Giving senior loved ones new computers, tablets or smartphones – or helping them to buy one of their own – is growing in popularity as more are becoming active online and with social networking. It sounds like tech devices were popular gifts for aging parents and grandparents this holiday season – and sometimes gifts they purchased for themselves.
What about the PC, Mac or smartphone that’s being phased out in favor of the new toy in the home? Sure, there are places you can take them for recycling, but what about seeing them put to good use by someone else who needs and will appreciate them?
Most devices we’re giving up are better than the “nothing” that others have available to them or the small number they have to share with others. If nothing else, recycling that once state-of-the-art technology keeps it from going to a landfill or at least puts it to use as scrap if not in working condition.
Who Wants Your Old Computer?
There are many places that can put old computers to good use. It might be too slow or with too little capacity for your needs, but there is likely someone who wants to use it for surfing the web, writing letters or any of the many other applications.
If you look around in your community you might find organizations seeking donations of old computers for these and similar uses.
- Senior center or nursing home (a favorite of ours)
- Youth recreation centers
- Not-for-profit job search or training programs
- Other programs that don’t have the funding for the computer facilities they would like
How do you find places to donate old computers and smartphones? You might first want to ask around your community because it feels even better knowing where your help is going. Your local Administration on Aging or senior center may be able to tell you where your donation is most needed.
Do you have a favorite organization or program you’d recommend to others who want to see their old computers put to good use? If so, please leave us a comment for everyone to see. We’ll compile a list from your comments and put it on our Facebook page.
If you want home finding a new home for your electronics, you can check out the US EPA’s Electronics Donation and Recycling website for drop-off locations near you.
Safe Computer Donation
You don’t want to be punished for doing something nice by donating a computer with personal information others could turn around and use to steal your identity, especially if you’ve used your computer for doing your taxes, maintaining financial records or storing the family’s personal records.
Keeping in mind the only way to be 100% sure nobody will get your data is to destroy the hard drive, there are steps that business and others consider to be acceptable protections.
Before donating your device…
- Be sure you move everything you want to keep to your new device and/or a backup storage device (“and” might serve you well in the long run).
- Write down the activation or other serial number for any software or apps you plan to use on the new device but haven’t yet installed and activated.
- When you’re completely done with your computer, use a “wipe” program to overwrite the data. Simply deleting the data or even reformatting a hard drive doesn’t protect against a savvy crook from who really wants to get at it. There are a number of good free products available online.
If you would sleep better knowing there’s no chance of the information on your old computer getting into the wrong hands, you can remove the hard drive and destroy it (or store it away in a box like some of us have done). The rest of the system is almost as usable and may even be paired with the hard drive from another computer that is otherwise unusable.
Smartphones are computers themselves – and may have more computing power than that old personal computer you’re tossing. Care is needed when dealing with the data on them, just as it is with a desktop or laptop computer. The steps to prepare a smartphone varies by manufacturer so you should check your documentation or the website of the phone manufacturer or your service provider. It might be as easy as performing a reset on an iPhone or more complex, as it is with many Android phones.
We applaud your desire to put your senior loved one’s (or your) old device to use when you’re done with it and to help others!
Do you have a program – or know of one – that puts used computers or smartphones to work in the community? If so, please leave us a comment and we will share it.