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It’s a sad fact of life that technology is always outdated. As soon as a piece of hardware is released, the engineers and designers set to work on the next iteration, meaning that the one you have in your house is past it from day one. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless, even after you succumb to temptation and buy the advertised upgrade.

Over the past couple of weeks we have seen videos featuring old or outdated technology being used to make music. From floppy drives 8 Of The Best Floppy Disk Drive Music Videos 8 Of The Best Floppy Disk Drive Music Videos Who would ever have thought that old, outdated technology such as floppy disk drives would be given a new lease of life by amateur computer engineers and programmers turning them into instruments? Not me. But... Read More to hard drives, from modems to printers, hardware from yesteryear Making Music With Tech Hardware - 8 Great YouTube Videos Making Music With Tech Hardware - 8 Great YouTube Videos We've already seen a list of the best music videos featuring floppy disk drives, and now it's time to broaden our horizons a little and bring more tech hardware into the mix. It's amazing the... Read More doesn’t necessarily need to be consigned to both the literal and figurative dustbin. We want to know what you do with old technology once it has served the purpose it was originally intended for.

This Week’s Question…

What Do You Do With Old or Outdated Hardware?

We really shouldn’t simply be throwing old hardware out like ordinary trash. Not only is doing so a waste of resources it also adds to the landfill problem. Thankfully there are alternatives, and we want to hear from you what some of those alternatives are and which you do yourself.

Do you pass your outdated hardware on to family or friends? Do you sell it via eBay or through local classified ads? Do you take it apart and use some or all of the components in another way? Or do you create a new use for those old computer parts, such as turning them into speakers as we have already seen?

We Ask You… All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told Us. One reader will be chosen as having made the coveted ‘Comment Of The Week’, having their name put up in lights for all to marvel at and to coo over. What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

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‘We Ask You‘ is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

Image Credit: Thomas Claveirole

  1. Richard
    May 24, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Freecycle is the way to go. Like the other freecyclers know, its a great way to dispense old hardware/software to your community. Its also a great way to get computer parts to update old hardware. I pick up hardware at our local e-waste center, re-purpose them into turnkey systems with ubuntu if I can find hard drives (many people are smart enough to take out HDs when they dump them at the e-waste center), or re-purpose them with a Puppy Linux CD and run the computer without a hard drive (yes, this is possible).

    If you have a PC whose HD has crashed and its not worth buying a new hard drive for it, buy a 4GB USB or larger drive ($8), install Puppy Linux on it, and now you have a computer that you can even save your data (Puppy uses less than 1G). There are lots of Puppy Apps, and they are all free. I can even download video files since you can load a bit torrent program. You can even load the Tor Browser if you want to surf anonymously. A Puppy based PC will run much faster than the original windows based system.

  2. Shane Freeman
    May 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Find a public school teacher and help him or her build a computer lab in their classroom. Load those old machines with Ubuntu, Lubuntu, Edubuntu, mint, or any other lite and easy to use os. The teacher and students will appreciate it trust me.

  3. kamal tanawr
    May 19, 2012 at 3:02 am

    I usually donate it to an orphanage. I had an old desktop with intel P4 and another one with core2duo. Didn't know what to do with them as I was going to buy a new one. The next day i was donating some clothes and food to an orphanage and it just clicked me why not computers? Anyways i would have either sold it @ garbage price or modified to rarely use it.
    So i went to this orphange and donated. I also taught some kids how to use it. It was fun.I purposely didn't uninstall some games and softwares.But they don't let them play games. It is mostly used for education purpose. I'm an avid gamer and i like to encourage people to play games.
    Hence, i donate my psp and nintendo too :P
    It really feels good when you see those kids playing. They are so excited and happy.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      You did a great thing :) Those kids will get a hell of a lot from those machines.

  4. moklet
    May 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I tend to dump it at a recycling point if it is really old, or if in my opinion it is still usable I'll donate it to some person/charity who could use it.

  5. JohnBUK
    May 17, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    I run two non-profit websites (my golf club and the village where I live) and I ask people for their old laptops/PCs.

    I usually clean and reformat them, add Ubuntu or Lubuntu (if really old) maybe add some RAM if only 128mb or 256mb and then give them away locally (perhaps a small charge to offset the new RAM chip).

    I have a section on both websites for people to advertise their cast-offs, usually for free.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      That sounds like a great initiative. If only more people would do similar in their local areas.

    • Pj
      July 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      JohnBUK - I have an old HP-intel microsoft 2000 (updated once) laptop that
      just went blank one day - took it to COMP USA and a few private-geek group repairmen who said there was no way to get my old data off the drive or
      to revive it. Not knowing what to do with it, I still have it and hate to just
      dump it - always hoped something good could come from it. I have since
      bought a MAC and won't every change. I worried about if I give it somewhere and someone gets it working, my hard drive personal info would be made available. Is my PC something you could use to help other low-income families I would be happy to donate if I knew the details and if clearing my
      hard drive would be good. Thanks, Pj

  6. Stoyan Deckoff
    May 17, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I have like 8 pc round here:
    One is a company lenovo x301 - beauty, but I can't use it cos I dont have any rights
    4 years old vayo, which runs ubuntu 11.10 with XBMC - connected to my TV and is used for TV box ( and I love it)
    3 thinkpad x40 (8 years old) One is used as a server , connected to my NAS I bought it for 30 euro with screen broken and so on. The other two are my and my wife's laptops ( hers was a gift to me cos I installed Win 7 to another laptop ). All three are on Ubuntu, two.
    One home-made PC, which dual-boots , it is used as a TV and for working on MS office (when libre cant help), and itunes. I will probably sell it, cos I don't use it.
    The best for last - brand new thinkpad x220, bought it 2 days ago, and I added mSATA SSD. I will have to decide what to do with my old laptop (x40 with SSD), but I am sure I can find it a place :)

  7. Connie banta
    May 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    I refurbish computers and get them back into the community. The handicapped and disabled don't care if it's slow.They're on a fixed income. Some just want to check email or look at pictures of kids and grandkids. Play a few games. Also, I need those machines, to fix their old machines. I need 2, 512 sdram , 133 for an old Dell.I looked at that machine and I thought SDRAM!! OMG!

    • Dave Parrack
      May 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Good for you. You're right too, not everyone needs the latest and greatest computers. Far from it :)

  8. Rob
    May 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I don't have much when it comes to old hardware, I did a lot of trading and upgrading with firends.

    But what I do have I use a Puppy Linux live CD.

  9. Kenneth Herring
    May 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Many times I do upgrades for family and friends and donate the hardware or old computers to an organization here in Houston,TX called Techs & Trainers who build refurbished computers which are sold to qualifying low income families at a low price.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      You're a good man. Thanks for commenting :)

  10. James Marshall
    May 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Usually I keep my old computers. I don't upgrade too frequently, maybe every 5 years give or take, so I've had a few but not tons. One or two I think I passed on to family members when I bought new ones, and I still have the last few laptops I bought.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Do you have plans for the ones you're holding on to?

      • James Marshall
        May 17, 2012 at 7:05 pm

        Nothing too specific at the moment. I've been considering installing Linux on them and/or turning them into some sort of home server, but I'm not exactly well verse in that sort of work, so they're more like backup machines now. If something suddenly took out my main machine, I'd have others I could use. I expect that if I don't use them for something, I'll eventually wipe them and recycle them or pass them on, too.

        • Dave Parrack
          May 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm

          That's always a good plan. It feels good to pass them on to someone who'll get some use out of them :)

  11. Dave Lowe
    May 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    I do my best to re-purpose the old tech that I may have lying around. I recall a dead laptop with a busted display and non-functional keyboard working for another 18 months as a print server and home for our MagicJack on our home network. To use it I'd VNC into it.

  12. slywlf
    May 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Since I live in a rural area, where many people cannot afford 'bleeding edge' anything, if I have an older but still functional PC, monitor or the like that I no longer need I usually either donate it to the local home for 'people temporarily down on their luck', where both parents and kids can use them to keep up (or catch up) with their skills, or put it up for 'adoption' on Freecycle.org - an online re-homing system I heartily endorse. If the device no longer functions I take it to the local recycling center, which has a special area for electronics, or go to one of the quarterly 'hazardous waste' events which likewise is set up to properly recycle electronics of all kinds.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      That's the second mention of Freecycle. What has your experience of it been?

  13. Scutterman
    May 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Generally I horde it until I find a use for it, or parts of it. If it's really past it, I'll take it to the local WEEE recycling centre, who'll either repair it to pass on to charity etc. or they'll recycle it properly.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      I think you're doing the right thing :)

  14. Bharat
    May 17, 2012 at 11:42 am

    we can use these out-dated old computers by donating them to people who don't have computers or we can still use them by installing Linux OS on it.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      I wonder if old computers are where Linux mostly resides.

  15. muotechguy
    May 17, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Freecycle them. People are always in need of PCs and bits; it's surprising how many still don't have PCs, even in my relatively affluent area of Greater London.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      Have you had a positive experience of Freecycle? It's a damn good initiative but I have so far not dipped my toe in to using it.

      • James
        May 17, 2012 at 7:28 pm

        In terms of giving and getting things, definitely. Seems there is always someone who wants your old crap, no matter what it is. That said, the system (yahoo groups) is frustratingly crap. Forget images; and if you offer, expect a deluge of replies. I'm tempted to develop something to replace it frankly!

        Definitely worth having a go at though. You never know what you'll be able to grab...

        • Dave Parrack
          May 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm

          Do it! That's your strength right there. I'll give it a go, I'll probably get rid of something rather than take something though.

  16. Bob Henson
    May 17, 2012 at 7:43 am

    I don't often upgrade equipment, shortage of cash means it usually runs until it breaks, hence it it rarely worth passing on to anyone else, and certainly not reselling. Large items go to the "recycling centre" (a.k.a. the Council dump), so, theoretically, they will be correctly recycled. Smaller items go out with the normal rubbish, sorted into material types where appropriate. Hard drives are smashed to pieces first, of course.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      You could always try turning some of it into musical instruments. I have neither the patience or the skill, unfortunately.

  17. Saikat Basu
    May 17, 2012 at 7:32 am

    The rate at which hardware is going obsolete is increasing at an alarming rate. There are consequences which we are hardly aware of. E-waste is on the agenda, but not many know that a mineral called Coltan is used in electronics (in capacitors), and it is a rare ore found only in some parts of the world like Democratic Republic of Congo from where it is illegally mined and smuggled. It contributes to the ethnic war there.

    I think the best option is to turn them over and reuse them for educational purposes. A lot of Non-Profits are doing some great work in this area. Check out National Cristina Foundation [http://www.cristina.org/], and Computers For Schools [http://www.pcsforschools.org/]. Here's a list that could be useful for U.K residents - http://www.itforcharities.co.uk/pcs.htm

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Thanks, Saikat. I do think it's important we don't just throw them away, especially when there is so much we could do with outdated hardware. Unfortunately technology is manufactured with a short shelf life these days.

    • LD
      May 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      I totally disagree with the rate of obsolescence. I used to upgrade my pc every 6 months, I now upgrade about once every 2 or 3 years.

      Right now the things that are going obsolete fast are cell phones, but I think very soon, (probably quad core and a few gigs of ram) will be a plateau for phone hardware as well.

  18. gerard
    May 17, 2012 at 5:02 am

    I love old computers as i have turned them in to fast new machines with the use of linux software and os. Turn them in to servers with Ubuntu server or continue to use them as desktops with an OS like Puppy Linux.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      How many do you have? Or do you recondition them and then send them elsewhere?

  19. Toby
    May 17, 2012 at 4:40 am

    I have an old dell optiplex gx110 that I would like to turn into a htpc but the specs are so low and the price of the equipment like a capture card is a lil pricey, even for my old tube tv. I Don't want it to do much but record tv shows while I'm out right now it's collecting dust with puppy linux installed. I just use it to hold files whenever my laptop hdd is full. My old IBM thinkcentre is on Mint 12, and I use it for video conversions that take really long times, and to store files from my laptop. got an old laptop with win2k collecting dust because I have no charger.....I could go on. I have like 8 computers, all but 1 are old, some run, some don't but I won't even throw away the broke ones lol.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Wow, you're a hoarder! Not that there is anything wrong with that :)

  20. Locutus
    May 17, 2012 at 3:58 am

    I personally have a pile of dead or useless laptops -- 2006 Dell, 2008 Dell, 2009 Acer -- alongside my working laptop (2008 Lenovo with busted battery) and working server (P4 frankenbuild).

    Right now, the 2006 and 2008 Dells are sitting in the basement since I last used them. The 2006 used to be my primary computer (since my Acer died) until I acquired the 2008 Lenovo two months ago, and the 2008 Dell was my server. The 2008 Dell was in terrible shape, and the 2006 Dell was incredibly slow -- neither was a nice primary computer choice. When I was given the (dead) 2008 Lenovo (which I fixed by pulling half its RAM -- yikes), I quickly upgraded to using it as my primary computer, and I was given the P4 as a gift for volunteering at a local computer/FOSS shop that uses entirely volunteer work to process people's donations.

    Now the Dells are never used, the Acer's been dead for a year, the Lenovo's battery is toast, the server's pretty slow, and I want a new computer. I'm waiting for Windows 8, however -- I've tasted the future with my HP Touchpad and that's where I want to be.

    • Dave Parrack
      May 17, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      Do you have any plans for the dead machines longterm?

      I'm tempted to wait for Windows 8 myself but part of me wonders if I'll hate it. I may take advantage of the upgrade offer and buy a Windows 7 laptop in the next few months.

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