What to do with your old desktop computer?

Dated desktop computer graphic

We all have them. Old computers lying around collecting dust. Granted, these days, we’re more likely to have old laptops lying around than old desktop PCs. But there are still those of us who hang on to days gone by and fondly remember sitting down at the desk to type out an email or play a game of Sims or read Facebook. Some of us really like having a screen bigger than 17 inches to work on. But this old computer is getting slow. Maybe you already replaced it and it’s stashed in the corner awaiting its fate. What can you do with it?


Upgrade the components

The great thing about desktop computers is that you can upgrade your computer experience by simply swapping out a few parts.

But, Emily, you say. I didn’t build this computer myself! I can’t take it apart! I’ll void the warranty!

Warranty shmarranty! If your computer is sitting around, you probably are beyond any warranty expiration date. And any computer can be taken apart and upgraded! It’s just a matter of finding parts that fit.

The easiest part to swap out is your RAM stick(s). More RAM will help speed up processing and web surfing.

You can also upgrade your hard drive to SSD if you’re still using mechanical hard drives. There’s still a big cost if you need a large hard drive, so you may just want an SSD to use for your operating system and boot loader and then keep a large mechanical drive for storing pictures and media files.

If your computer is really old (say >8 years), you can do a major overhaul and get a new motherboard, new CPU, and new RAM. You’ll need to get a motherboard that will fit in your old case. Sizes are typically standardized, but be sure to get measurements just in case (haha;). Also make sure any old hardware you want to keep is compatible with the new hardware.

One thing you’ll need to be aware of with a major upgrade: if you use Windows, you’ll need to purchase a new copy. Windows does not generally allow changing hardware. Linux will be fine, of course. No need to upgrade Linux with new hardware.

But what if you want new everything?

Turn it into a home server

If you just want a new computer, you can still use your old one by turning it into a headless server. (Headless = no monitor or other peripherals. It is accessed remotely.) Any computer can act as a server. You may want an operating system that is specific to servers, such as Windows Server (but Windows Server is expensive) or Ubuntu Server. Even if you want to have a monitor attached so you can use a desktop environment, you can still turn your computer into a server.

Donate it

If you just don’t want to keep your old computer due to space reasons, there are plenty of places you can donate it to that will be happy to have the resource, no matter how old and slow. Schools, churches, vocational schools, and non-profits are some of the places that would be able to use your old working computer.

Sell it for parts

No need to take it apart if you don’t want to. Many outfits look for cheap computers because they repackage the parts themselves. Just be sure to note the condition of the computer and that it is best used for its parts.

Recycle it

Finally, if you have no where to donate it or it’s too old or worn to sell, you’ll want to recycle it. Take out any parts that still work to use in another build or to sell.


Before you do anything to your old computer, like my uncle tells my aunt when she talks too close to him, BACK IT UP!

2 Replies to “What to do with your old desktop computer?

  1. Good advice! And don’t forget if you donate, sell, recycle, or otherwise relinquish control of your old computer (or any other device) that you must either destroy the hard drive or securely erase it with a special piece of software made for doing so, ie good ol’ DBAN or countless others.

    1. Absolutely! I like to keep all my hard drives and continue using them. But, if you’re throwing one out, definitely do more than just delete your data.

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