Over the years many of my coworkers, friends, and family members have donated their obsolete computers and peripherals to me as apposed to dumping them in the local landfill. This is mostly because I"m a trusted person by these individuals when it comes to their personal data which has often been left on the hard disk drive(s), and my reputation for recycling of retro computer parts as a hobby. Try and find a trusted do-it-yourself (DIY) retro computer hobbyist, perhaps a family member, daughter, or son of a trusted friend, and give them the computers along with the OEM software and manuals. The keyword here is "trusted person" and the key phrase here is "retro computer hobbyist".
You still should remove as much personal data from the computer as possible without making the computer non-functional. Formatting the drives and reinstalling the OEM software is what I would call minimum prep for donating the computers to a trusted person (caution, this is not a job for a novice). If you do decide to donate to an org/charity instead of a trusted person then do a drive wiping using a program that erases the drive and then writes zeros to the drive thereby over writing all data. When a file is deleted its still there until the area that it was stored on has been over written, so the need to wipe the drive is for security. The drive manufacturer often has a program that will do this or use DBAN or Kill Disk (caution, this is not a job for a novice). Once this wiping is done, donating the now cleared out computer to, say, a Good Will store is one option. Good luck, and below you will find some final thoughts and more detailed answers to your questions.
The most common reasons computers arent recycled.
- The obsolete computer requires repair (CMOS battery, failing drives, and component cleaning).
- The process of completely wiping personal data from the computers mass storage devices is beyond most people.
- The obsolete computers OEM software is out of date/incomplete.
- Determining the vintage/type of computer is often beyond most people.
- The process of finding an organization that can use the vintage/type of computer to be donated (many organizations set minimum requirements such as Pentium II).
The transporting of the computer to be donated.
- The process of recycling of retro computer parts is beyond most people.
- The process of recycling a computer is very time consuming particularly when the outcome is to be a fully functional computer (must have XP as OS).
- The cost of replacement parts and software upgrades like going from Win98 to Windows XP.
The most common reasons monitors arent recycled.
- No/few user serviceable parts.
- High voltage discharge from the CRT makes servicing some monitors hazardous.
- As the need for higher resolutions increases using non-compliant monitors causes user fatigue.
- As a monitor reaches the end of its useable life the brightness, size, and stableness of its output degrades causing user fatigue.
Lets look at laptops versus desktop computers in terms of recycling.
- Laptops have their own display that can be very limited and by nature tends to cause more user fatigue.
- Laptops are much more proprietary than a desktop(replacement parts can be impossible to get).
- Because laptops tend to be assemble once and repair never, DIY repair is limited.
- Desktops are just more workable due to them being more DIY repair friendly.
Lets take a closer look at just a few of the reasons computers arent recycled. Lets look at my two favorites, The obsolete computers OEM software is out of date/incomplete and The cost of replacement parts/software upgrades. The goal here is to format the boot drive thereby cleaning out damaged software and if that goes well to upgrade the operating system to the current standards. This is the first step in recycling a computer.
Example, I have an OEM CDROM drive that has no driver available for XP (rare, but it happens) and it doesnt always work (happens a lot). I buy a new drive that comes complete with XP compatible drivers at about $60. The drive works so I buy an OEM version of XP at $100. Once I have that loaded I realize I need to add RAM to get the speed back up, $40 more. So I try and get online and find that the modem wont work because it has non compliant drivers and so I get a new one, $15 more. Okay, I think you can see where this is going, un-economical and a lot of parts are going into the landfill, the old modem, the old CDROM drive, and possibly a stick or two of RAM. Not much point in this at all.
Example two, many computers have OEM hardware which needs custom drivers to function and the CD that contains the custom drivers always seems to get lost and some computer manufacturers just dont provide the drivers. If you dont have to upgrade the OS you maybe able to just download the drivers from the manufacturers web site. If that fails you can try Drivers.com. But, if you cant get the drivers the OEM hardware must be removed and replaced or reduced functionality may make the recycle project un-doable.
Now lets look at the recycle process from the retro computer hobbyist point of view. The goal here is to format the boot drive thereby cleaning out damaged software and if that goes well to restore the operating system to the vintage that corresponds to the computers vintage. Before this is done the computer will be turned on and if it comes up an inventory of what components and software is present will be done. What is working and what is not will be noted and any info that indicates original setup/configuration will be noted. No functioning components or parts will be thrown away. Parts will be inventoried and stored if not needed for the current restore process. A retro computer hobbyist will also have software from the computers time period so that not only will the restored computer be able to come on. It will be useable with the software from its time period. Enough said, again, good luck.
Submitted by: Don R. of Seaford, Delaware
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