Tips & Tweaks: Recycle PCs, Notebooks, and Components

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A couple of weeks ago, I offhandedly wrote about finding a home for your old cell phones; see the "Sell Your Old Cell Phone" section in "Wild, Wacky, Mobile Phones." It wasn't something I thought was exciting, but from your virtual cards and letters, it looks like you get off on recycling.

Computing equipment isn't always the easiest to pass along, so that's what I'm tackling this week: ideas on how to deal with the stuff that needs to go. Next week I'll give you some fresh ways to make your notebook and camera batteries last longer--and where to dump them when they're dead.

Think Globally, Recycle Locally

I love the idea of passing along stuff I no longer use. Some things are easy to get rid of--old books head for the library sale, clothing is deposited at the local charity, and some items earn a couple of bucks at a garage sale. [Note to wife: Gosh, was it this year I agreed to have a garage sale?]

If you have stuff hanging around the house and want a quick, satisfying way to recycle them, try the FreeCycle Network. FreeCycle is an international organization with local groups that help you get rid of--or get--stuff. Post a message on a local group's list with "Offer: Office style file cabinet" or "Wanted: Fax machine" in the subject line and a brief description in the message body. Once the item's taken, another post with "Taken: Office style file cabinet" completes the transaction.

There's no cost or fees to use FreeCycle, and the only rules are that items posted must be free, legal, and appropriate for all ages. I've seen everything from shower doors, a working treadmill, and three unused, sealed inkjet printer cartridges, to a V92 external modem and a notebook with a cracked screen, but otherwise functional.

Dig This: How good are you with faces? I thought I was great until I tried "Where Have I Seen That Guy?" and got a measly four correct.

PC Landfill Alternatives

There are dozens of ways for you to dispose of your old computing equipment. I found no fewer than five meaty articles worthy of a read--or even a glance--with smart ideas for old notebooks, monitors, and desktop PCs.

Jim Martin's expertise is mobile computing, especially notebooks. Jim takes on disposing a notebook by offering three choices: keep it, sell it, or donate it (missing, of course, is detonating it, which I'm sure some of you would enjoy). Jim provides insights into each option in "How to Dispose of an Old Notebook."

One strategy I didn't think about was trading in your notebook on a new one or transforming it into a, well, heck, read about it in Jim's companion piece: "Old Notebooks, New Lives."

I've got a quick rhetorical question for you. I used to lug around an old Compaq portable. It weighed 120 pounds, give or take, so it was known as a Compaq luggable. I replaced it with a smaller Toshiba laptop. The question is, why do we still insist on calling notebooks laptops? (And remember, this is rhetorical, so get your mouse away from the Send button.)

More Disposal Options

Keep reading, because Anne Kandra, our "Consumer Watch" columnist, has more practical advice in "A Computer Is a Terrible Thing to Waste." In this column Anne admits to finding a stash of old equipment and explains how she's dealt with it.

One thing to consider is that giving away computers or notebooks means doing a little housekeeping on the hard drives. Think about it: You don't want the new owner to have access to your accounting information or your special collection of videos. The first part of Lincoln Spector's "Ditching an Old Computer" gives you advice on scrubbing your system clean.

Dig This: I love artsy Web sites that waste a half hour that could have been spent meeting a deadline. NobodyHere is perfect for just that. There's no hints or help--head for the site and start clicking. (Okay, you're sometimes so whiny; here's a sample of what you'll find if you poke around.)

Out It Goes

If you're convinced there's no life left in your old equipment, take a look at "Where Do Old CRTs Go to Die?" and learn how to get rid of that 15-inch monochrome monitor you've been saving for... well, goodness knows why you still have it. The article might look a little dated, but the links are working and the info is still valid.

If you want a more enjoyable way to dump your old CRT, check out something I used for a "Dig This" years ago: "Bob Gets a New Monitor." It's an amusing 1-minute video that teaches you an innovative upgrading technique.

BTW, you might be interested in seeing where old computers (and tires, mattresses, washing machines, boats, and 45 other ordinary products) are shredded into tiny little bits. Kill some time and visit the "Watch It Shred" site. Warning: Turn down the volume--some shredders are very loud. [Thanks for Bill W. for this cool site.]

Steve Bass writes the "Hassle-Free PC" column in PC World's print edition and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. Sign up to have Steve Bass's Tips and Tweaks newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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