What do you do with an old laptop?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Most people get a new computer every 3-5 years. Sometimes they might go longer than that, but that’s probably about the average. But I see a lot of people that have a stack of old laptops sitting in their office or their garage, just because they don’t know exactly how to get rid of them.

old laptops


What do you do with an old laptop? You have a few options.

If it still works:

  • Keep it as a backup
    If your primary computer dies, it’s good to at least have something you can use while you’re shopping for another one or waiting for yours to be repaired. It won’t be up to date of course, and it won’t have all of your files and folders, but it’s definitely better than nothing.
  • Give it away
    Many of my clients will take their old computer and give it to someone who needs one but cannot afford a new one. Or, they’ll give it to a child or grandchild to play with. This keeps the youngster occupied with their own little games machine, and off the “real” computer. The internet can be disabled of course if that’s a concern.
  • Sell it
    If the computer still boots up and runs Windows or some other operating system, it may well be something of value to someone, which means you can get some money for it. Not usually much, but something. You can list it for sale on Facebook, Craigslist, OfferUp, LetGo, or some other online sale site.
  • Install the Chrome operating system and keep using it
    This is another option I like, in order to get more life out of a computer that would otherwise be discarded. Most older computers will run the free Chrome operating system (it would be installed instead of Windows). You don’t need a fast computer or a big hard drive to run it, since it’s mostly web-based. Sometimes when I get a computer that’s too old or dated to refurb and resell, I’ll put on the Chrome OS and give the laptop to a high school kid who doesn’t have one.


If it does not work:

  • Check on getting it fixed
    That’s right – you might not want to write it off as “dead” too quickly. If it just needs new memory, that’s a relatively inexpensive solution to have it working again. In some cases, even a replacement hard drive might be worthwhile in order to get it functional again. But if the screen is cracked or not showing any picture, that’s a repair that is probably not going to make financial sense.
  • Strip it for parts
    In some cases, the components of your previous laptop can be used as spare parts for your new one. Or, if your old laptop had a solid state drive, you could put that in your new laptop and make the new one much faster. Also, some high-end laptops, even though they are older, are sellable “as-is” because of the value of those parts.
  • Recycle it
    Yep, last resort. It doesn’t work, not worth repairing, and no one wants to buy it for parts. Time to get rid of it. Of course, you can’t just drop it in the trash can. Check your local area for recyclers. Here in the Tampa Bay area, there are often events in a nearby community where you can drop off things you can’t throw away – computers, old monitors, old paint cans, etc. You might even be able to bring it to a “big box” store (Best Buy and some other stores will accept old computers for recycling).

Whatever you end up deciding, here’s the most important thing to consider: get your data OFF the laptop before you get rid of it. If you used this laptop for any length of time, it probably has some documents, pictures, PDF files (such as tax returns), videos, and maybe some old emails. Stuff you would not want some random person to find. Once the computer is out of your hands, you really don’t know where it will go or who will go “exploring” the hard drive for data. Make sure there’s nothing on there for anyone to find.

And keep in mind that simply doing a quick format of the drive does NOT delete your data. Anyone that’s just a little bit tech savvy can use software to make that “formatted” data readable again. So if you’re not sure how to REALLY delete your files, take it to someone who does.

listen to my podcast in iTunes

Share this post

4 comments Add your comment »

Get updates when new comments are added. Subscribe to the comments RSS Feed

Phil Min
April 16th, 2018

Scott, can the chrome OS be installed on an old mac as well?

Scott Johnson
April 16th, 2018

Good question, never tried it.

Steve Weissfeld
April 17th, 2018

I assume scrubbing the hard drive is something YOU can do for a client and obviously it’s something that a semi-pro like Hillary Clinton can do, but is it something an average computer user can do on their own?


Scott Johnson
April 17th, 2018

Pretty sure Hillary had someone on staff that knows how to do that. If the files are critical, I would not recommend that the “average computer user” would try on their own.