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How can I donate older, unused or surplus computers? What facilities or organizations exist? Can I ship equipment to them? Is it tax deductible? I'd like them to go directly into educational or low-income use, rather than being recycled for scrap metals.

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Where are you? UK? US? –  cagcowboy May 5 '09 at 14:13
    
There are non-profit groups that accept usable donated computer equipment. You can google for them. –  Magus May 5 '09 at 14:15
    
There is a related question to this serverfault.com/questions/3352/what-to-do-with-old-hardware –  Decio Lira May 5 '09 at 14:41
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7 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

A couple of ideas:

  • check your local freecycle.. Mine has two guys who accept surplus equipment and rebuild it and give it back to people requesting computers on freecycle (it's nice because I directly see them give the computers back to the community)
  • "sell" them to employees. My company recently had good luck with this. Our network group took all the computers and accepted 30 dollar donations for them. You wrote a check to a local charity and they gave you an obsolete computer. I bought a 9 year old laptop I have every intention of putting linux on and making into a dedicated network tester.
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Here in Portland, you can drop them off at Free Geek, who then sends off the usuable bits and pieces to recyclers, and the stuff that works is reformatted and resold to the community as low-cost Ubuntu boxes. The project is interesting because those folks that can't afford much can still get a computer by working in the recycling center for a period of time (I think it's 24 hours of service), after which they get a "Geekbox", typically a P3 or P4 with the aforementioned-Ubuntu install on it, for free. Generally speaking, it has to be really really old (Pentium-2 generation) or completely broken to end up as recycled.

I would put in a search term for community computer recycling for your area and see what comes up.

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If they are truly obsolete, don't. Nobody wants your old junk, and groups that think they do have no clue in 98.5% of situations. Especially if you're disposing of CRT monitors.

Several reasons for this:

  • There is truly a glut of used electronics. Anyone who needs a 5 year old PC can get one. If a school or whatever is telling you differently, they are too lazy to look.
  • Windows licenses don't transfer with your equipment. Unless the recipient is using Linux or buying Windows (unlikely), you're in a questionable ethical place.
  • Computers are incredibly cheap to procure, and maintaining old junk is very expensive. If you want to help, buy a new PC for $300.
  • Organizations that cannot afford a $300 PC cannot afford proper disposal. Most of these machines will end up in the landfill (best case) or sold (through multiple parties) to unethical scrap dealers who do nasty things like send them to Africa and have kids burn wires and boards to recover copper and silver.

My advice - pay the $25-40 to dispose of the device properly, and factor that cost into the TCO of your server environment. Or lease equipment from major vendors and make it their problem. Help organizations you care about with cash, labor or durable goods.

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Have a look at Computers with Causes.

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If you're near Texas, drop them off at The Helios Initiative. Kenneth Starks and his voluteers are doing excellent work in fixing them and donating them (with free internet access) to poor families who's children need computers for educational use but who cannot afford a computer, let alone internet access. And the computers really are for the children and not for their parents.

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You can try getting in touch with local towns, cities and municipalities. Sometimes programs are in place for just this purpose.

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