I was roaming through the forums when I spotted a post by raymac46 over at Scot’s Newsletter forum in which he/she had posted some rules about recycling older computer systems. Some of the rules I found intersting and thought I would share them with you.

I have a bit of experience recycling old computers for folks in my town. In addition to keeping perfectly useful machines out of the landfill, this process makes available a working system for someone who may not be able to afford one otherwise.
I thought I would post my thoughts on how I do this in case other members might decide to do the same. Of course your additional comments are most welcome to help me out.

1. Know when to fuggedaboudit. If the machine is older than a PII 266, cannot support more than 128MB RAM or won’t boot from a CD-ROM I just don’t think it’s worth my time to work on it. Better to send it to the shredder and move on to a better candidate.

2. Use Linux for the operating system. Yeah some of these old junkers would work fine with Win 2000 but I don’t have the cash to buy a CD every time. Win 98 or Me aren’t supported for security so why would you want to install them anyway if someone wants to go online?

3. Have hardware available. For sure you’ll need more RAM. Most old computers I get have 64MB and often some of that is shared video. I buy used PC133 RAM off eBay and it works OK in older systems, right down to PC66. Anything older than that I don’t fix (see point 1). You might need an old video card as well – sometimes onboard video is SiS which sucks with Linux. Audio can usually be configured even if it’s ISA. An Ethernet card is always handy as well as some of these old junkers were used on dial-up.

4. Know your customer. Can they afford cable or DSL? If not, set up the machine to play music and Linux games. If they can afford it, encourage anything but dial-up. In my area light DSL and cable are the same cost as dial-up anyway.

5. If your client has no previous experience with a PC, so much the better. They won’t expect to have Windows and will happily use the Linux desktop. If they are Windows conditioned be prepared for a harder sell and maybe rejection. If that happens, move along to another possible user.

6. Install the right desktop. KDE and Gnome are probably going to be slowboats on the old hardware I get at the thrift store, even if I put in gobs of RAM. On the other hand Fluxbox is going to scare the pants off a new user, especially if they have seen Windows once or twice. Xfce seems to be a great compromise and both Vector Linux and Xubuntu offer very classy Xfce desktops.

7. Don’t always go for the cutting edge distro. The old graphics cards prefer something a bit more trailing edge. You aren’t going to enable much eye candy anyway. I find that Xubuntu 6.06 LTS works fine in most situations.

8. Configure, configure, configure. Make sure your client gets all the right codecs, printer support, scanner support etc. because sure as shooting the precocious ones will want to try hooking up a digicam or something.

9. Be prepared to offer long term tech support. Linux is pretty user friendly but you can’t expect a new user to have no support if something goes wrong. I don’t tell my clients the root or admin password but they still manage to mess up the icons or worse at least once or twice. Also make sure they know how to do basic tasks like email and web surfing before you leave them to it. Remember there are not that many Linux tech support folks out there – yet. So this means you.

10. You have the final word here…any additional rules you can think of?


This is a great way to extend the life of an older box and keeping same out of our land fills. Also check out the other great tips that were added to the posting at the link below. I especially liked the ones about password protecting the BIOS, setup boot for all 3 drives to HDD and the other suggestions to prevent people from messing with the system. 🙂

Scot’s Newsletter forum article is here.

Comments welcome.

[tags]computer,older, land, fill, recycle, linux, suggestions, rules, help, thoughts,  [/tags]