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Winning answer by Don
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 it?s 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 aren?t recycled.
- The obsolete computer requires repair (CMOS battery, failing drives, and component cleaning).
- The process of completely wiping personal data from the computer?s mass storage devices is beyond most people.
- The obsolete computer?s OEM software is out of date/incomplete.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 aren?t 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.
Let?s 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.
Let?s take a closer look at just a few of the reasons computers aren?t recycled. Let?s look at my two favorites, ?The obsolete computer?s 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 doesn?t 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 won?t 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 don?t provide the drivers. If you don?t have to upgrade the OS you maybe able to just download the drivers from the manufacturer?s web site. If that fails you can try Drivers.com. But, if you can?t get the drivers the OEM hardware must be removed and replaced or reduced functionality may make the recycle project un-doable.
Now let?s 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 computer?s 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 computer?s 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
Recycle Vintage Computers
You hit the nail on the head, I always keep sound cards,memory, pci video, all sorts of software and everything else needed to get a PII 400 or so going. I have 4 or 5 almost complete units around all the time. I gather stuff until I can get a machine to a complete and useable state and then try to find a deserving family that has a younger child interested in computers. I always tell them to let them start with this and if they show good interest or skill, I will help you upgrade to a current system if you so desire. Many people cannot afford a new computer and really seem to appreciate the used one. I do all I can to help them if they want to begin to upgrade to a new one. That way if they show no interest or simply dont have the apptitude for computers no money is wasted. Some are unappreciative and say "I dont want that piece of s&*% ,I want a p4 3.2. And I tell them great go buy yourself one. Im not as interested in helping them. If it just plays solitaire, some young kids will thank me for days and try to cut my grass or rake leaves in an effort to make a little money to make it better or save up for a new one. Those are the ones I love to get going and help all I can. Even sometimes helping them get the newer machine after they show me its not a five minute infatuation. I will pay for some of it or donate a motherboard and as they try to help themselves I add a little to it. Its very rewarding when it goes well. Any way , good post.
Good for you, but I have to chime in here....
I'm *extremely* disappointed at my area's school systems when it comes to donating used computers. The type of person you're complaining about who whines "I want a new P4!" is exactly how our public schools were when I tried to donate a collection of Dell Pentium systems, 4 or 5 years ago, from a workplace. They told me, in no uncertain terms, they weren't interested in any donated machines that didn't meet their "specs", which included such things as valid Microsoft Office licenses and a certain processor speed.
Meanwhile, they complain that they need us to vote for tax increases to pay for such things as their computer labs!
I'm in complete agreement with your assessment. If a child or teen is just learning about computers and doing the basics with one (word processing tasks, Internet searches, etc.), anything that can run at least Windows '98 or a Linux distribution with the X environment should be completely usable. Our school systems find it easier to spend taxpayers' money on the "latest and greatest", rather than hiring people with more computer experience and skill, who could properly configure a lab filled with older, donated machines.
I worked for a couple years refurbishing vintage Apple Macs for use in daycare/childcare settings, and in the process, realized quickly that the old, "outdated" educational/learning software is as good today as it was 10+ years ago. The kids still get as much out of "Number Munchers" on a classic Mac, or "Oregon Trail" as they ever did. The concepts being taught don't change - so why spend thousands more to teach the same thing on new hardware, with new software?
What I Do About Used Hard Drives
Personally as far as used hard disk drives go, I would rather destroy
them (that is, take a sledge hammer to them) This is because the
personal information that's still on them. I know of a computer
tech ( I won't mention names) who does this.
Wipe 'em with dd
Why destroy a perfectly good hard drive? A usable Linux workstation with plenty of bells and whistles fits easily on a 10 GB drive. It takes some care, but you can put a basic workstation on 2GB or a simple server/firewall in less than 1 GB.
You should wipe a drive before giving it away. If you absolutely must have a glitzy graphical user interface, or you've got some ideological problem with using free software, then spend money on a commercial disk wiping program.
Otherwise, it's just one more thing you can do with any "live Linux" or "Linux rescue" type CD. I like Knoppix, but you might prefer Slax or Damn Small Linux or even Tom's Root File System That Boots. (Google for Tomsrtbt, a self-contained Linux release that doesn't just *fit* on one floppy disk, it *runs* from that disk.)
Anyhow, boot Knoppix on the machine with the hard drive in it. If you're in a hurry, type "knoppix 2" at the boot prompt and it will come right up to a console with root shell, skipping the whole graphics workstation thing. (If you got the graphical desktop, there's a "root shell" under the fat penguin on the panel, in the lower left.) Then be really sure the drive you want to wipe is master on the first "IDE" channel and type
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda bs=1024k
and hit enter. It will take a while to fill the entire drive, including master boot sector and partition table, with zeroes. There are probably spy agencies that can recover a drive so wiped. It takes fancy equipment.
There are drives around with "hidden space" used for recovery software. You can tell Knoppix to blow right through that and do the whole drive, not just the unhidden part. Boot Knoppix with the boot command "knoppix 2 hda=stroke"
This feature is poorly documented. Further, hidden space will cause the drive's next owner problems. These are candidates for the abovementioned sledge hammer.
Definitely the best answer, but more questions
clsgis' answer actually gives us a hint that donation isn't the only option. Some of us are tired of that answer and are looking for something more creative. Thanks, clsgis. But wait: I/we have questions (Note the flood of questions below)!
Back in July 2006 Patrick Norton wrote a cNet article on what to do with an old PC. Donating it was down at answer Number 3. The other two were:
1. Turn it into a dedicated home network firewall, and
2. Use it as a Linux learning lab. (now there's an idea...)
clsgis, I'm sure that a lot of us are interested in turning our old PII and PIII machines into Linux experimental labs/torture chambers. If you could expand on this, perhaps in a new thread, we could learn a lot. Do you mean to say that a Knoppix cd can wipe my hard drive, in addition to being an OS? Can I then load knoppix as the machnine's hard drive OS? Can I add a knoppix machine to my home network, and make it talk to my XP machine? Can it host a printer that my XP machine can then use? Is Knoppix a suitable platform for a homemade entertainment pc? What other "efficient software" is out there that eats up fewer resources? Can a Linux OS also clean my cat's litter box? Do I hear an article being written by csgis?
Thanks, Great Answer.
Knoppix the software swiss army knife
Hey fusiformis, sorry I didn't see your question sooner. Taking your questions in order:
"Do you mean to say that a Knoppix cd can wipe my hard drive?" Yes but it's pretty much impossible to do it by accident. The dd (disk dump?) command I showed is the simplest way.
Knoppix is basically a really clever installation of Debian GNU/Linux, "the universal operating system." It has been installed in such a way that it can boot off the CD into a temporary file system in RAM, where it runs just long enough to identify your hardware and generate a Debian configuration that can run there. Then it "pivots" into that system, whose root is another file system in RAM but where the software runs from an on-the-fly self-decompressing file system built in a large file on the CD. The hardware search package is part Red Hat, part Debian, and part Knoppix. The rest is almost pure Debian. That's how versatile Debian is. When Knoppix came out it was so good everybody else stopped working on their "live Linux" systems. Then they all started working on Knoppix derivatives for special purposes. (really small, security toolset, educational, etc.) Today a distant relative of Knoppix, Ubuntu, is the "hottest" distribution around.
"Can I then load knoppix as the machine's hard drive OS?"
You could. If you needed to install a high-function office workstation/server in a few minutes, Knoppix would be one of the quickest ways. But it would be harder to maintain over the years than straight Debian, at least until you became an expert on the Debian package management system. The Knoppix installer doesn't have a lot of options. If it was a workstation/server that you would only use for a few months, go for it. If you have an hour to install and you'll live with the machine for years, use Debian 3.1 or 4.0. Debian's installer gives you more control than you've ever seen.
"Can I add a knoppix machine to my home network, and make it talk to my XP machine?"
That's pretty common. Knoppix has a nice GUI setup program for SAMBA, the "windows networking" server, for sharing "volumes" and printers Windoze style. Or you might want to do the printers the professional way, with the Common Unix Print System (CUPS) from Easy Software. The standard networked printer management package for unix. You might want to run real web and FTP servers on the Knoppix box, or use the Network File System from Sun. I believe XP supports NFS out of the box. All linux distributions come with Apache and some FTP server, and NFS kernel drivers and user utilities. Perhaps a better choice than SAMBA, depending on how you want your network to work. I never did figure out Windoze proprietary name service (WINS). Why don't they just use DNS?
"Can it host a printer that my XP machine can then use?"
Maybe. Chances are we don't have a driver for that ink jet printer you got for $30 at Costco. You'd want to hook that one to the XP machine and have the Knoppix box talk to it through CUPS. But hook your Laserjet 6 to the Knoppix box and share it with the XP box. Don't buy a printer that linuxprinting.org says is a boat anchor.
"Is Knoppix a suitable platform for a homemade entertainment pc?"
Maybe not. An awful lot of "home entertainment" involves trade secret formats and encryption. Knoppix won't play some commercial DVDs. The player for Windows Media Format is reverse engineered (obviously Microsoft doesn't like it) and might not work well, or Microsoft might change WMF just to break it. We might not have a driver for your low-end digital camera. We can't launch most Windoze video games. We would if the vendors would cooperate, but they're afraid of what Microsoft might do to them. That's how the monopoly works. We don't have as big a collection of audio and video production tools as windoze, and none of it is as well integrated as Apple's iLife. But if you just want a reliable MP3 player/archive, sure.
"Do I hear an article being written by csgis?"
Three blogs and Usenet is enough. I had an article in _BYTE_ in '83, an interview in _Znet_ (Z magazine, not ZDnet) in '99, and in _Just Things_ last year. My technorati profile is http://www.technorati.com/profile/seeelless (that's charlie lima sierra)
Come over and visit Green Commons.
why a sledgehammer?
If you want to destroy the data, spend $5 on a neodymium magnet and let it sit on top of the drive overnight. It is a lot less work. And in contrast to formatting or bashing, it will also destroy the servo track information, rendering the disk completely unusable.
If they wont to give old computes to someone they can give them to me
one I do not know how to get info off a clean harddrive to I work at Radioshack for 6yr and have not ones not been trusted I just wont the parts an software you can clean the harddrive all you wont even fdisk it as long as it works .
recycle old computers
I have been doing this for 4 years now I ENJOY THE LOOK OF CHILDREN'S FACES WHEN THEY RECEIVE ONE OF MY COMPUTERS ;THIS CHRISTMAS I PLAN TO GIVE AT LEST 10 AWAY I NEED 6 MY E-MAIL ADDRESS OGLESBY435@AOL.COM I LIVE IN VA AND WILL PAY FOR SHIPPING,KEEP YOUR HARD DRIVE IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR PERSONNEL INFO IF NOT I WILL FULLY ERASE ALL INFO
Who wants them ??
I would appreciate a few pointers !!
recycle old computers
The computer waste can be returned to the product manufacturers as many of them provide asset recovery options to their customers for recycling their equipment responsibly and in a secure manner.
Recycling resource www.wr3a.org has donor/recycler matching
The world reuse, repair and recycling association (WR3A) has a new "matching" tool using PHP programming to get folks with an old PC to the most "appropriate" recycler, based on the age (risk) and distance and quantity, etc. It's still in beta but has a lot of useful links, and recognizes a lot more people are qualified to handle a pre-scrubbed P3 than are qualified to handle a city-wide TV curbside recycling program. Recycling and reuse associations can also enter the program wiki-style, but if they make a false (e.g. "we are EPA certified") claim then they are suspended from listing for a year. The direct link to the program is www.wr3a-cert.org.
Recycle Old Computers
I had an old Apple machine that although slow by today's standards worked just fine. As many have indicated Goodwill, schools and other charities are not taking them anymore. Miami has a computer recycling program but it requires a trip and a half to a landfill to turn it in. Rather than go through all that I wiped the system clean and placed it outside with a note FREE COMPUTER - JUST TAKE! Within less than 15 minutes someone was putting it in their car. I've sold several at yard sales before but this was the quickest way to get it to someone that could use it.
Winning answer by Kelly
Well, David, there are several things you can do with them, but first, you need to do a little "prep-work" or find someone you know who you can trust to help you to do the following:
1. Format the hard drives.
2. Make an inventory of the insides:
a. speed of the processor (i.e 500MHz Pentium 3 or 1.2GHz Athlon, etc.)
b. the amount of memory (128 - 256 - 521 - 1024 (one gig))
c. floppy drive (or not - believe it or not they're not in all systems anymore)
d. speed and type of DVD or CD-ROM drive (Sony 16X DVD player or generic 52X CD/RW)
e. power supply rating and make if it states one (250 watt generic or 450 Fortron etc.)
f. motherboard make (This can be a hard one, but IF it can be determined it helps those, like me, who prefer a "certain" motherboard...)
g. sound card (if it is not integrated chip = on the motherboard; not a separate card)
h. video card make and model (example: ATI Radeon X1300 256MB PCI Express x16 versus an agp card or integrated video.
i. If you have wiped the hard drive - if not, and you are sure that you have removed all personal information, then which operating system it now has and what "service pack" is currently installed.
j. Any other "add-in" cards you may have added during the life of the computer - such as a dedicated USB or Firewire pci card.
3. Make sure all the cords are in good order - picky? really, I don't think so...
I know it might cost you a couple of bucks for a power cord, but better that than to have someone's house fire on your conscious.
So now you have it all ready, what do you do with it? Contact your local schools first. If they don't take donations (depends on the age and condition of the computers most of the time...) other alternatives are a women's or homeless shelter - they are almost always in demand at these facilities. Last and certainly not least, LOTS of churches will welcome your soon-to-be homeless computer with open arms! You may now be able to come up with some very innovative places to donate that computer. I will almost bet one of them flashed through your mind as you read through this...
As far selling that aging wonder, Craigslist is a good place to start for sales of an older computer. With a Craigslist ad, you can check out other computers that are similar to yours by doing a search - if you don't find one there, go to ebay or a used computer store to get an idea of what they are selling for now. If you have a "Pennysaver"-type advertisement paper (they're usually free in most communities) and your computers are in good shape, SOMEONE needs it. Be honest. If this computer is "older" than say a Pentium 3 500mhz, take it to Goodwill, St. Vincent De Paul or Salvation Army donation point, get a donation receipt and then (check with your tax person about itemization on your taxes) write off an honest resale value for the computer. Believe it or not, I can pick up a 17 to 19 inch monitor in my area (close to Seattle) for under $15.00. That tells you how little you will get if you sell them. The computer on the other hand may garner you $100 or more depending on your area, the demand and how much new computers are selling for now. Since most people can buy a new computer for under $500.00 (and get a very good one except for a cutting edge video card) it may be better to donate than to sell in the long run.
I've donated computers for the past 15 years. Some to schools. Some to charitable agencies and others just to people I knew did not have and couldn't possibly buy a computer, now or ever.
Any way you slice it, someone needs your computer. You said it already and made a very good point - throwing away any computer is a bad idea.
Submitted by: Kelly T. of Algona, Washington
Old Computers-Recycle, etal
Thanks. I have a dozen boxes and all else that are available in Kirkland. They are yours. Contact me via cnet via email and you can have them. They all work and all components are viable and semi-current.
hi craig, i was wondering how i could contact you.
Craig - email me at atheria_99 --->
Don't worry, it's my "throwaway" email address not my primary email and has been for many years lol!
Formating the hard drive is not sufficient!
Formatting the hard drive is not sufficient. The hard drive needs to be "wiped" using a utility that will overwrite it several times so that sensitive information can't be recovered. If for instance you ran a business with the old computers and have your clients personal information on the hard drive or sensitive financial info, it would be better to destroy the drive.
Remember the story of the two Harvard grad students who bought 50 + used drives from e-bay and how much sensitive personal and financial info they were able to recover from these drives.
This can lead to identity theft etc.
removing personal info from non-working computer
I have an old non-working computer which has personal info on it. Every time I ask people/research forums to find out how to remove the info when I can't even bring the computer up. Computer savvy people have a tendency to talk in their own terms and they assume the person they are speaking with knows what they mean. How do I remove a hard drive if I don't know what it is? How do i wipe out he hard drive if I cannot bring it up. One answer wryly suggests taking a big hammer, but to what? Someone once mentioned a magnet to erase the hard drive. I would be very afraid of identity theft. People laugh, but I want to know as a non-computer literate person what to do. What forum advises on this in simple language and no jargon.
Identifying hard disc
The disc(s) are normally around 4x6x1 inches (10x15x2.5cm if you prefer)
They're typically shiny silver/black, and if there's a label on them, might refer to number of cylinders/heads/sectors.
There'll be a wide "ribbon" cable and also a multi-coloured power cable to it.
IMPORTANT - DISCONNECT THE MAINS POWER before you remove the PC cover.
They're usually near the front of the PC. You may need to unscrew retaining bolts to get them out.
A really big hammer gives a 100% assurance that the disc will never be read again. Cover your eyes before you swing it!
How can I put a 15min video on the internet
I have a family video i took ,with my non digital camera, have now loaded onto my computer and edited with Magix, it is about 700mb. how do I either send it by e-mail, or load it onto the internet,
What do I need to do .
Re: loading 700 Mb on the internet
First of all, you need broadband, or it would take too long, I think. And then you would need 700 Mb space for your homepage with your ISP if you want to use that. I don't know about the maximum size of a video with youtubes, but 700 Mb seems a lot.
A mail with an attachment of 700 Mb is outrageous. In fact, i think your ISP doesn't accept it. And nobody would like to receive it.
Better burn it to CD, and send that by snail-mail, I'd say.
Re: loading 700 Mb on the internet
A recent issue of a Kim Komando newsletter had the following, it might be helpful in your situation:
"Many files are too large to send via e-mail. But Pando Networks is offering software that handles attachments up to one gigabyte in size. It stores attachments on Pando's servers and sends a download link to recipients. This is done automatically."
Posting a 700mb video the web
Google video has a utility for uploading large videos (to google video). You download a program to your desktop and it uploades the file for you. I have DSL so i dont know how long it would take with any other connection. the only other catch is that you need a google account. I dont know if its publicly available. (When I got a google account, it was only available by invite. If that's the case, I can invite those that need it. E-mail me @ email@example.com and type"Invite Request" in the subject.)
Posting a video
More information is needed to give you an intelligent answer.
Do you have your own website and wish to embed a media player on it or do you want to post to a third party site?
I am not familiar with Magix, but 700mb is to large for anyone to view online.
Online videos should run 2-4 mb per minute to optimize quality vs. size.
See if your software can convert your raw (avi?) file to another format like windows media video (wmv), etc.
Some video software simply has a function that says "save for the web" etc.
Viewers will still need a high speed connection or with dial up they can start downloading it and come back tomorrow or the next day to view it!
I post videos large and small regularly on my website including one that is the same length as yours but is 52mb which loads and shows fine on high speed.
Post a reply if you want more help with your email and I will direct you to my site to see if what you want to do is similar and I can help you with the embed codes for different types of players.
Once it is posted somewhere you can email a link to whoever you wish to see it but I wouldn't send the video by email for the reasons already mentioned elsewhere.
Posting a video
i don't know anything about posting videos,but if you need to send large files i use dropload.com ...the file you upload to the sight can then be downloaded by someone else later. the speed of upload and download will depend on the speed of your connection. it's really nice to use when files exceed your attachment limit.goodluck with the video.
I can understand your dilemma as I am PC illiterate
I am also in a similar position regarding the rare and strange terminology these people use and makes little or no sense to me. Let me suggest you ask someone who knows how to remove your Hard Drive HD and destroy it for you. After some years of watching I am now able to show someone else how to do it for me. I cannot do it myself because I am disabled but I can tell someone how to do it. Please ensure the POWER is disconnected before opening the case. I hope this is of value. Ken Bradley
Setting up formal program
My non-profit organization is about to start a program to for recycling old computers to distribute to the underprivileged in the El Paso area. We're going wipe the drives, install Linux with OpenOffice and confirm they can get on the Internet. Beyond that, the only work we will do is cosmetic -- cleaning monitors, keyboards, etc. We hope to provide warehouse space as a place where people can drop off any of their old PCs, though initially we're approaching corporations for large donations of many units at once rather than individuals. If a family truly needs a PC for education (particularly using the resources of the Internet), then a Linux-based desktop is fine and there are no license issues to worry about.
recycling old computers
It is always better to get a waste contractor's advice as they provide customized recycling solutions which differ from company to company. Today, there are many advanced computer recycling programs adopted by government and private organizations.
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