What to Do With Your Old Laptop

If you have an old laptop collecting dust in your home, you’re not alone. People who purchase a new model frequently let the old one linger under the roof—unused.

And that raises a good question: How do you go about finding a new home for an old laptop? With Earth Day approaching, here are a few eco-friendly options to consider.

Sell It

Believe it or not, there’s a robust market for old tech. Between Craigslist, Decluttr, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, OfferUp, and Swappa, you should have no trouble finding someone to take an unwanted computer off your hands. On eBay, a nonfunctioning MacBook Pro recently sold for $206 and a third-generation iPad Mini for $188.


Online marketplaces make it really easy to list items, offering intuitive step-by-step instructions to help you sell your wares without a fee. Though eBay takes a small cut of the sale price, it’s likely to yield a bigger sum than buy-back sites such as BuyBackWorld, Gazelle, Glyde, and ItsWorthMore.

Before you sell a digital device to someone you don’t know, though, take a few precautions to protect your privacy. You don’t want bank account info, personal images, or your browsing history lingering on the machine.

With a tablet, a factory reset (activated through the Settings menu) will wipe the slate clean. For a laptop, you’re better off removing the hard drive. (Just be sure to note that it’s gone when you place the item on sale.) The website ifixit.com offers teardown tutorials to walk you through the process. The only tool you need is a screwdriver.

Recycle It

For those who don’t have the time to list used electronics, don’t fret; local governments and schools often collect e-waste for Earth Day/Week—at least in non-pandemic times. And many municipalities schedule collection days year-round.

In some cases you may have to fill out a pickup request online. To get the details, go to the website for your local government or sanitation department.

If your city doesn’t have such a program for electronics products, you can look for recycling options near you by entering your ZIP code at the Computer Technology Association’s Recycle Locator or Earth911’s extensive recycling database. Earth911 also offers assistance by phone at 800-CLEANUP (800-253-2687).

Additionally, Dell Reconnect teams up with participating Goodwill chapters to accept donations. Enter your ZIP code on their site to see whether there’s a drop-off location near you.

You should check out the collection program at Best Buy, too. And Amazon and Apple will reward you with a gift card for newer items recovered through their trade-in programs.

It’s always nice to give back, and a used computer is a valuable tool for a family without the resources to buy one. If you’d like to contribute a laptop to a family in need, the National Cristina Foundation and the World Computer Exchange can help you make that happen.

These days, it’s hard to do homework, apply for a job, or even schedule appointments for medical treatment without access to a computer and broadband.

Even a 5- or 6-year-old computer can be given a second life in a new home. To find a nearby nonprofit in need of equipment, you can check out the hundreds of prescreened organizations listed on the National Cristina Foundation website.

Keep in mind that your donation may be eligible for a tax break.

“You can deduct the fair market value of the laptop—that is, how much it would be worth if you sold it on, say, eBay,” says Tobie Stanger, a CR senior editor who has covered taxes. “To be written off on your tax return, a donated item must at least be in good condition.”

Even people who take the standard deduction and don’t itemize can claim up to $300 in charitable contributions on their 2020 tax forms, thanks to a temporary provision in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. (If you’ve already filed, you’ll have to file an amended return to claim that contribution.)

For help in coming up with the valuation, use TurboTax’s ItsDeductible, which values items based on current eBay prices.

Gift It

And last, if you have a child or a friend in need of a computer, you can always hand over the one you’ve outgrown. Just wipe the hard drive first.

On a PC, follow the instructions on Microsoft’s site for resetting your PC and removing the device from your Microsoft account. Make sure to install a fresh version of Windows, too.

On a Mac, follow the instructions on Apple’s site on creating a backup (if needed), signing out of programs, erasing your hard drive, and reinstalling MacOS.

About John Paul

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