Everybody has to get rid of their laptops eventually, as these devices have a limited lifespan. For some, the default option is to just toss is in the trash, but there are several reasons why that isn’t a great idea. Fortunately, there are other options that are better for the environment, and which can even be profitable too. Whether you’re looking at recommended laptops for authors, or you need a new gaming rig that’s fast enough to keep up with your reflexes, your old laptop deserves better than to be tossed into the trash! To learn more about how to get rid of an old laptop, just keep reading.
Step #1: Save the files
Even if you’ve only had the laptop for a couple of years, there are probably files tucked away that you’ve completely forgotten about – but would be glad to have if you remembered them. From music, to pictures, to games, to documents, and much more, it’s so easy to save something to your hard drive and just leave it there. Even if you don’t intend to save every single file on your laptop, make sure you give every folder a once-over to make sure nothing’s been missed.
The question is, what should be done with the files you need to save? You can choose from either physical storage devices like USB drives or SD cards, or you can use a cloud storage solution like Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, and more. The advantage of using cloud-based storage is that if you download the app, you’ll be able to access your files on your smartphone and/or tablet as well.
If you have a ton of files to save and you don’t want to pay monthly fees for cloud storage (or maintain a collection of several dozen thumb drives), you can get an external hard drive that offers much more storage for a reasonable price.
Step #2: Perform a factory reset
Whether your laptop ends up in a landfill or with a second owner, you should definitely complete this step. A factory reset restores the laptop’s original settings and wipes everything clean. This goes for files, program settings, browser cookies, and so on.
Factory reset for ChromeOS:
- Log out
- At the same time, press Ctrl-Alt-Shift-R
- Click “Restart”, then “Powerwash”, then “Continue”
Factory reset for macOS Ventura and Monterey:
- At the top left of the screen, click the Apple menu button
- Click “System Preferences”, then “Erase all Content and Settings”
- Input the administrator credentials
- If you still need to back up your files, use the “Time Machine” option
- If not, skip and click “Continue”, then “Erase all Content and Settings”
- If prompted to log into a WiFi network, do that
- Once the computer informs you that the laptop is activated, click “Reset”
Factory reset for Windows 10 and 11
- Go to the taskbar and type “reset”
- Click “Reset this PC”, then “Get Started” under “Reset this PC”, then “Remove Everything”, then “Local Reinstall” or “Cloud Download”
This method doesn’t completely remove your data from the disk sectors, which makes it vulnerable to someone with advanced software. To remove this data:
- Select “Change Settings” after you’ve chosen between the local reinstall vs. cloud download
- Toggle the “Clean Data” switch to “Yes” to remove all data
This may seem like a hassle if you’re just getting rid of an old laptop, but digital security is more important than ever these days. If someone with bad intentions got their hands on your data, you’ll find yourself wishing that you hadn’t skipped this step.
Choose between selling, donating, or recycling
Obviously the most appealing option is reselling, since that would mean more money in your pocket. However, the resale value of your laptop will depend on factors like age, condition, model, etc. If you can’t resell your laptop, you can always recycle or donate it.
If you have a laptop that’s under five years old and is in fairly good shape, you should be able to resell it. You probably won’t get a ton of money from it, but it’s still more lucrative than the other options. When setting a price, try looking at what similar laptops are going for on places like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, and consider the overall condition of the device. The bottom line is, people will pay based on how much use they think they can get from it. Are you selling a 4.5-year-old Chromebook that’s covered in scratches, or a 2-year-old MacBook Pro that’s in pristine condition? Speaking of MacBooks, Apple laptops are known for their high resale value. When you compare a 3-year-old MacBook to a 3-year-old Windows device, the MacBook will get 50% of it’s original value, while the Windows laptop would be lucky to get 25%.
One option is to simply ask around in your circle of friends to see if anyone could use a laptop. Second-hand laptops in good condition make a great first computer for kids, seniors, or anyone who just wants a backup device. There are also organizations that accept donated laptops, mainly ones that focus on supplying refurbished devices to at-risk families and students. These organizations include Digitunity, Computers with Causes, World Computer Exchange, and human-I-T. One thing to keep in mind is that some non-profits only accept laptops that are in working order. If the cost of repairs is more than you’re comfortable with, then recycling becomes the best option.
If your laptop would require expensive repairs to work again, or if it’s over five years old, then recycling is the way to go. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to have any laptop recycled, no matter where you live in the US. Best Buy has a strong recycling program, as do some laptop manufacturers (such as HP, Lenovo, Dell, and Apple). They aren’t all free, but the ones that come with a price tag aren’t prohibitively expensive either. There are also services like the Consumer Technology Association’s Greener Gadgets program or Earth 911 that help consumers locate nearby recycling centers.
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