What Can You Do With an Old Computer?

If you're getting rid of an old computer, make sure you do more than throw it in the trash. Recycling can help the environment and put a little extra cash in your pocket, or you may be holding onto a collectible as the world of computers enters yet another generation. Before throwing the computer away without a second thought, take the time to understand what could be a worthwhile cash grab.

Collectible Computers? Already?

It may be a bit difficult to believe, but some of the early desktop computers and workstation systems are considered vintage. It's not difficult to understand that the systems are old and out of mainstream usage, since usage is a question of "speed" or "power", but many of these computers have become icons of industry giants.

The Apple II, for example, was used in many schools as the introduction of the computer world as late as the 1990's. Many predecessors of the Mac line followed before the eventual domination of Windows-based systems, but this isn't a story of just one computer brand.

Tandy, Wang, Fairchild and many other computer manufacturers demand a bit of vintage market respect as old computer users look for memories of their digital roots and as young computer users seek parts of their childhood. Even generations born after their introduction--even after they became obsolete--are looking for retro appeal with old computers.

Although you can scrap these older computers for some valuable components, make sure you're not getting rid of a critical part of computing history. There's collectible value in older computers, and it's not uncommon for an over $2,000 USD price tag to be put onto a vintage system at auction.

What Can Be Scrapped From Computers?

If you're sure that you're not tossing aside a collectible computer worth thousands of dollars, there are a few areas for scrap metal salvage--as well as other recyclable materials.

  • Computer case. The computer case is usually made out of aluminum, although steel is not an uncommon material for ruggedized computers. Modern computers may be covered with plastic or acrylic shells for design purposes, but rest assured that there's metal underneath. The case is made of the four walls or panels as well as a frame with shelving inside.
  • Heat sinks. Heat sinks are used to cool down specific high-temperature components by pulling heat away through a metal block, then to thin fins. Air passes through the fins with the aid of a fan, which draws heat away and allows continuous heat flow away from the computer. These heat sinks are usually made out of aluminum or copper, and the main component is a solid block.
  • Hard drives. Whether it's an external or internal hard drive, the core unit still has an aluminum or steel case that can be opened with a screwdriver. Rare earth magnets are used inside the hard drive, which can be recycled or sold to interested hobbyists.

Contact a scrap metal recycling professional to discuss current computer recycling needs, where to drop off your components and how to get in contact with vintage computer buyers.