that can\'t afford one. This gift could open a door of possibility that might not otherwise be available. Especially if you have and include any encyclopedia or learning software. Yes libraries have computers for public use, but many lower income families can\'t even afford a car, or the gas these days to get to the library.
For both working and non-working computers you might consider donating them to a local vocational school, like Locklin Vo-tech, that has computer repair programs. This provides projects and parts for students to practice on without endangering valuable computer assets of the school.
You also have the option of recycling your old computer equipment, however most programs today require you to pay the company a fee based on the type of item as well as pay for the shipping to them. This is ultimately the best thing for the environment, but you may be disincented from recycling by these added costs. Some states, like California, now require deposits on certain computer assets that you get back once you recycle the product.
UPDATE: Panther Computers will take old computers for recycling in limited quantities. This doesn\'t include monitors as they are too toxic for us to handle properly - use the other suggestions in this article for monitors. We have begun to disassemble the old computers down to their basic components and recycle them. Small quantities would probably be refused by local scrap yards, but as we acumilate truck loads of the old cases (sheet metal) we will turn it in to reduce what ends up in the landfill. Yes sheet metal (iron) might only cover (pennies per pound) the gas to take it, but Panther Computers is committed to finding ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle - especially reducing the impact of our industry on the environment.
Lastly you can try the local landfill who will, in all likelihood, charge you a fee. That is if the landfill will allow the equipment there. You see old CRT (TV type monitors) have and average of 8lbs of lead. This makes for a major source of contamination in case of a landfill fire or a breach into the local water system. This is why special precautions must be taken when disposing old computers.
As one of my commercials jests, using an old PC for a boat anchor or target practice is not the answer. Doing so will definitely introduce toxins into our environment. Besides, with the other options available and suggested here, you can find a place for that old computer that can provide a greater good.