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Ask Slashdot: How To Donate Older Computers to Charity? 260

yanom writes "My school gave me several circa-2006 computers with no operating system. I fixed them up, and now they run Lubuntu fairly well, making them great internet/LibreOffice/general Linux workstations. I've been wanting to donate them to local nonprofits where they'll go to good use — for example, I've already given several to a local church for them to use in their afterschool care/tutoring program. However, I'm having trouble finding other places where these machines could go to good use. How should I best conduct this search? How can I find nonprofits that could benefit from these workstations?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Donate Older Computers to Charity?

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  • 2006? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:42AM (#43171645) Journal

    Are they P4 or Core processors? If they are P4, just recycle them.

    • Re:2006? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Splat ( 9175 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:44AM (#43171665)

      Your kind of thought process is exactly the problem. A P4 system is perfectly usable given the correct software configuration, and as timothy already stated they're working well enough running Lubuntu to be a basic word processing/information device. Just because it's not the newest technology doesn't mean it's trash. There are plenty of people out there who would be perfectly well served by a basic computer that can run a web browser to look up information, and type up emails on it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hatta ( 162192 )

        An IBM 5150 is perfectly usable given the correct software configuration. Usable for what, is the question. A 3ghz P4 isn't even fast enough to play flash video smoothly these days.

        • Re:2006? (Score:5, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2013 @12:08PM (#43172007)

          Nothing plays flash video smoothly, and flash is proud of that.

        • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

          > A 3ghz P4 isn't even fast enough to play flash video smoothly these days.

          It most certainly is. Maybe not at HD resolutions, but SD works fine. My mom uses an old 2.6GHz P4 that was my main machine for a while. Runs XP home and Chrome - does everything she wants.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        P4's cost a lot to run. I measured a basic P4 machine the other day and it was drawing around 140 watts at idle. My core i5 Macbook Pro was only drawing around 11 watts. For some it would be cheaper to just buy a lower powered machine than to pay the electricity bill on a P4.

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          except that electricity is only 6-12 cents a kilowatt hour. So for a huge portion of users that might only need the thing to be on an hour or two per day why they check some websites, and handle e-mails; its not an issue.

          Yes if its a machine that you use all day, or is on all the time power efficiency matters on the bottom line, but its simply not the case for equipment that gets less run time, even if its one the bottom end of power efficiency (within the context of PCs and Laptops).

        • You can't compare a laptop to a desktop.

          Laptops are designed from the ground up to be as cool-running, quiet, and energy efficient as possible (usually to the point of being underpowered) in order to have a decent amount of on-battery running time. Desktops don't have this limitation and tend to focus more on raw performance and price, with much less consideration for heat output and energy efficiency.

          Go measure a P4 laptop, and you will get a much more reasonable comparison (granted, the macbook pro will s

      • Re:2006? (Score:4, Informative)

        by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @12:09PM (#43172021)
        I did some research on this around Y2K timeframe. My company was throwing away pallets worth of computers that didn't handle the changeover properly. Perfectly functional and usable, but just didn't meet their requirements. I was amazed how many charities didn't want slightly older computers. They listed their minimum specs and

        I don't know the reasons but what would realistically be a perfect computer for low income or otherwise disadvantaged people just isn't something even charities are willing to spend the resources to deal with.

        A more extreme example would be Africa. There millions of people in Africa who live in modern cities who could use any of the US's castoff computers. But the costs of transporting them make it completely unfeasible to ship them for the worth/value.
        • "...minimum specs and they just outright wouldn't take them."
        • by Hatta ( 162192 )

          Isn't Africa where all those "recycled" computers end up anyway?

        • Problem in Africa: electricity to run them. The cities are sorta modern, but in the bush...
        • There millions of people in Africa who live in modern cities who could use any of the US's castoff computers

          My understanding is that the big problem is Africa is electricity. Even in the big cities, it's pretty unreliable. That's why cells and tablets are so much more popular there. Even if a desktop were much cheaper up front, it wouldn't be of much use in a place where the power is constantly going out.

          • A fair point. But with necessity being the mother of invention, many people in such situations have lots of macgyvered solutions to variable mains power.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        Giving a P4 to the poor is evil. The cost of running it can easily cost more than a brand new computer.
        • Re:2006? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @12:33PM (#43172359)

          Not really, there's subsidies for power in many places and rarely if ever is there a subsidy for a new computer.

          What's more, cash flow is an issue, it might cost more in the long run, but some people only have a few bucks a month and need the computer now. Getting a free or cheap computer that costs a couple bucks more a month in the long run might just be what they have to put up with.

          The people who are getting these computers are frequently in a position where they can't save money either way because they have none. Yes, it would be better for them to not spend the extra money, but they don't necessarily have the luxury of money sitting around to buy a new computer when their current one breaks either.

        • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

          The difference being that the cost to run the older equipment is spread out over time (at no interest). How many poor people can afford $500 (a modest computer price) in one go (and still eat and pay the bills). What's the monthly cost in electricity of a free but inefficient computer?

          Options for the original poster:
          Look for charities that don't get a lot of government funding. Those are the ones that are probably hurting the most. Battered women's shelters are probably funded better than a food bank.

        • Giving a P4 to the poor is evil. The cost of running it can easily cost more than a brand new computer.

          If you run the numbers, you might be surprised.

      • No, a P4 is not perfectly usable. Not unless it was one of the rare breed that came with 2 cores or one of the rarer SMP setups with two chips.

        There's a huge and noticeable difference in responsiveness between the old single-core P4s and the slightly newer (2006-onward) chips that are dual-core. Multi-core chips and multi-CPU setups age well, single-core chips never have.

        In fact, multiple core systems age so well that we immediately jumped on them (AMD X2 64bit) back in 2006 when they started dropping
        • It's not bad. I have a P4 from 2005 w/ Windows XP sitting under my desk for legacy support. I use it to browse from time to time, it's fine for that.

          It's better than nothing: a homeless shelter could probably use a couple just so they can search for jobs and such, or send emails to their relatives. A P4 with Windows XP or some flavor of Linux can do that just fine.

          As a gift to a relative or something, it's probably worthless unless they don't have a PC or they decide to give their teenager a PC for homew

          • by jgrahn ( 181062 )

            It's not bad. I have a P4 from 2005 w/ Windows XP sitting under my desk for legacy support. I use it to browse from time to time, it's fine for that.

            Huh. The one I'm typing this on is an AMD64 from 2005. I use it for anything from programming to image editing to ... well, anything except running Windows. It's low-power and silent; around 2005 the manufacturers finally realized that people wanted those things. What possible reasons could I have to spend money (and scarce natural resources) on a new one?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Grisstle ( 2798631 )
        "Your kind of thought process is exactly the problem. A P4 system is perfectly usable given the correct software configuration" As a person supporting a not for profit, I wouldn't touch a 7 year old computer and deal with the issues involved. Sorry, we get plenty of 3 year old computers donated or offered regularly so we don't need someones ancient crap. A 7 year old computer brings all the issues of lack of available replacement parts, lack of drivers and poor performance and to boot they usually look lik
        • Re:2006? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @12:36PM (#43172409)

          You're spoiled then. The non-profits around here gladly take any computers that they're given. Some get recycled and others get refurbished, but they aren't in the position of refusing to take a computer just because it's 5 years old.

          The thing they won't take for free though is CRTs. Those things are expensive to recylcle because of all the toxic chemicals and it's getting to the point where those old 14" LCDs are flooding the gap that cheap CRTs vacated.

      • Your average homeless shelter could make good use of these machines- if only to use them as resume and internet job search machines.

    • My office was junking what turned out to be Core 2 Duos, and so were many other companies like us in our town, so a non profit called Free IT came into existence specifically to process donated/recycled computers into something usable and then give them away. We pull the hard drives from most of ours, however, so I expect most of ours are eventually being pried apart for the processors and RAM. (The policy of pulling hard drives came after an incident in which the company's donation warehouse was broken i
  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:47AM (#43171701)

    new PC can be bought for a few hundred $$$. comes with MS Windows and you can run office on it. very easy to set up out of the box

    used PC you have to pay someone $50 or more per hour to configure them one by one and pay the software licenses

    and even 2006 computers without 4GB of RAM are SLOW. try running Chrome with a few tabs open. there are $279 best buy specials with 4GB of RAM

    destroy the hard drives if you're paranoid and just junk the PC's

  • A circa 2006 computer is in the only ~5x-10x faster than a Raspberry Pi, and has a power cost on the order of 100-200W/hr. So a 2006-era computer, even free, costs ~$90/yr just in power if its left on.

    Similarly, for a non-profit trying to be uber-cheap, why not just go with ChromeBooks? If you are in a position where you can have a network (e.g. like an office environment), they are cheap, and the office and so-on that are needed for productivity.

  • Alan Ralsky.

    Like I said, if you are not picky.

  • Goodwill (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cod3r_ ( 2031620 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:51AM (#43171757)
    just take them to goodwill and let them figure it out.
    • I've done this in the Chicago area, and the Goodwill staff told me they only attempt to resell LCD monitors and the rest will be recycled. They partner here with Dell for the recycling.
  • by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:51AM (#43171759)

    With the current state of things, computers and electronics are ubiquitous, cheap, and rapidly evolving. At this point, I consider machines from the era to be essentially trash, even when they can function well enough using your favorite distro. They take up too much space and use too much power, and they struggle to handle the world's new common platform: HTML+CSS+js. They will also accelerate down the slide to obsolescence much faster than newer equipment over an equal period of time.

    I feel like dumping those things on charities is just giving them a burden. They may have to spend money to put the machines to use, and they will have to take care of throwing them away soon enough. I say use your energy to find a good recycler so that the metals in those old junkers might be reclaimed for tomorrow's tech.

    • As for the hardware, a 2006 processor could be a Intel Core 2 running at 2.6 Ghz - 2.6 TRILLION operations per second. I sure did a lot of productive work on with a 500 MHz machine, so one five times as fast seems fine to me, for office work.

      If it wasn't waiting on IO, a new processor might be 50% "faster" for a single threaded application, but in reality they are both sitting idle waiting for a disk drive that peaks at 38 MB/s. A new green drive does about 38 MB/s. The 2006 processor does 10,000 MBs
      • As for the hardware, a 2006 processor could be a Intel Core 2 running at 2.6 Ghz - 2.6 TRILLION operations per second. ...

        You must be on the other side of the Pond. Over here in the USA, a 2.6GHz machine can only do 2.6 Billion OPS.

    • Anything multi-core from 2006 onward is probably fine. That means the Athlon64 X2s, the Core Duos, etc. I know I was purchasing 45W and 65W AMD CPUs around 2006-2007 which run cool and quiet.

      The multi-core machines also age well because they have at least 2 physical cores to handle both processing and the UI. In fact, my primary laptop is still a T61p Core2 Duo @ 2.2GHz. It has a SSD and was upgraded to Win7 Pro and 8GB last summer. So we purchased that laptop in 2007 and I plan on using it for at le
  • Unless you're willing to donate your time to administer them and keep them running (including replacing hardware when it fails), just recycle the computers, non profits don't have the staff to keep old hardware running, and though they may have someone that understands some Windows basics, they aren't going to have anyone that knows anything about Linux.

    My wife works for a non-profit and when well meaning people donate old computers, they thank them, then hand them off to an eWaste recycler (who fortunately

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:52AM (#43171785)

    I applaud your altruism; but I've done the same kind of thing in the past, and regretted it.

    Not to be too paranoid, but please make sure you've got all your paperwork in order, (you have to right to pass on the PCs etc.), and explicitly state 'no warranty' etc. What if one of the PCs catches fire, and burns down the old folks home you donated it to? Yeah, I know I sound nuts, be we live in a crazy world.

    Oh yes, and regarding support. They'll drive you nuts. Really.

    Junk the things and just give some cash to a worthy cause.

  • The United Way distributes cash donations to local non-profits, so they may well know who would need the computers.
  • by xelah ( 176252 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:55AM (#43171849)
    Charities are not a waste disposal service. Have them disposed of properly and safely, and the useful materials extracted and recycled. Even if you find a charity who'll take them, you're just dumpling that problem on them a year or two from now - and, as several other commenters have said, they probably use enough power the charities would be better of buying something newer.
    • I've been supporting non-profits in my area for over a decade now. One of the things I've learned is that non-profits also want to get their jobs done as well as anyone else. Most of them don't have the capacity for downtime due to dodgy hardware. They want to spend their time and effort either raising funds or fulfilling their mission, kind of how a regular business wants to spend their time making money or selling their stuff. The same goes for poor communities in developing nations.

      If I were to take

  • Thrift stores (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whizbang77045 ( 1342005 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @11:57AM (#43171867)
    You might donate them to a local thrift store, along with a printout of how to use Linux (although it seems obvious to me, it may not be to others). For a while, I was checking out and repairing computers for a thrift store associated with our church.

    Some came it with a usable operating system; some had to have one installed. I'd always stick Ubuntu on.

    None of them ever failed to sell. After all, the price was right, and the people usually needed whatever they could get. I felt good about it, because a computer that would have seen the scrap heap got reused. Let's face it: for word processing and simple spreadsheets, it doesn't take that much computer. You can also browse the web, if you stay away from overbloated sites. Email is a no brainer.

    And, if they didn't like Linux, they were free to install Windows or whatever they chose. Given the financial state of a lot of these people, I doubt they could have afforded Microsoft's price. But Linux at least let them see the machine was funcitonal.

  • Donate them to your local electronic recycling facility.

  • who otherwise don't have PCs. They usually use them to just browse the web and other basic tasks. Firefox is better on older hardware than Chrome in my opinion. Especially if you are memory limited or if you want to watch Flash videos. Chrome is actually laggy in those situations.

    It's slow going giving them away, though. Most people think that a newer PC will work better for them, but usually because of crapware it never does. And for a novice user re-installing Windows is hugely more difficult the

    • Yup, our county dump stations have sheds with tables for "i don't want this anymore, it isn't junk, it shouldn't just be tossed, if you can use it please take it" stuff. I've taken old computers, wiped drives, put Linux on 'em, and put a sheet of instructions along with a re-install disk with them. They last about 10 minutes before being taken by someone.

  • Criagslist (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NewWorldDan ( 899800 ) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Thursday March 14, 2013 @12:13PM (#43172097) Homepage Journal

    Post them for free on Criagslist. It's possible someone might want them, but I wouldn't count on it. If no one claims them in a week, take them in for recycling. Right now, there's a glut of crappy old single core CPUs out there that no one wants. I've got a few in my basement that I haven't recycled yet.

  • by Anonymous Codger ( 96717 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @12:14PM (#43172109)

    Join a local Freecycle group (www.freecycle.org) and post an offer. Someone in your community might have a use for them.

    • www.Craigslist.org also has a 'Free' section.
    • Join a local Freecycle group (www.freecycle.org) and post an offer. Someone in your community might have a use for them.

      At my old house, the recycling program was: leave it in the alley, and someone will be by to pick it up.

      And ultimately, if no one else did, the trash truck would come buy and they'd drop it at the municipal e-waste facility (which turned a profit, BTW).

  • Look for non-profit schools in your area and offer these systems for teaching keyboarding and intro to programming. These functions don't require much horse power or graphics and free (as in Beer) software and courseware is readily available.

    Ask your local clubs (e.g, Lions, Rotary, Exchange, Optimists) whether they have a need for free office automation.

  • Contact the Wounded Warrior Project. They have taken several donated P4 Dell boxes off my hands.

    Like the OP, I have found it very difficult to find donors for older desktops. Craigslist may be useful in that respect, as individuals and small nonprofits sometimes ask for computer donations.

    Personally, I have given up on reconditioning and donating desktops. Very few people want them. As others have mentioned, it really is better to recycle them, even if it goes against your grain to toss out a working pie

  • There is a non-profit company in many North American cities that takes old computers, puts them through a testing cycle, recycles all the parts that can't be used, and then builds workstations running linux for either donation to non-profits or cheap resale. They are great and always looking for help. http://www.freegeek.org/ [freegeek.org] According to the Wikipedia site, they have locations in: Portland, OR; Fayetteville, AR; Central FL; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; South Bend, IN (Michiana); Vancouver, BC (Canada); Seat
  • it will only burden them with work and clunky things taking up space. ***every*** used computer I got had something missing (memory board, DLL files, or whatever) which rendered the system basically useless and a huge timepit. Except for a couple old computers I got, one from non-techie friend abandoned their XP for a Mac. And the other (Mac G3 and it still works great and has lots of programs) from a flea market which was a good seller of used computers but he no longer can be found. So these other useless

  • You can also try freecycle. While not a "charity" it's a good way to pass on stuff you don't want/need to someone who will actually use it. Of course you don't get a write off...

  • It isn't worth bothering trying to give away an old PC.

    The local Salvation Army store doesn't want it unless it is 100% working condition, flat screen (no CRTs), Windows OS CD & Windows serial number sticker still intact. Since most off-the-shelf systems don't even have the CD now, they don't take many these days. (they don't take CRT TV's anymore either; any TV donated must be a newer/digital-broadcast one)

    If you go to the trouble of wiping and reinstalling it just to offer it for free on Craigslis
  • My PC's are both from 2006 and they seem like new to me!

  • I've always given cars and computers to the local Mental Health department. They have found folks that really needed them.
  • I will echo what others have said about it not being worth while, but let me also explain why. It is an economic problem:

    There is a point where the replacement cost of a piece of electronics exceeds the cost of refurbishing them. Even if you do it yourself, you have to think about what other things you could have done with that time. If it took you 2 hours per PC, then you are obviously a capable PC repair tech. At $25/hr that's $50 you could have made. That's half way toward a cheap tablet which is pr

  • Step 1) Drive to Charity
    Step 2) Give.

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