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How to Get Rid of Your Old PC

As you wean yourself from Windows and enter the world of Mac, you may wonder what to do with your old PC. Here are suggestions on how to get rid of that old PC. But remember, before you send your computer away, be sure to clear its hard drive of all sensitive files. Dragging items to the Recycle Bin and then emptying the Bin does not erase your data.

  • Sell it. If it’s of fairly recent vintage, your PC may have some resale value. Consider listing in on your local Craigslist.com. It’s free to use, less complicated than eBay.com, and because it is local, you can ask the buyer to pick up the PC, avoiding shipping hassles. You can get an idea of what your computer is worth by checking what is currently on sale — but don’t assume that the listed asking price is what people are getting.

  • Load Linux on it. In addition to OS X, Linux, the free, open source operating system, is also becoming an important alternative to Windows. You can download and burn a CD to automatically boot up your PC in a version of Linux called Knoppix.

  • Give it to charity. Donating your computer to a worthwhile organization is a great thing to do, and you may even get a tax deduction. However, most charitable organizations are not interested in computer donations from individuals; they’ve been inundated with them. Your best bet is to contact organizations you know. An offer to help set up the PC may be appreciated. But don’t take offense if they say no. A posting on the free section of Craigslist.com often works — you can specify a preference for charities, but even a donation to an individual can be a good deed. Finally, you can find out about organizations that take PCs and refurbish them for donation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site. In any case, be sure to include all the software discs and documentation that came with the PC, if you still have them.

  • Have your kids take it apart. These days, kids don’t get much opportunity to see how things are put together. Place the computer on an old bed sheet, give the kids a screwdriver set, and see how far they can get taking the computer apart. Hard drives are a bit tricky to open — you usually find screws under the “you’ll void the warranty” labels — but they’re full of fascinating parts.

    Adult supervision is required. Some parts have sharp edges. This is not an activity that kids under age 4 should be anywhere near, because small parts are a choking hazard. And never try to take apart a video monitor or any computer that includes a CRT display — they have high voltages inside, and the CRT tubes can implode violently.

  • Disconnect from the Internet. One way to continue to use a Windows machine safely is to disconnect it from the Internet. Unplug its Ethernet cable and remove any wireless networking card. If it has built-in wireless, such as Intel Centrino, change the password on your wireless network hub and don’t give the PC the new password. Also turn off wireless networking in the Network Connections section of the Control Panel, because the PC could still connect through a neighbor’s open hub. When you need to move files between the PC and your Mac, use a USB flash drive.

  • Recycle it safely. Did you know that an old PC can contain four pounds of lead? It’s best to keep computers out of the town dump. Several brand-name PC manufacturers have recycling programs. Check the home page of the company who made yours. Also check with your municipal trash collection department to see what programs it offers for old PCs and monitors. The EPA Web site also has recycling information.

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