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What Do You Do With Old Computers?

If you do not lease your equipment you have several options available to you. The first of course is to take it to a local recycler. You may want to make sure they are a reputable one. Many states not have commercial laws. For example, you are not allowed to throw it away and you must use a reputable or registered recycler. Check with your local Department of Natural Resources or EPA. If your company has a Sustainability, Green or Environmental Responsibility Department they will be able to tell you the laws in your state.

Behind Curtain Number Two

Your second option is to donate it to a nonprofit organization. This of course is always the preferred option because your computer is still usable for special community programs as long as it is able to handle or be upgraded to Windows 7. Even if it isn’t, a nonprofit may also use old computers and electronics to train kids and adults in computer repair or recycling and possibly give them a job. My organization, Wits, Inc is one of the largest reuse and recycling organization in the US.  We have up to 200 people a year  come through our doors just to get job training and job development. We generally process between 5-7 million lbs of electronics a year.

Many nonprofits, like Wits, are certified, reputable and registered. To make sure, ask what they do with the equipment….if they sell it to someone else(some do that for cash)  make sure you know where they sell it. If they “scrap” it for parts that helps them keep their programs running  and you can get a tax write off for it. Be careful that some may need to charge for monitors especially if nonworking.  The price should run between $5-10each. Again, check your laws, some states will not allow charges for certain items.

Queue the Native American With a Tear

Your final option is to throw it away, As a registered recycler in several states and a nonprofit organization I do not promote this nor will I say its preferred however being non-partial to this conversation….in some states it is legal to do so.

But why would you? Computers and other electronics contain all sorts of toxic materials, precious metals, and reusable components that could be helpful to those organizations and are dangerous to the environment and water streams. Even if you aren’t generally a “Green” person, keep in mind that it doesn’t hurt to support a local nonprofit or business in your area and just do the right thing.

And please don’t throw the hard drive away. In addition to the data that may be salvageable, the board still has toxins and valuable materials in them. Most of your reputable recyclers have special software to wipe the data it. At Wits, we take them all apart and completely crush them.  We can even do it while you wait for a small fee.

If you don’t have a policy for old computers you can purchase our ULTIMATE IT POLICY TOOLKIT and create one from the Hardware Security Policy.

Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Is it Time to Replace the Computers or Can You Wait?

How long is too long to keep a computer? That answer seems to change with the economy and our budgets. Back in the nineties when companies couldn’t spend money fast enough 3 years was the norm. Later the standard was 4 years, now it seems to be 5 or whenever the darn things breaks beyond repair.  It’s understandable but, does waiting too long cost more money in the long run? I think it does.

Why Not Wait?

The first thing wrong with keeping a computer until it can no longer be repaired is it indicates that your company doesn’t have a full technology plan, that you are just winging it. Winging it is cool, especially if you are a fighter pilot or a secret agent but IT managers don’t have that luxury. IT managers require plans. Without plans our employees and users often take matters into their own hands and develop their own policies, independent of each other and management. In other words, without plans we have chaos.

The second thing wrong with waiting to replace computers is the loss of productivity.  Every fix requires time. Even simple fixes, like a memory upgrade can mean significant loss of productivity. True, most techs can replace the memory in any desktop or laptop in under five minutes, including finding the part. Except that five minutes doesn’t include the weeks or even months the user endured poor performance before finally getting enough and asking for help. It doesn’t include the phone call or web request to report the problem or the initial visit from the tech to diagnose the problem.  Total time loss for even a minor problem can be many hours. Multiply that by the number of incidents for an older computer compared to a new one and it’s not hard to justify the purchase.

So When Already?

Now that we agree keeping a computer too long is a poor choice, we are back to our original question. How long is too long. I think, for most companies, beyond four years is too long.  Of course different companies have different needs. If your users are designing computer games or doing research for NASA they should probably get new computers every six months. For most of us though, a three year old computer is probably fine.

Does your company have a full technology plan? If not, take a look at the PRACTICAL IT MANAGER GOLD SERIES.  Asset Management can be quite helpful in creating a hardware plan.