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What Do You Do With Old Computer Parts? 389

yoyoma writes "I am planning to rebuild our desktop computers. What do other slashdotters do with old computer parts? I would prefer to donate them. These are some old parts that I will end up with: two GA-686LX motherboards with PII 233, greater than 224 MB RAM (the new computers will take DDR), some video cards (Matrox) and possibly two ATX cases with 300 watts powersupplies (looking for quieter, smaller cases). Decent enough, but they will have no hard drives, floppy drives, or CD drives. TecsChange, and this other place accept donation of parts. Has anyone done this? What about the receipts for tax purposes?"
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What Do You Do With Old Computer Parts?

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  • by disenfranchised ( 198342 ) <> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:32PM (#2251984) Homepage

    Your local school district would probably be happy to receive the parts. Anything older than that probably wouldn't be useful, but these sound similar to a number of systems (200+) that we donated to the San Francisco Public Schools after our last round of upgrades.

    I don't know for a fact that the schools can give you receipts for tax purposes, but knowing my employer it seems a good bet.

    • no, don't (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pezpunk ( 205653 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @02:09PM (#2252200) Homepage
      schools, at least where i live, won't take surplus computers. and if you think about it for a sec, you'll realize that this is a smart move. first of all, every new computer (or computer part) is a fountain of potential problems. what's on the hard drive (porn / unlicensed software / viruses / etc etc etc)? who owns the licenses? is this hardware about to crap out? where are the drivers? is it compatible with this other part over here? anybody around here know how to install it? can it support software x? plus, of course, whoever's in charge would have to re-train everyone else on each new system, not to mention spending countless hours trying to get it functionable in the first place.

      no, don't curse your schools with surplus hardware!

      • Re:no, don't (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tim Doran ( 910 ) <timmydoran@ro g e r s .com> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @02:18PM (#2252235)
        Shame - if I taught highschool, I'd love to run a skunkworks computer lab. Have students pursue donations of parts from around town and see what they can do with them. Have them research the various parts, choose the best configurations and, of course, build Linux/BSD boxen from them. Wouldn't take long to build a lab - imagine, a *nix lab in a highschool maintained by student volunteers who learn something new every time they crack open a case.

        This reflects my experience with accumulated cast-off parts and could be the most useful computer training they receive (short of actual programming classes).
        • by CrudPuppy ( 33870 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @02:34PM (#2252322) Homepage
          if more people would do this, we would have an
          abundant supply of capable PC techs in the IT
          industry instead of the morons that are now the

          people need to learn to be flexible, and throwing
          10 different systems at someone and telling them
          to try to install (insert your OS here) on them
          will force them to become flexible and creatively

          ordering 100 Dells and handing them to students
          could never inspire the same sort of learning

          • if more people would do this, we would have an abundant supply of capable PC techs in the IT industry instead of the morons that are now the majority.
            It's a good idea...which means it's not likely to be implemented in any government-run school. I imagine that the average school's idea of a "computer class" today probably isn't much different from the classes I took in the second half of the 80s--how to switch the machine on, simple file management, how to use the word-processing software, etc. I usually convinced the teacher to let me do more challenging (read: interesting) stuff, but I don't think you would get a teacher to go along with the idea of kids ripping computers apart and putting them back together. They wouldn't have a clue what's going on and wouldn't know how to evaluate the work done and monitor its progress.

            (I suppose it's possible you might find a teacher with a clue...then again, a snowstorm might blow through hell one day. At the risk of verging slightly off-topic, it should be remembered that the goal of public schools isn't to produce citizens who can think for themselves. As originally designed, they mold young skulls full of mush into compliant, obedient sheeple. This tendency runs counter to the analytical skills needed to work with computers--to program them, build them, diagnose their problems, etc.)

            • My high school computer class was a glorified typing class. On Apple IIs. In 1993.

              On the one hand, I am the envy of almost anyone who watches me type. On the other hand, my computer education happened anywhere but in school.

              • I'm really glad I don't have to deal with that kind of stuff at my school. I am in an Electronic Engineering and telecommunications class right now. We get to do some interesting stuff most of the time. Although the teacher will make us work on circuit diagrams just to piss us off if we are bad in class. That is an effective punishment, making you calculate every resistance/voltage/current in a complex circuit..

                Plus we get plenty of time to do whatever we want, if it is somewhat related to the class, and we don't have anything more important. I am a second year student in the class, so I get to take it for a whole half day, and we're basicly in charge of keeping the other computer labs running and all the teacher's PCs set up right. When we don't have something more important to do we get to experiment with whatever we want. Lately, we've been through a round of Mandrake Linux installs. Last week was BeOS(RIP).

                It does seem like it would be a lot cheaper to have students do all the basic software installations and setups, instead of having to pay someone to do it...
          • if more people would do this, we would have an
            abundant supply of capable PC techs in the IT
            industry instead of the morons that are now the

            It sounds promising, but I don't really think it will have the effect you think it will. There are some students who will get a lot out of this type of class. However, those same people would pick up those skills pretty quickly in a PC tech job too. There are usually some competent PC techs on the support team, and if the techs want to learn, they knowledge and environment is there for them. Those who want to learn and have a knack for the work learn pretty quickly. THose who just want a paycheck and heard a job as a PC tech pays well may not ever learn. A high school class would give those who want to learn and oppertunity earlier in their lives, and allow them to find out if the job suits them. It definatly has a purpose. I'm just not sure you'll really see the average level of competence in the PC tech field go up if more schools did this.
            There also aren't a lot of sutdents who aspirt to become PC techs, and a network of computers built from parts isn't going to be a stable computing environment. The lab would be good for people wanting to learn to support PCs, but bad for people who just want to use PCs as tools. It would meet a need, but 100 Dells would probably meet the general needs of the school a lot better.
        • We did this! (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Racher ( 34432 )
          My first year at my high school I helped create a computer club called, F.L.A.T.T. (Forest Lake Area Technology Team).

          Our teacher bought various cheap 486s, and whatever parts we could scrap up from varios local schools.

          We did so much there. I had already knew a bit or two about computers before then, but this was like a crash course. If we wanted computers for the club we had to build them and get them working with what we had. I had a Mac Plus at home and didn't have much knowledge of PCs, but within 3 months I understood IRQ conflicts, RAM types, processors. I could install Windows 3.11 on a 386 blindfolded with both arms behind my back.

          We practiced programming and the club grew. Unfourtunately it shrunk when I left to attend college early. It gave me more computer experience than any other experience so far. It was the best, I learned so much by spending many nights after school trying to get hardware and software configs to work.

          The only somewhat mention of our group on the web is at the parrell mac computing site AppleSeed []
          • could install Windows 3.11 on a 386 blindfolded with both arms behind my back.

            Oddly enough, I believe this is how Microsoft develops their software...

            ba-da-ba ... ching

        • You could almost bill that as a shop class, you know. Practical Scrounging 101...though you'd need a better title. One possible rough syllabus:
          1. Computer internals - learn the basics of how computers really work (no programming; that's a class in its own), standard electrical safety (ground oneself, and why one turns a computer off before servicing - more on the computer's weaknesses than the human's, in case any "I can take anything" jocks take the class), first lab is having the students install a store-bought sound card onto a basic system (though this may run into resource problems: either have students take turn in lab, refreshing the system to non-sound-card between turns, or have a bunch of systems with sound cards de-installed).
          2. Economics of computer acquisition - Moore's Law, environmental consequences of throwing away computer gear, and other factors leading to acquisition of useless caches of technoscrap. Basics of how to recognize and evaluate cast away pieces of equipment.
          3. Realities of computer acquisition - compare newsprint ads (including magazines), 'Net ads (including eBay), and donations (guest speaker from some charity on how effective/ineffective asking for donations usually is). Overview of dumpster diving, and its usual problems.
          4. Final lab - "special treat" for the students: field trip to a local company, where a Junkyard Wars style loot of a prepared dumpster awaits. Challenge is to build a working computer, OS and everything, in a set time period using only equipment found in the dumpster and supplied (supplied stuff includes software, tools, screws, et cetera). Make sure to get advance approval from whoever you're raiding the dumpster of - and, of course, make sure there's enough actual working parts for each team altogether. If you're not sure how long to allocate, build a computer from the same parts yourself and see how long it takes, then allocate some extra time since the students are still learning from you (and they won't know in advance what components are available, et cetera). There will be one "winner", but anyone who can assemble a working system within a reasonable time limit should pass. Built computers go to the school's computer lab (students built it, so students can keep it running for other students), or to the students themselves if your school already has enough.
          • I've never known computers to have that many electrical hazards (towards humans.) Unless you muck around inside power supplies or monitors, or dunk your computer in the bathtub with you, there just isn't enough voltage going through computer parts to deliver a meaningful shock.

            Though I have encountered an older computer where the power switch had exposed contacts carrying live 110v wall current. Found that out after touching the wrong place with a screwdriver.

            Modern ATA motherboards & cases don't have any high voltages except in the power supply, clearly labeled with "HIGH VOLTAGE" stickers.

        • It would be a fun lab to teach, and very educational for those students who want to learn to work on PCs. There would always be something for them to learn to, because when you have a bunch of computers put together from different parts, there's always a lot of problems. You'd constantly be running into driver problems, bios problems, and failures of old hardware. When you have a bunch of identical computers you still have problems, but a lot of those problems you only hae to figure out once and apply the solution to all the computers.
          Your lab would be great for a small protion of the students, but of much less use for students who want to use the computer to run software, rather than learn to fix problems with computers. If your school is large enough to support both kinds of computer labs, then I think it's a great idea, otherwise, look for corporate donations of working PCs.
      • use Norton Ghost (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ColGraff ( 454761 )
        At my school, we use Norton Ghost on donated machines. This is a program that copies an exact disk image from one hard drive onto another. We just make one master hard disk, and clone a hard drive for each machine. The result is that each computer in a "batch" of donations is identical from the user's point of view, and all the computers in the school have more or less the same "look" to them on the desktop. Slap PolEdit on all of them to keep the idiots from messing with the machines, put Centurion Guards on the machines you don't want the smart people messing with either, and you have a really workable setup in which donated machines are quite useful.

        Liscencing isn't a problem, as I said, because we just Ghost a clean drive onto all the machines in a donation batch. Ditto for porn and viruses. In fact, the biggest porn problem comes from teachers themselves (surprise surprise). I spent two hours last friday cleaning a science teacher's computer which was filled to capacity with JPEGs of an - ahem - interesting nature.

        Drivers sometimes are a problem, but it's rare we can't find them within an hour of searching on the internet. Since we're ghosting each batch of donations anyway, the additional time required for driver installation is nill.

        Regarding proprietary hardware: I've seen computers at my high school that would terrify all right-thinking techs. I've seen computers that were being held together with duct tape, computers with all sorts of proprietary crap - especially compaqs, with the funky square keyboard connectors they used a few years ago - but I've never seen anything in a donation so alien no one in the building could work with it.

        My district's budget is a joke - donations are the only thing that let us get enough computers. Every non-department-head teacher computer is a donation, as are all the computers in the programming lab. I don't know what we'd do without people giving us their half-working crap, and our fixing it and putting it in a place it has to be.

        Interesting sidenote: You know who gives us more computers than anyone else? Anheiser Bush.

    • There are many charities that would benefit from old computers, of the level mentioned, since whatthey have is probably far inferior, however the charities in createst need probably don't have the expertise to deal with parts. Most charities would be willing to accept donations of computers (for office work, etc) but only the technically inclined would brobably be interested in parts. Consider, buying a couple cheap drives and assembling the parts into working systems and donating those. You'd probably get a lot more charities interested in such a donation.

  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:32PM (#2251988) Homepage Journal
    There is a store (in Cincinnati, at least) called "Computer Renassance" (bad spelling, I know) that buys old computer parts. It isn't hundreds of dollars for the old stuff, but its cash.

    Plus, its nice to buy some old stuff (like 200Mhz motherboard/chip) for linux boxen from the store for cheap...
    • by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:42PM (#2252051) Journal
      You're kidding, right? Computer Renassaince is the worst place to buy or sell stuff. They have nice low end PII systems that cost MORE than an E-machine with 17" monitor. They don't give you decent cash for hardware and they sell it for rediculous prices. My local CR has a nice area I call the "legacy scrap heap", a place where you can buy REALLY old hardware at the price it's worth. 486 CPUs for 99 cents, 30 pin SIMMS, etc. Otherwise if it's on the shelf you're paying too much. Used floppy drives: $30. 210 MB hard drive: $40. It's rediculous.
      • The one where I used to live (Columbia, SC) had a nice parts bin, great for picking up a stack of ISA network cards so's you can build a network of 486s and have a NetDoomFest. Nothing in the bargain bin was ever more than $5, and at that price I can deal with the "as-is" terms.

        Now I live in Atlanta...and one day I went to a CR in the area...and saw a 3c509-TPO. In the bargain bin. With a price of $89. And still with the "as-is" condition! The rest of the bin was much the same. It left me feeling cold and depressed.

      • Each CR is independently owned. This means that
        some stores do suck but some are ok. It is true
        that in many ways you are better of getting new
        than used, but it depends on what you need. For
        some people going to one of these stores might
        make sense.
    • Also in Chicago, IL and Ann Arbor, MI. Unfortunately, each individual store seems to have its own website.

      Odd, that.
      • by dEEbEE ( 313611 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @02:20PM (#2252243) Homepage
        Once upon a time before acquiring Real Employment[tm], I worked for the Computer Renaissance in Paradise Valley, AZ, so I can speak based on my experiences there.

        The CR stores are a franchise that gives each store owner pretty much free reign over what they will/won't buy and what prices they'll offer. At the one I worked for, the owner is a strong believer in blind margin points and the PC Hardware Bluebook. He'd generally offer slightly less than bluebook, assuming he was even interested, and he'd only take things of PII class or no really old parts-for-pennies there. Then, he'd go by what the bluebook said the item was worth and put some insane margin of 20-50 _points_ above that. Suffice it to say that the used hardware in that store has a _lot_ of price stickers that have browned with age from idling on the shelf for months/years. There are still items that I took in years ago that are still out there, and still with the same pricetag placed on them at the time.

        At least in my (now dated) experience, the Paradise Valley store does put together a decent low-end ~$500 PC and provide good "for beginners" support in getting it setup for those who are new to owning a PC, I'll give them that. But for buying/selling old parts, there is no way I could fathom recommending them.
    • The one in Killeen TX, is really good, they have fair prices on new and used parts, okay, maybe they are on the slightly high side. I keep going back because I get excellent service that not even Dell or any of the big OEMs could match.
  • Storage...heh (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Dimensio ( 311070 )
    Most of my old computer parts are sitting in storage should a day arrive when we have enough to build a test box, should we want to test anything.

    I would consider donation, except that there's not much to donate that's very useful -- we have no spare hard drives, because any HD lying around is invariably tossed somewhere -- usually into the fileserver to give it more storage capacity. We have a few sound cards and some old video cards, but I'm not even sure what works anymore (I tried putting together a bare-bones Linux box from an old PII400; no video at post). Typically stuff sits around until I want to upgrade the NAT router (in case I want to run a local game server or something) which usually happens when someone upgrades their PC (our last upgrade occurred when an Athlon 500 was replaced with a 1.4Ghz...then the 500 took the place of a PII450 and the PII450 replaced a PII233 NAT router).
  • Where do I get things like maybe a dual P2-300 for f'ing around with SMP without paying "I love eBay and I'm addicted to overbidding" prices, buying old things new, or buying new tech?

  • freeboxen (Score:2, Interesting)

    by druiid ( 109068 )
    Whatever happened to the one website, either or It was like a ebay kinda site where people put up lists of hardware they didn't need any people could request it. All they typically had to pay was shipping.
    • Re:freeboxen (Score:2, Informative)

      by outofpaper ( 189404 )
      FreeBoxen is down right now but for any one who wants to try to find out what hapened to the sight hear is all the contact info for Mr. Lincoln the ownert of

      James Lincoln

      1317 Highland

      Duarte, CA 91010


      Phone: 626-303-4175

    • Freeboxen went down, mainly, I believe, for lack of time and funding. There was some sort of request at the end for offers to run it...

      and I offered. But I never got a reply. I guess I could drop a couple more emails...
  • by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:33PM (#2251995)
    I cannibalize like mad. Power supply fans are often good for supplemental case ventilation... provided the reason the PSU is dead is something OTHER than the fan was crap and it overheated.

    For complete systems, though, I generally send them to places that ship them off to disadvantaged areas (like Cuba). You don't run up against snooty "What? A PII is way too slow" from there, that's for certain.
    • Crack those old power supplies open and sometimes there is a wealth of fun, though sometimes oddly shaped, heatsinks. They can be handy to the amateur electical engineer, overclocker, etc. Be warned though, those big capacitors can hold a charge much longer than you might expect, so keep the thing grounded and be careful.
  • Quick tax rebate (Score:2, Redundant)

    by elefantstn ( 195873 )
    What about the receipts for tax purposes?

    Quick tax rebate, Microsoft style: Take your old Windows 95 discs, back them up onto CD-Rs, and donate them. Claim $199 each.

  • by fataugie ( 89032 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:34PM (#2252008) Homepage
    Sell 'em! Good God man, tax deduction? Much more problems that it's worth. Keep in mind that you can only write off a percentage of the total value. Hardly worth the effort if you ask me. IF you feel benevolent, then just give them to the local charity or whatever.

    Otherwise, sell them to some geek on Ebay, charge a fair price and people will pay you to ship to them.

  • I just built my first X Terminal from an abandoned P200. From "gee, lets see how hard this is" to "hey, cool! It works!" took four hours.

    go here: Linux Terminal Server Project []

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:36PM (#2252023)
    Over 10 years, I've saved 2 Hercules video cards and 3 MDA monitors (amber and white) for my various desktop boxes, first to have a console to use the SoftICE debugger and be able to debug graphical VGA programs, and then to have a second console thanks to the mdacon driver in Linux (I use it mainly to tail /var/log/message on the second screen). It even has a virtual framebuffer that works great provided my ATI is never in text mode (i.e. in framebuffer mode too). Additionally, Hercules cards provide an additional parallel port. How cool is that ? :-)

    I dread the day motherboard manufacturers will finally kill ISA slots though ...

    • I dread the day motherboard manufacturers will finally kill ISA slots though ...

      I once messed up flashing a BIOS. The video card's (AGP) startup screen wouldn't even display. Using an ISA video card I was able to boot again and re-flash the BIOS correcty.

      I will never chuck that ISA video card away - unless ISA completly disappears.
  • I WISH I had a pII 233...these "spare" parts you speak of are better than my current should donate them to your local "poor geek" fund....=)
    • Hear hear! I'm running RedHat 7.x on a 6-year-old machine that's been tricked out to a P200mmx with 96M of EDO Ram and a 10-gig HDD with an 8-meg ATI video card. Oh, and a 15" (albeit Trinitron) monitor. Further upgrades to this box aren't going to be worth the expense.

      Much as I'd *love* to build a new box, I just can't spare the cash right now. It's gotten worse too - I just figured that I could spend just $300 on a new mobo, processor (1 GHz Athlon), PC-133 RAM and a cheapo case and scavenge parts from my old box to make my new system complete.

      Anyway - my advice is the EBay option. Make those parts available to people like me, who can only afford the occasional incremental upgrade. And swing a little cash for your trouble.
  • My friends recently got several (over 10) old compaq laptops (486 style with monochrome display's). They made a sweet video of many ways to destroy them, some of which include burning with gas and rolling over with a truck. We will have it compiled into mpeg pretty soon, and if anyone is interested in getting a copy, gimme an email. :)
    • My friends recently got several (over 10) old compaq laptops (486 style with monochrome display's). They made a sweet video of many ways to destroy them, some of which include burning with gas and rolling over with a truck.

      I don't know about other people, but i find this sort of senseless destruction of working(?) useable hardware rather offensive. You could have made a lot of people happy with these things.
  • by dberger ( 44485 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:38PM (#2252031)
    FWIW: I've done this sort of thing several times (each time I do a major upgrade on a machine) - and in almost every case, I hit the local parts swap, pick up the missing parts (in this case probably to the tune of $50 or so - small IDE drive, basic CDROM, and floppy) and donate a working machine rather than a collection of parts. The tax writeoff is nice, of course, but the knowledge that I've given someone a working machine is better.

    As for destinations - I give local schools and libraries first shot at them.

    Just my .02

  • Wall art (Score:2, Funny)

    by Overphiend ( 227888 )
    I like to hang old computer parts on the wall. For a while I had a fully functioning system hanging on the wall.
  • My evil scheme for world domination is to melt down all those old computer parts and take the gold (and other precious metals). That, and they're really very fun to play around with.
  • Ask Google (Score:5, Informative)

    by Twid ( 67847 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:43PM (#2252053) Homepage
    Why do people ask slashdot when five minutes in Google yields productive results:

    Typing "computer recycling" [] in google led me on the FIRST LINK to:

    The national directory of computer recycling programs []

    A State, National and International Directory of agencies
    that facilitate donations of used computer hardware
    for schools and community groups.

    Scrolling down, I found the second link:

    The computer recycling center []

    Computer Recycling Center accepts for Donation drop-off, ALL computer equipment of ANY age and ANY condition, working or non-working. We charge a small REUSE FEE for older items.
    Our Mission is to promote the highest and best re-use of computer equipment, and recycle the unusable items to keep them out of our landfills.

    You can take it from there....

    • Google is a good place to start, but we all know people who can use our help. As Bill Gates once predicted in an amazing self furfilling profacy, computing machienery will be limited by the software that runs it. That chunk of hardware is only the begining. It won't work without some time and care.

      Recycling centers need help making those "broken" computers useful. The local school needs help getting started with older equipment. If you've got time to donate, please do. Lend your time to institutions you care about. Their needs are suprisingly simple, and once started down the Free software road, they will be able to help themselves. A small investement of your time can save your favorite institution a great deal of money and trouble.

  • Ok, this sounds like a stupid question...but considering batteries, and engine oil have to be disposed of properly (can't just throw them in the trash)...what exactly do you do with broken hardware that has all sorts of hideous heavy/rare metals and other compounds in it? Can you just toss it?
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:43PM (#2252059)
    I've made good money selling 32 pin SIMMs I had from the days I was working at a computer assembler : I had a bagfull of 256K and 4M SIMMs and up until about 2 years ago, they sold at crazy prices. Same for EDO DIMM modules. So if you do nothing else, put those 224M RAM of yours in an antistatic bag and enjoy the return on investment in 2 or 3 years. It's not that RAM gets more expensive, it's just that standards get deprecated, therefore more rare, therefore more expensive.
  • by photovoltaics ( 470242 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:43PM (#2252060) takes donations in Portland, Oregon. They also teach linux for free and give you a free computer if you complete the course!!!

    I'm out like Elian.
    S. ALan(TM)
  • by standards ( 461431 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:45PM (#2252067)
    My local community college offers a course for building computers. It helps people understand computer hardware, AND it helps people obtain a useful, low-cost machine.

    Components like the ones described by the poster are in demand - reasonably modern equipment, and with a few extra pieces (like drives), the builder can save hundreds of dollars and have a useful and potentially upgradable home PC for the kids.

    Other options include the local school district or the local place of worship - whatever floats your boat. Or give it to the neighbor kid who is interested in such things.

    The only thing I ask you not to do is to let it rot - by storing it in a closet until it's useless, or by putting it out with the garbage.
  • by johnjones ( 14274 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:46PM (#2252072) Homepage Journal
    right if you want to donate a machine

    put manuals in plastic bag along with driver disk and phyically attach it to hardware
    (those plastic ties are nice )
    this is to prevent it getting lost if they seperate the box from board

    (do it with a linux distro for a laugh and root pass =password)

    HOW Many machines Have I boot to find letters to tax man porn and such is quite unbeliveable

    those 2 steps are really nice

    my advice is walk into a primary school with a linux box and X up and running with a edu game on it and the teachers love you (-;


    john jones

  • Salvation Army (Score:4, Informative)

    by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:46PM (#2252077)
    Their Thrift Stores take old computers and give you a receipt. Not sure about parts, but old complete systems are fine. (Just donatated one recently.)
  • by trcooper ( 18794 ) <coop&redout,org> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:46PM (#2252078) Homepage
    I tend to store old parts in a pile, or closet. You never know when they will become useful. Someday I know I will need to use that old CGA card again, and you can never have too many 20 Mb drives lying around. You don't know that you won't learn how to fix that old burnt out monitor, and that floppy drive that exhibits destructive tendacies may come in handy sometime. Don't let me get started on my colection of power cords and other misc cables.

    By all means keep them around. I've found that an excellent place to keep all this is in large rubbermade tubs under the stairs. Out of sight, but easy to get to when you need them, and also relatively dust free.
  • by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:48PM (#2252084)
    Really. What about those of us who shamefully have a 386 or 486 sitting on a shelf in the back room? How do we dispose of these? Chances are that a school can't use them, nor can anyone else. And if I'm not mistaken, the lead in the circuit boards would leach out if in a landfill, so it's not environmentally friendly to just toss them. But I'd really rather not pay someone to recycle my old hardware or CRTs. I know that the lead in CRTs can be recycled as well.

    Anyhow, does anyone know of a way to get rid of / recycle the really old hardware without paying someone to take it?

  • Sadly, old hardware is usually best for the scrap heap (well, recycling is better, but you get the idea). It is cheaper to get relatively modern hardware because the difference in operating costs and support hardware (such as power supplies and hard drives) for the older computers mean that fast computers have better bang for the buck.
  • by Nater ( 15229 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:51PM (#2252101) Homepage
    Check your local geek clubs. UFO (Users of Free Operating Systems) Chicago [] has a list of its members' idle hardware. I sold an old SCSI drive and video card that I've been holding onto for a few years for just about market value to another UFO member.
  • Everyone should check out ad papers such as Loot (if you live in the NYC area) if they are scavenging for gear. I have seen others in the Midwest that come out weekly, and you can get great deals from people who are upgrading or just want to get rid of older equipment. Although I myself haven't bought components from these sources, I have seen pages and pages of ads for cheaply priced older equipment. And remember, you can always bargain them down. Another recent source has been all those dot com's going under!

    A lot of my older gear breaks quickly, and sometimes I do it myself. The older hard drives tend to crash, and once that happens, what use is a diskless 386 with 8 mb ram? I tend to take them apart and make stacks of strange computer gear. Two Pentiums that I once had got themselves smashed by crashing everytime I tried to put on Red Hat Linux or Windows. The older and less "used" a system is, the more likely that it will be used in some sort of geeky "experimentation" like hooking it up to a stereo, phone, radio or other electrical gear or installing an obscure, barely tested Unix kernel or alternative OS. This makes it more likely that the poor, over-the-hill machine will meet its demise due to power surged fried circuits or nuked hard disk!

    I've got a 486 laptop with a 5" screen. Now what am I going to use that for? Windows 3.1, whew-hew!

    Keep some of the useful stuff like soundcards, NIC's, RAM, floppy and hard drives and trash the rest. Never know when that stuff might come in handy. With storage at an all-time low, I can't see too much value in keeping those 500 MB disk drives around; they're just going to crash and make you mad later, anyways. I'd say any motherboard below Pentium is not worth keeping unless you have a lot of patience, an older OS and/or a dedicated task for it to perform, such as routing or firewalling. Even then, the low cost of gear like a Linksys router [] kind of makes you want to buy something small, useful and well-engineered rather than use an old, clunky x86 with extra NIC's.

    • Will that cheap Linksys router let you write whatever TCI/IP filtering rules you would like?

      Can you install apache and PHP on it to put up a basic website?

      Will it tell you how much traffic you are sending to and from the net?

      Can you install wget on it so you don't have to use a spyware infested windows DL manager?

      My 486/33, 16 MB RAM, 1 GB HD does all this and more if I wanted it to, and does it well. It keeps the wolves away from my gaming machine and my game latencies increased by maybe 10 ms. The broadband routers are nice but don't expect them to do what a PC can. You say that the routers are useful and well-engineered, and imply that old x86's are not. Old x86's are just as well-engineered, they just didn't have the advances in technology or in design concepts we have now. Were steam engines poorly engineered because they were built before internal combustion? Were the engineers of the steam era less intelligent than modern engineers? Answer: No!

      Also, don't a lot of devices, such as broadband routers, use 486 class chips?
  • Donate to FREE GEEK (Score:5, Interesting)

    by casa_azul ( 519367 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:53PM (#2252115)
    Portland, Oregon - FREE GEEK is a non-profit that takes older equipment and makes simple end user Linux boxes (FREEK BOXes) that are given to needy individuals for a few hours of community service recycling computers. The computers come with a class on how to use it and everything. (we've given out a couple a hundred in the last year).
  • Usually, my parts wind up going into the boxes owned by various family members. Between me and my mother (who's a Everquest fanatic), the upgrades happen fairly frequently which leaves plenty of spare parts to put in machines for my sister, my young neice and the computers my father uses as point-of-sale systems at his business.

    Be nice and see if any of your younger family members could use something that would at least allow them to have 'net access and do word processing. After that, check into donating a working machine (c'mon don't just give them parts) to a local library or school. You may even want to see if there is an after-school activity facility in your area that will take your donation.

    If you're just looking to do something with those parts, put them back together, fire it up and get hooked up with the SETI At Home (I don't remember the correct acronym) project, which decodes signals from space using your computer's idle time. Or build a MAME arcade machine. Or generate fractals. The possibilities are endless.

  • by xijix ( 143366 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:56PM (#2252129)
    I work for a non-profit group here in Michigan, The Geek Group, that is always looking for donations. We run quite a few classes to teach kids about computers and keeping a steady flow of systems to have them rip apart and learn tends to be a strugle.

    "The Geek Group is an American based, 501-c-3, non-profit organization with members from all over the world who have been brought together for one simple purpose, to have fun while learning and sharing knowledge for a positive impact on mankind.

    We educate the public with fun and interesting science projects. From our Tesla Coil to Geekmobile Unit 3, our projects catch the eye while demonstrating scientific concepts in a fun and interesting manner. In addition to this, we also conduct classes on various areas of computer science, mechanical and electrical engineering, high voltage physics and more.

    The Group also offers services to the public. Current on-line services include computer repair and web design. We are also capable of security advising, prototypical design, and software development. We also hold private demonstrations of our projects for schools and other groups.

    To learn more about The Geek Group, please feel feel to browse the site. We promise to keep you entertained. Because the Geek shall inherit the Earth!"
  • I work with teenagers in my spare time. One of our indoor plans for the geekier kids is to take several instances of Pentium I and II technology and apply them to a beowulf cluster sometime during the cold of winter. Not sure what we'll compute, but it should be fun.
  • i stil have 486's in use, and my fastest machine is a pii300...

    thios parts would definitely be of use to schols, but i don't think they'd be wiling to deal with individual hardware pieces.

    the problem is that large organizations (schools, etc.) aren't going to want to deal with building machiensfrmo individual parts, because the administration costs of dealing with a large number of disparate machines can be huge.
  • CoyoteLinux (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @02:03PM (#2252163) Journal
    The CoyoteLinux [] distro runs from a floppy and makes an old machine a perfect firewall provided you add 2 network cards and a floppy disk drive, but this should cheap enough regarding the security you'd get.
  • I'm not sure if it's a national thing, but when i lived in pittsburgh, there was a place called goodwill computers...accepted donations and provides decent systems for affordable prices. however, the stuff you're talking about ditching is worth holding onto if you ever want to build some test boxes, routers, firewalls, etc...
  • Good Will (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stonewolf ( 234392 )
    Here in Austin Good Will has their own computer store and they are glad to take parts. They sell complete computers and they also sell parts. Great place to pick up a working computer cheap.

    I've donated crates of old hardware and software to them.


  • by tenzig_112 ( 213387 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @02:26PM (#2252278) Homepage
    The fundamental issue for me is not what to do with the old stuff, it is how the new stuff becomes old stuff so quickly.

    In spite of the less-than-rosy economic picture, a lot of people are going to buy new computers so they can effectively run Office XP [on which they will only use about 10% of the features]. That just doesn't make sense to me.

    How much RAM does Word take nowadays? And don't tell me that memory is cheap and this kind of bloat doesn't matter. It does. People are getting their clocks cleaned trying to keep up with what amounts to a proprietary communications protocol [.doc].

    Far from making "kick-arse" machines that can stay current for 12 months. We seem to be entering into an "arse-kicking" machine of our own making.

    [ just for fun ... a link to an article on the 20 years of feature bloat that has brought the PC to where it is today: ay=20010813 []]

  • I collect old computer from friends and family and just add them onto my network. I have extra network cards and I just put them into the computers I get, install linux, and put them on the network. When I get bored I setup one as a primary DNS server, one as a secondary DNS. I play around with apache and sendmail configs. And even try to hack into my own machines for security holes. It's fun. Old computers have many uses, thanks to linux.

  • My working table (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pac ( 9516 ) <> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @02:33PM (#2252313)
    The table I am working on right now is made from an old wooden door, covered with a thick blade of transparent glass. The many layers of paint, some of them decades old, were sttripped out almost, but not quite, back to the original wood.

    Inside the door carvings there are 5 1/4" disks of various colours, some memory chips, a internal modem, some other unidentified chips, some serail and paralel ports. There are also other raw eletronic components.

    The final effect is very good. :)
  • Those boards can go up to a PII 366 - heck, you might be able to oc the current CPUs to that, given a large enough heatsink. I would offer to buy the parts myself, but I am on a budget for a house, so that nixes that.

    One thing you can do in the "selling on ebay" dept is to sell them as "bare bones" starter systems - drop the boards into the boxes, CPUs, and memory, and a video card each, there you go.

    Over the weekend, I picked up an old copier that was sitting out in the desert - shattered beyond belief. Plenty of parts, though:

    Nylon Gears
    Magnetic Clutches
    Toothed Belts
    Nylon Sprockets
    Stepper Motors

    I haven't got much use for this stuff, but I am thinking about cleaning it all up, testing it, then selling it as robot construction parts on Ebay - many of the gears, sprockets and belts are "matched", so would make great driver parts.

    My biggest problem right now is staying as clean as I can from the toner!
  • Computers 4 Kids (Score:3, Informative)

    by waldoj ( 8229 ) <waldo.jaquith@org> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @02:38PM (#2252340) Homepage Journal
    There are lots of programs like Charlottesville's Computers4Kids [] out there. We'll take any processor at or above 130MHz, drives over 1GB, and other things of that generation. I don't know of any central directory of similar programs, but if there's not one, I know that we'd love to have 'em!

  • Wycliffe Bible Translaters [] is always in need of more computers, and they take donations.

    No, this isn't a troll and it's not offtopic. It's not meant to spark a religious debate. I posted it so people of this persuasion would know about it. Thanks.
  • I have three different "levels" of ancient hardware storage in my home office. As I upgrade and replace my hardware, the obsolete stuff slowly makes its way out of my rig, off my desk, and out the door...

    Beside the desk:

    This is where the old-but-still-usable gear ends up. Looking down beside my desk right now I see several 20, 30, and 40 GB drives, a few CD-ROM drives, and my old mobo and 833 MHz CPU.

    In the closet:

    My closet holds all of my obsolete-but-not-quite-garbage stuff. Ancient 4X CDRW burners, PII-450 gear, 18 GB drives, etc. Plus a few Win98 retail boxes, heh.

    Eventually my old stuff makes it out to the garage in a big scrab box. Every now and then I pour its contents into the garbage. Last dump had some P233 procs and mobos, 72 pin simms (heh), etc. Next load will probably be PII-266 era stuff. PC66 dimms, etc.
  • by sheetsda ( 230887 ) <doug,sheets&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @03:08PM (#2252455)
    One word: Keychain. Nothing says "Geek" like some RAM in your pocket with your keys. SIMMs already have wholes that most of those little steel ball chain keychains fit through, no modification required.
  • We make an email server and put it in the bathroom. [] We're still working out some networking troubles but you can try []

    And no, a PII 233 is not old hardware. Anything pentium class or even 486 can make a linux server of almost any type.
  • I've donated to Tecschange in the past. Gave them a fairly good Sony 15" monitor (upgraded to a 19" Hitachi). They even came by and picked it up, which was a major bonus for me (I'm carless, so any hauling of equipment anyplace entails a huge hassle). I'm ride of something I used to stub my toe on, and someone, someplace, now has a functioning PC monitor. I didn't bother with the tax writeoff. Recovering the floorspace was enough for me :)

    Currently, I seem to have enough computer-needy freinds to make disposing of my recently-used hardware. I just gave my nephews a computer built out of my old hard drive, case, and a failed motherboard upgrade. A freind of mine is going to get my BP6 motherboard after she moves... another may get parts from a gutted server that was replaced with a smaller system.

    Ask around, as well. I know several of the IT folks where I work do volunteering for non-profits on the side. I may drag the old 200Mhz PPro out, lash it back together, and give it to them.
  • the chemicals make for cool colors ;-)

    Just kidding, yes you can donate to a church and then write them off on your taxes. Get a reciept from the church, as you'll need it for your taxes at the end of the year. Alternately you can look at some dealers, like if they were made by HP I think they have a disposal program. They may even take none HP computers. Alternately you could try a place like selling them on a message board like or even ebay. I'd use craigslist, but they are only available (or marketed?) in certain areas AFAIK. I've sold a few items using craigslist.

  • Assemble your used parts into web/e-mail terminals. There is no shortage of low income people who can afford to pay $10-20 a month to an ISP, but cannot afford to buy a PC (or know how to configure it afterward).

    Ask your coworkers and friends - they probably know people who can use the PCs.
  • contact techhouse [] (those people that put tetris on the sciences library at Brown) and we would be (most likely) happy to take it (our server is only a 233Mhz!!!)

    yup. =)
  • At least that's what I see others do. On a recent scan through the classifieds I found these "deals":
    I wish I could find the $800 Epson 386 with monitor, printer and ALL software that's Great for Students!
    • Well, I did find this one []:
      Price? $100. Whoa.

      Okay. This paragraph exists simply to weigh the lowercase text higher than the all caps text. I didn't write the all caps -- it's a quote. I could remove the all caps but that would mean modifying the original and losing some of the feeling - the impact - of the original.

  • Target Practice! All that you really need is something that will break when fired upon by a large caliber weapon...

    Geeks with Guns

  • I was just checking out slashdot and noticed you were asking what you could do with your left over parts..well while I do not have a 501(c) non-profit I do run a non-profitable website from which all the proceeds go towards keeping the site online. So if you have left over equipment I would LOVE to get it =) I'm trying to gather parts to expand as well as build a beowulf cluster to devote to SETI @Home as well as a privately funded seti station we are working on building. I guess a little background - I run The Anomalies Network ( which is a good sized online paranormal/ufo community. We have over 9gigs of online data as well as over 1300 registered users in our online forum but all in all we get about 3 million hits per month which means its a bear to keep online. We run on either self funded or dontated hardware, and I got really lucky with the bandwidth! Lets see what else - We've been online for over 5 years (I think about 6 years but the launch date escapes me right now..although my wife knows =) and in all that time I earned $45 from the site =) Anyways I would love all your spare hardware (Pentium 1 plus), to make this cluster a reality! It will take time but I promise this is a good cause =) Ok thats as compelling as I think I can be...check out the site and you'll see what I've built. And hopefully you guys would like to help!! Thanks for your time, Olav Founder The Anomalies Network
  • Here are some good places to donate.

    Free Linux []

    LinuxFund []

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard