How to Re-Use Your Old Hardware Like a Pro

Christian Cawley 05-03-2018

Are you one of those people who keeps hold of their old hardware? Bits and bobs like disk drives and cables, perhaps… or even something more valuable, like an old PDA or laptop. You’ve kept them boxed up in your office, or basement, loft, or garage.


And now you’ve decided it’s time to do something with this old hardware. Can you re-use it? If not, can you sell it? Or must it all be recycled?

In truth, there is no definitive, one-size-fits-all answer. Some old hardware can be reused. Other hardware needs to be carefully recycled. No doubt, you’ll have a few pieces of equipment that can be sold or donated.

Need to know what’s what? Keep reading, and I’ll break it down for you.

How You Should Re-Use Old Hardware

Reusing old tech in the right way shouldn’t be difficult. The tricky part is knowing what you can reuse, and what you cannot. Certain types of hardware lend themselves well to being resold. Others are more suitable for donations, or recycling. You might even upcycle some items of technology.

1. Resell

Looking to make a few dollars on your old gear? One of the most popular ways to reuse old hardware is to sell it. You might do this online via eBay, Craigslist, or some other service (although eBay is better for selling electronics 5 Reasons eBay Is Better Than Craigslist to Sell Used Gadgets Selling your old gadgets online is a great way to make money. eBay or Craigslist are two big platforms. But which one do you start with? Read More ). Or you may choose a bricks and mortar solution: a tech pawn store.


Note that there are several security considerations to keep in mind Beware These 8 Security Issues When Recycling Hardware Recycling old hardware is a good idea, but you don't want to give away personal data. Consider these security concerns before getting rid of your hardware, and see what you can do about them. Read More , particularly in ensuring your personal data is fully erased.

It’s important to choose the right outlet, however. For instance, sites like are ideal for disposing of tablets and smartphones, and give you a bit of cash in return. On the other hand, eBay is good for computer hardware resales. While old printers should probably be given away (their resell value is very poor), laptops and games consoles do well.

tips and mistakes re-using old hardware

Meanwhile, PC components like hard disk drives, solid state drives, RAM, and CPUs can also make you some money. Entire PCs can be recycled safely as per EPA guidelines if you don’t fancy taking yours apart.


Before you sign up and sell your gear, research which is most suitable for the hardware you’re disposing of. Consider where the item is going, and how it will be reused. Is someone else making money from it?

2. Repurpose and Recycle

Alternatively, you could just repurpose the hardware. This means recycling what you have to use it in a new way, or to refurbish it. For instance, you might have two identical laptops, neither of which work. However, between the two devices, you have enough working parts to get one of them up and running again.

tips and mistakes re-using old hardware

You’re really only limited here by your imagination, although there may be some precautions you need to take (see below). For instance you might repurpose one or more old hard disk drives 7 DIY Projects for Your Old Hard Drive Wondering what to do with your old hard drives? Don't throw them out! Turn it into a DIY external hard drive or many other things. Read More for various new uses, including a safe, or wind chimes. Not sure about taking apart a computer? Start with some easy DIY tasks Easy DIY Repairs to Start With for Someone Who Fears DIY DIY can be a daunting thought if you're a beginner, so why not start with these simple projects and you'll be a pro in no time. Read More , and work your way up.


3. Upcycle

A relatively new term, “upcycle” refers to the act of recycling a component or object in a new way, as part of a greater whole. For example, a wheel from an old bike might be added to a newer bike. Or that wheel might form part of some sort of manual water pump.

You have several options for old computer equipment. For example, an old PC’s power supply unit might be reused in another device. Alternatively, an old flatbed scanner might be upcycled into a 3D printer:

If you do get into 3D printing (using recycled parts or otherwise), then make sure you read how you can recycle your failed 3D prints 4 Ways to Recycle Failed 3D Prints If you find yourself with a mountain of failed 3D prints, don't throw them away! Learn how you can recycle them. Read More .

As noted above, you may need to take some precautions with breaking apart computer hardware. We’ll take a more in-depth look at this below.


Be Careful When Reusing These Devices

While some hardware can be reused, others should be disposed of if they’re no longer needed. But don’t simply send these items to the trash. Instead, you need to research how they can be safely dismantled. Certain components might be reused, for example; others might need breaking down in a way that’s safer for the environment than burying in a landfill.

1. Batteries

In most cases, old batteries can still be used as long as they hold a charge. You will also need to ensure that the cell can also be safely used without causing electric shock. This applies to rechargeable batteries as much as it does to single charge batteries.

tips and mistakes re-using old hardware

Opening a laptop battery is not a good idea unless you know what you’re doing. Different batteries behave in different ways; it’s comparatively safe to open some, but others are not so harmless. If you think you might have a chance of replacing the cells in a rechargeable laptop battery to revive it, do a search on Google and/or YouTube to get an idea of what is involved.

Recycling batteries differs from state to state, so you should check your local laws to find out what to do.

2. Motherboards

Another piece of equipment that requires some inspection, motherboards can generally be reused with some cleaning. However, it is important to test the device first, as there could be some inherent weakness. For instance, a fracture could have occurred, rendering the original computer useless. If defective, the motherboard becomes a fire risk, so should be safely disposed of.

tips and mistakes re-using old hardware

One popular way to reuse motherboards (and other printed circuits) is to turn them into other items. We’ve already shown you how to convert old motherboards into new items 5 Creative DIY Projects for Old Circuit Boards Roll up your sleeves, it's time to get creative and hands-on to put those old boards to new uses. Read More , and the same can also be done for RAM 7 Things to Do With Old RAM Modules Can old RAM modules be reused? Can you recycle RAM? Just what can you do with old memory? Try these ways to use old RAM sticks. Read More , another type of printed circuit.

If you’re planning to work with motherboards, however, be sure to take the right precautions. Cutting, drilling and even snapping a motherboard can release potentially harmful dusts. Dust masks and goggles are recommended!

3. Monitors

This is where things get a bit dangerous. As you probably know, there are two types of monitor: CRT (cathode ray tube) and LCD. As long as these devices are working, you should be able to carry on using them. However, CRT monitors are not suitable for customization. They must also be disposed of safely. TVs and monitors that use CRT technology are capable of storing a life-ending electric charge. As such, unless you have the prerequisite experience, steer well clear.

tips and mistakes re-using old hardware

When it comes to LCD technology, however, reusing is far simpler. You might employ a monitor as a small TV replacement, for example, or repurpose as a magic mirror How to Turn an Old Laptop Screen Into a Magic Mirror Smart mirrors are unique devices that you can use to inject some magic into your home. We show you how to build one with a Raspberry Pi. Read More .

Opening up an LCD monitor is far safer than opening a CRT. As long as the device is powered off and unplugged from the power supply, and you’ve taken anti-static precautions, it’s safe. But don’t go breaking open a monitor without first checking how. Every TV and monitor model is slightly different!

Check the EPA website for details on how to safely dispose of your old TVs.

4. Cables

You’ve probably got a lot of cables. USB cables, Ethernet, mains adaptors; you might have chargers for smartphones (or even old style phones), or internal PC cables. Our guide should help you to identify your cables What Are the Different Computer Cable Types You Need to Know? Not sure what that cord is for? Here are the most common computer cable types explained, from monitor cables to network cables. Read More .

Generally speaking data cables are not going to make much money, unless you have something that connects to an unusual or rare device. In this case, you might make a few dollars. Similarly, mains cables shouldn’t be resold, unless they’re for an unusual piece of kit. If you can’t sell them, and they don’t belong with any hardware you’re selling or giving away, cables will need to be disposed of safely.

tips and mistakes re-using old hardware

Reusing old cables is an option, and if you strip them down you could employ them in a DIY project. Using a Raspberry Pi or Arduino? You’re in luck! Safe disposal is your last option: consider Best Buy’s recycling service for old cables and chargers.

Don’t Send It to the Landfill

By now it should be clear that you can’t just throw old hardware in the trash. Some items shouldn’t be given away. Others need recycling, sometimes as soon as they’re no longer used. Some items like hard drives How to Take Apart a Hard Drive and What to Do With the Magnets All mechanical hard drives contain rare earth neodymium magnets. These can be expensive to buy, but old hard drives can easily be harvested for these precious materials? Read More can be safely salvaged for parts!

To recap, there are three ways you can keep old hardware running:

  • Resell
  • Repurpose and Recycle
  • Upcycle

Similarly, there are four hardware types that need special attention when it comes to disposing:

  • Batteries
  • Motherboards
  • Monitors
  • Cables

With so many different chemicals, elements, and plastics used in the construction of modern technology, it is vital that these devices are disposed of in an ecologically friendly manner. If you ever have any doubts, you should contact your local waste disposal service for advice.

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  1. Col_Panek
    March 25, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Put Linux on your old PC. You might find it's useable again.

  2. Dmitry
    March 6, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    Useful article. Thank you. Tell me how I can stop, or restart the server after starting

  3. Colin
    March 6, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    Have a 32in 720p TV, sound died completely on it. Bought a new cheap TV and used the old one for a laptop monitor. Nice not to have to use reading glasses now.