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Study cites cost of selling old PCs

In 1998, U.S. corporations will squander $3 billion when they retire outdated personal computers, according to a study by a market research firm.

    In 1998, U.S. corporations will squander $3 billion when they retire outdated personal computers, according to a study by a market research firm.

    The study, newly completed by International Data Corporation, estimates that corporations will trade in or resell only 17 percent of the 11.1 million PCs businesses get rid of next year. The other 83 percent will be taken to landfills, donated to charity, or disposed of through other costly means.

    The rising flood of speedy new computers coming to market brings new urgency to the question of how companies retire outdated equipment. As firms simply jettison more and more units, losses are mounting.

    According to IDG, the most expensive way of trashing a PC is to pass it down to other employees within the company. This option costs companies on average $397 for a desktop powered by an Intel 486 microprocessor, in large part because the machines have to be reconfigured by systems personnel. Donating the unit to charity rates only slightly better, costing about $344, while selling the unit to employees costs about $272, the study estimated.

    "You have to look at the time and resources you put in to dispose of these PCs," explained Lorraine Cosgrove, a research manager at IDC. "It's not just the dollar value of the PC."

    The most cost-effective way to dispose of 486 units, the study found, is to sell them to a used PC broker. That costs about $119.

    The IDC study starts with the assumption that a company has already made up its mind to buy a new PC, rather than trying to make do with the old one. In addition, it measures the cost of retiring 486 computers only. The cost of disposing of models based on still-older microprocessors is likely to be higher, Cosgrove said.

    The upshot, she added, is that companies ought to consider disposal costs when making decisions about whether or when to buy new PCs. "The longer you hold onto this equipment, the bigger the whole disposal issue becomes," she said. About 32,000 PC remarketers ply their trade in the United States, Cosgrove estimated. A query using the term "computer exchange" pulled in more than 2,800 matches on one Internet search engine.

    Although most firms dispose of their old PCs inefficiently, the number of companies choosing the remarketer option seems to be rising. "There's an increasing number of PCs being put into the used market at a faster rate than there was a few years ago," Cosgrove noted.