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January 24, 2017

Giving Away an Old PC

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

Do people still give away old PCs? The real question is, “How old?” Because very old PCs, like 6 or more years, are more of a burden than a practical use for anyone. Old PCs run slow. They malfunction. They die. They can’t run new software. But when you want to give away an old PC, what do you do?

The main thing you want to avoid when gifting old computer hardware is to not grant anyone access to your files. It would be awful if the PC still contained your banking information, online passwords, or other sensitive data. So the goal is to give away a nice computer, but not to give away all your secrets.

If you plan on keeping the hard drive in the PC, then wipe it. Plenty of free software is available to utterly erase a hard drive. The problem with this setup is that you’re also erasing Windows, which means whoever receives the computer must purchase Windows. For an older PC that can’t run Windows 7 or Windows 10, that’s problematic.

Windows 10 does have a Reset feature, which lets you reinstall Windows and remove your personal files and programs. This command effectively resets the PC back to its original, out-of-the-box state. The problem with this solution is that few “old” PCs are running Windows 10. Windows 7 lacks this feature, as does Windows Vista and Windows XP. (Was there a Windows 8? I forget.)

If you’re really hell-bent on giving away an old computer, I would recommend that you try to find the original discs that came with the system and see whether they let you reinstall everything. If so, wipe the hard drive and give the new owner the PC and all the discs. Then they can struggle with reinstalling Windows and the basic utilities. That’s the kindest thing to do.

Otherwise, you can do what I do with old PCs: Yank out the hard drive, then recycle the computer box. Eventually, take your old hard drives to a data destruction service and they’ll deal with them appropriately.

Also, keep in mind that a new PC, one that comes with Windows and perhaps even some office-like software, can cost about $500 or less. So whether your gift is valuable to someone or not is all relative.


  1. I must admit keeping old PC’s. For the simple reason they tend to be useful for ports (paraellel, Centronics!) also Older versions of Windows I still have a Win98 PC in the Garage that get used only for the software to read CD-RWs which won’t install on later machines. I avoid keeping anything too sensitive on the hard drive (flash drive and a USB hard drive see to that) so for me not really an issue, I tend to keep PC’s until they become unreliable and junk ’em…

    Comment by glennp — January 24, 2017 @ 11:16 am

  2. I did that for the longest time. Then I did a purge and tossed out a few cubic yards of old PCs and printers. I wish I kept some of them for the same reasons you cite: I could boot them up and run older programs. Believe it or not, there’s money to be made there! Especially in the legal profession, having experts who know or have access to older hardware/software platforms is a rare commodity.

    Comment by admin — January 24, 2017 @ 11:25 am

  3. Hmmm, funny you should say that, recently in the UK there was an investigation in the courts over an accident that happened at a foot ball game. Some of the evidence was saved on floppies which posed problems as modern PC’s don’t have floppy drives. Also I bet that aren’t many 5.25 USB drives…

    Comment by glennp — January 24, 2017 @ 5:13 pm

  4. That’s why I still have a floppy drive!

    Comment by admin — January 24, 2017 @ 5:37 pm

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