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Here are 8 things you can do with your old laptop
If it’s at all possible, you should avoid tossing out a laptop, no matter how old it is. E-waste is a serious issue — the materials in computers can be polluting or outright dangerous if they’re just tossed in a heap. With that in mind, here are 8 ideas for handling an old laptop, many of which may actually leave you in a better position.
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What to do with you old laptop that still works
The best options apply when your old laptop still hums — you’re just upgrading to a new machine for better performance.
Sell it or trade it in
This should be the go-to for most people. You probably spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on your laptop, and with a sale or trade-in, you can ease some of the bite of your next upgrade. Companies like Amazon, Apple, Dell, and Best Buy have trade-in programs.
Be mindful that terms will vary, and the older your machine, the less money you’re likely to get in return. Apple won’t even give you direct cash — you’ll just get credit in the form of an Apple Gift Card. They do accept non-Mac computers, though. Be sure to wipe the data off any computer before a trade-in.
Instead of buying something like a Chromecast or an Apple TV, you might hook your laptop up to a 4K TV via an HDMI cable, and use some sort of wireless input to direct media streaming from your couch. The experience can be superior to dedicated streaming devices, particularly since access to any offline music and video libraries is automatic.
Make it a lightweight backup
Just because your laptop can’t play Elden Ring smoothly doesn’t mean it’s useless. It’s good to have a backup in case your primary laptop fails, especially if you work from home. The trick is making sure the backup stays charged, updated, and accessible, for the obvious reason that you’ll still be scrambling if your old laptop is drained and dusty in the back of a closet.
Give it to kids or guests
Chances are your child doesn’t need a state-of-the-art PC if all they’re doing is homework, chatting, and playing Minecraft or Roblox. You’ll probably need to lock down a child’s PC with parental controls, however, which means giving them a profile separate from your administrator account. Be sure to set restrictions within individual apps too.
You might do something similar to set up a guest laptop. Guests will probably need even fewer apps, maybe as little as a web browser. Think of it like a Chromebook at no extra cost.
Set it up as a server
If you’re technically savvy, you can convert a laptop into a server for media, smart home control, network-attached storage (NAS), or various other functions. One semi-common thing is to set up an old PC as a Plex server, storing and feeding media to your TV over Wi-Fi.
Many people around the world can’t afford a single laptop, much less a cutting-edge gaming rig. Donating to charity means someone may get a computer for the very first time, opening access to the web and other useful tools. As a bonus, you may be able to write the donation off on your taxes. Look for charities specializing in computer tech.
What to do with your old laptop that doesn’t work
Options shrink dramatically in this situation, but there are a couple of them.
Salvage it for parts
You may be able to reuse some functioning parts in other machines, depending largely on your technical skill. The easiest thing to repurpose is probably an M.2 SSD, since you can stick it in an enclosure and reformat it as external storage. If your new PC has a compatible internal slot, you can even insert and reformat it there, no enclosure needed.
Don’t expect to get much more out of an old laptop, though. Recent models are built with increasingly tight tolerances or even glued together, making it difficult or impossible to remove things like the CPU or RAM. If a part’s too old, it might become a performance bottleneck in a new system.
If all else fails, you’ll have to take your laptop to a company or charity offering e-waste recycling. There are specialists in this field, but if all you care about is convenience, companies like Amazon, Apple, Dell, Best Buy, and Staples will readily recycle what you give them. Frequently you can send your laptop in by mail.
Whatever you do, make sure to wipe your drives first. There’s still the possibility of someone salvaging your data, even if they have to use forensic-style recovery methods.