What to do with Old Computers

By Joe Callison
9 December 2018

After purchasing a new computer there is often a question of what to do with the old one. If you are like me, I do not want to see it go to waste or recycling if it is still useful to someone. Here is my evaluation of whether it might be worth using by another person:  

Windows Computers
1. Does it have a multiple core processor?
How can I tell? Go to Device Manager (or System Information), Processors, and see what processor model is shown. Search for the details of that model processor on the internet. Device Manager will show multiple instances of the processor if it has either multiple physical hardware cores or logical cores (hyperthreading). If it does not have at least two physical cores and it was not released in 2008 or later, I would not recommend using it.

2. Does it have a SATA 2.0 (3GBit/s, 300 MB/s or Serial ATA-300) or later drive interface?
How can I tell? Go to Device Manager, either the Disk Drive or the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers and see if the description includes SATA or search the internet for the details of the model shown. If it is not SATA, then it is probably the older PATA type and I would not recommend using it. SATA was used in 99% of computers by 2008.

3. Does it have at least 4 GB of physical memory?
How can I tell? Go to System Information or Task Manager and look at the amount of physical memory installed. If it does not have at least 4 GB of physical memory, it may be possible to add memory or replace existing memory with larger capacity modules, but the cost could make it not worthwhile.

4. Do all of the ports (USB, Ethernet, audio, video) and CD/DVD function reliably? If not, it may be possible to install expansion cards or devices to replace them, but the cost could make it not worthwhile.

5. Does it have Windows 7 or later operating system?
How can I tell? Go to System Information and look at OS Name. Computers with Windows XP or Vista will probably be older than 2008 and I would not recommend using them. Windows 7 will not be supported with updates by Microsoft after January 2020. After that, when internet browsers such as Firefox and Chrome quit supporting Windows 7, it will no longer be practical for use. It will probably not be worth upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 unless the computer is less than 5 years old because of the cost to update.

If the computer meets the criteria above, then it could be sold, given away, or donated for reuse. You will want to remove any personal data from the computer before doing so, but first make sure you have copied all the user files you want to keep which are typically found in the following 6 folders: Desktop, Downloads, Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. The extent of trouble you go through to securely remove your data may depend on whom it is going to. For a Windows 7 computer, if it is going to a trusted family member or friend, you could just create a new user account with administrative rights (see Control Panel, User Accounts), log in as that user, and then completely remove your old user account, with the option to delete all the associated user files. For a Windows 10 computer, you can either reset it using the option to delete all personal files, apps, and settings, or start fresh with a clean installation of Windows. These are found in Settings, Recovery.

If selling or donating the computer to someone you do not know or trust, it is recommended to either securely wipe the disk drive clean using software that uses Department of Defense recommended methods available with many free software programs, rather than just reformatting the disk drive, or you could remove the disk drive to keep or destroy. If the disk is wiped clean, the operating system can be reinstalled from installation media as long as the Windows 7 product key or Windows 10 digital license is valid. Computers that came with Windows 8 or later pre-installed usually had the product key in the BIOS. There are several free software programs that can recover the key from the BIOS. A valid product key is required to download the installation media from Microsoft. If donating a usable computer, Connecting for Good is a suggested recipient in the Kansas City area: http://www.connectingforgood.org/contact-us/
If the computer is not suitable for reuse, many stores that sell computers also recycle them. Even though they may claim to securely wipe or destroy your computer hard drive for you, I would still recommend doing it yourself. There have been documented cases of hard drives with personal data on them being purchased through Ebay or other online stores from people trying to make extra money. There are several other electronics recyclers around the city, but probably the most hassle-free way is through the partnership between Goodwill and Dell Reconnect. You can take far more kinds of computer equipment to many Goodwill locations without cost and they will package and send what can’t be reused to Dell for recycling:


Helpful Links
Wipe Hard Drive:



Windows Media:



Windows Product Key:


Note: You do not need to enter your name and email to download OemKey, just click the download!

Apple Mac Computers
For Apple computers, models that are capable of being updated to the current operating system version should be suitable for reuse. Apple lists the following hardware requirements for Mojave:
Mac Hardware Requirements
For details about your Mac model, click the Apple icon at the top left of your screen and choose About This Mac. These Mac models are compatible with macOS Mojave:

  • MacBook (Early 2015 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Mid 2012 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2012 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 or newer)
  • iMac (Late 2012 or newer)
  • iMac Pro (2017)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013; Mid 2010 and Mid 2012 models with recommended Metal-capable graphics cards)

Posted by Joe Callison

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