What To Do with an Old Computer?

By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO

It’s almost Spring!  Time to clean up old electronics.

I know many people that have an old computer (or two) gathering dust in their basement.  Long ago the computer became so slow it was unusable.  Windows has a tendency to get “garbaged up” and slower over time.  A fresh install of the operating system will usually fix this problem, but many users don’t have such technical expertise.

How Old is Too Old?

One way to see if a computer is too old is to look at the Windows Badge on the case of the computer.  Or if the computer has any sort of floppy drive, it is ancient.

If the computer used to run Windows XP, it is likely too old and should be recycled.  I usually open the case to pull the hard drive, before taking it to Recycle That Stuff in Appleton.  The hard drive usually contains personal information that is best guarded from prying eyes.  I destroy old hard drives by drilling a hole through the platters.  The rest of the computer has enough valuable materials that the recycling is free.

Another way to determine if a computer is too old is by looking at the memory.  If the computer has less 512 KB of memory or less it is likely too old and should be recycled.

Sure, I have loaded Linux on really old computers, such as my Toshiba Portege M200, (which probably belongs in a museum) but even modern Linux needs better specifications to run decently.

I digress here to contemplate why Microsoft Windows has been the dominant OS on computers.

History Lesson

Bill Gates is a brilliant salesman.  In the early 1980s, he made a deal with computer manufacturers like IBM to bundle MS-DOS and Windows on their computers.  Bill was practically giving away customized Windows to make this happen.  He was betting, and rightly so, that he would make his millions and billions on volume.  Other software manufacturers took his lead and started offering “free” trials of their programs that, of course, would only run on Windows.  We call that ‘Bloat’.  That’s how Microsoft became the standard OS on computers.

On the other hand, Linus Torvalds was a student in 1991 that created an open source version of Unix, he called it Linux. Back then, you needed a computer science degree to get Linux to run on a computer.  Thanks to growing and supportive community efforts Linux has become a great operating system ready for all.

Steve Ballmer was an early Microsoft employee.  Later, as CEO, he infamously cast FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) on the fledgling Linux.  He obviously was afraid of the competition.

While Gates parlayed proprietary Microsoft into his $59 billion net worth, Torvalds chose to share his Linux with the world and yet, he is by no means a pauper.  Through collaboration and shrewd investing, Torvalds net worth is about $50 million.

Back to old computers.

Vista, Windows 7 and 8

Windows Vista badged machines are on the bubble as to whether they should be recycled.  Most are incapable of running the most modern operating systems that are 64 bit.  32 bit computers are usually too old and should be recycled.

Windows 7 and 8 computers are usually 64 bit and can run modern operating systems like Linux Mint.  Microsoft has dropped support for Windows 7 and 8, only Windows 10 and 11 are supported.  At the very least you need 4 GB ram to run Windows, but the experience will not be stellar.  2 GB computers need to be upgraded in RAM and possibly replace the slow hard drive with a solid state drive for a good user experience.

An Offer

I can help you determine if a computer is worth saving or should be recycled.  Contact me with the Brand Name, Model Number and Serial Number or Service Tag and I can help you make the right choice for your old computer.  Better yet, take a clear picture of the above information and share it with me.  I’ll give you the best advice I have available.