back to article Who will rid me of these obsolete PCs?

I never would have believed that getting rid of one’s old computer gear could be the harder side of upgrades – until early last year when I bought a set of Wyse thin clients to replace an aging and mismatched desktop fleet. I briefly toyed with the idea of making some form of Franken-Beowulf-cluster out of the 40 or so working …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (untitled)

    Why not leave them outside your door with a note saying "please do not steal", or something similar ?

    1. eezatehgeeza
      Thumb Up

      I remember...

      Back in the day upgrading from an old IBM S36 - bigger than a chest freezer the thing was - the company (who I shall refrain from naming...) disposed of the huge chunk of metal for us - minus the 35kg each HDDs for reconditioning. When asked what was to be done with it, I was told they leave this kind of stuff outside the back door overnight and it would disappear!

      Job done.

    2. Velv Silver badge

      Don't be surprised....

      if the person who "removes" said item trips and falls while running away, and sues for injuries.

      "Had an accident at work!" - I can just see the ambulance chasers lining up now.

      I'd get my coat, but I can't seem to find it anywhere. I left it on that hook by the door......

  2. Patrick O'Reilly
    Linux

    Camara

    In Ireland we have a charity called Camara ( http://camara.ie ) who accept old PC's, put on an Edubuntu Distro they've brewed up themselves and then ship them off to schools in sub-Saharan Africa.

  3. My Alter Ego

    Wish I'd seen this a while ago

    We had to get rid of 19" CRTs & boxes, laser printers, and a shitload more. Ended up paying the council to take it away.

    At least I had the sense to remove the drives & zero them, unlike some people you read about.

  4. Miek
    Linux

    um

    Could you have just sold each machine for a dollar ?

  5. The Unexpected Bill
    Go

    I suspect that I won't be the first to suggest this...

    I keep a stack of secondhand PCs around, with most of them being a Pentium II or newer. (Still, there are some 386, 486 and early Pentium boxes kicking around, and likely will be for a while.) They do come in handy when you want to try some kind of operating system, be it for desktop use, server use or even as a sort of purpose built appliance. They're also great if you see some beta release of software that you're already running and want to take it for a spin without risking your current configuration. I have an HP Vectra VA Series 6/200 Pentium Pro that makes a better Time Capsule than the one Apple sells!

    The newer ones (anything with a Pentium 3 at 800MHz or better) also see use as "emergency replacements", because some computer is better than no computer. I do freelance consulting on the side and loan these out. If something happens to one of these, there is no big loss.

    Yet as you pointed out, there are only so many secondhand computers that a person needs or can find something to do with.

    There are companies (GEEP, Liquis and 5R Processors Limited to name but a few) that will come in and examine what you have, after which they will perform data destruction on it and remove it from the premises. From there, they will try to liquidate it and then recycle it properly if all else fails. Trouble is, this costs money if what you have isn't worth anything--or if what you have has some value but not enough to offset those parts that do not. They all do the same thing, turning the stuff out to eBay and letting it bring what it will.

    Consider having an employees-only sale. I know of companies that do this and have some luck with it, selling machines for whatever they will bring.

    You can do some of this yourself. Fire up your web browser, hit eBay and sign up for an account if you do not already have one. Make sure you've prepped the machines by at least wiping their hard drives and start listing 'em.

    You never know what will happen. If you can be bothered to ship the computers, there can be money in it. I've had parts that weren't in perfect working order bring decent money...like $80 for a Pentium 3 board that worked but had damaged temperature sensors. I couldn't tell you why the buyer wanted it, but they did and were thrilled to get it. Chances are you won't have to spend much if anything on packing, because you've probably got a small stockpile of cardboard boxes, air pillows and the like already around.

  6. The Mole

    Market Value?

    If you can't even give them away to charaties and have written them off as useless internally then surely their market value is closer to 0 than $140, I'm sure staff would be more interested in paying $1 or $5

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      VM

      You can use a virtual machine for testing an operating system.

      These old machines often have pretty bad energy efficiency.

      1. The Unexpected Bill
        Alert

        Energy Usage

        Well...

        I have a Kill-A-Watt plug in electrical meter and I know how to use it. (Sounds like a "B" movie plot.)

        Having heard that before, I sat down with a few older machines and the power meter. First thing I found is that nameplate readings were almost universally high. Only one or two machines had power draw in excess of their nameplate rating, most were quite a bit lower, oftentimes under 40 watts. Even when some of those machines were filled with expansion cards and disks I could not make them reach the nameplate ratings.

        Now I'm not a "raging greenie", but I don't advocate unnecessary energy use. It bugs me to see lights and computers left on when they needn't be.

        For the Vectra already mentioned, pushing two SATA disks, one PATA boot drive and with most of its PCI slots filled, power consumption was a steady 56 watts with the SATA disks both working. By comparison, a Linksys NSLU2 and two hard drives pulled 46 watts under similar use.

        I suppose that in the end it is a matter of choosing "horses for courses" but power consumption may not be the factor that you think it is between a more modern dedicated device and an old PC.

        Virtual Machines are nice, but sometimes you want a real computer for a given task. I find that some things don't behave too well under VMs and others don't run at all. Plus, if I have to take the host computer down for any reason, including spectacular VM breakage, that may cause a problem.

        1. aetrotatio

          The name plate is not the power consumption

          Which name plate are you reading? On those power supplies that say "350 watts" in big letters, that's the DC power capacity, not the AC power consumption. Even those so-called "1 kilowatt" power supplies only consume about as much AC power as a common light bulb.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            "Common light bulb."

            CFL or Incandescent? My house is all CFL moving to LED. I am not even sure you can /buy/ incandescent house bulbs any more. So you are claiming the waste power of a PSU is 14W or less on a 1kW PSU? In what universe? Even an 80 PLUS Platinum couldn’t claim that!

            Now, I am always on the lookout for more energy efficient gear. You make a bold claim by saying “…those so-called "1 kilowatt" power supplies only consume about as much AC power as a common light bulb.” I would honestly like to know where you can get such a beast, if they indeed exist.

            Also: you claim that “On those power supplies that say "350 watts" in big letters, that's the DC power capacity.” I would like to know which PSUs you use where you can reliably count on getting 350W DC on a unit stamped “350W.” Is that after 5 years of capacitor aging, or right off the shelf? Off the shelf, the best I’ve gotten is 98% of rated capacity, with degradation to 85% rated capacity with 5 years of capacitor aging.

            I have always specced my PSUs such that system load = 80% of PSU capacity, and banked the PSU pull from the wall at 110% rated maximum. If you use alternate calculations, or know of better PSUs than 80 PLUS Platinum, please let me know!

            I have had the best luck with FSP PSUs.

            http://www.plugloadsolutions.com/80PlusPowerSuppliesDetail.aspx?id=37&type=2

          2. The Unexpected Bill
            Badgers

            Nameplate rating...

            Point taken, but when I say "nameplate", I think a lot of people would agree that I'm referring to the one on the computer as a whole unit, on the exterior of the case.

            Or perhaps that is just me.

            Anyway...to give some numbers. I have a Macintosh Centris 650 right here, whose back label says 6A/120-240 volts AC 50/60Hz. 6 *amps*? Really? I don't think that's even remotely close to reality, even in a fully stacked up machine. (Assuming a 1:1 relation of voltage to current--not always true on AC, but it saves me nasty math that I'm not even going to feign understanding--that's 720 watts at 120 volts, a figure which may be worse when you consider that nasty math I wasn't talking about.) It's not even mentioned that the current draw will basically be half this value on 220/240 volt systems.

            Therefore, based on some educated guesses and real world experience(tm), I postulate that most of the figures are grossly inflated from fact.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Boffin

            Nup

            No, that's completely incorrect. Power is power, regardless of if its AC or DC. 1000Watts = 1000 Joules per Second. 100Watts = 100 Joules per second. You cannot get energy from nothing. I think you might be confusing power with current.

          4. Steven Jones

            DC vs AC Power Capacity

            I have news for you. A kW is a kW whether it's powered by DC, AC or recycled cow-farts. It's one of the universal laws of physics. Of course a power supply will draw more power from the mains than it can deliver at the DC levels as they aren't 100% efficient (good ones can be over 80% efficient).

            So an 80% efficient power supply delivering 300W of DC power will be drawing 375W from the mains with 75W disappearing as heat (less the odd few watts used by the cooling fan). In fact it's pretty near impossible for any power supply to reach it's actual rating as that would require each of the separate DC ratings for the various voltages available to be optimised.

            So if a 1 kW power supply is only drawing the power of a 100W light bulb that's only because the DC side is delivering perhaps 80W.

            Nb. it's important to note that the difference between the rated power output and the rated power consumption. If you want to be picky then you can get into power factors, but that's not a subject that the average user needs to get into.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Unexpected results

              I'll try to dig out a reference, but in the last year, one of the UK magazines (or it might have been the UK PC World online magazine) did some testing and found that putting overspec'd power supplies in systems actually reduced the power consumption. So, if you had a system requiring 450W, putting in an 800W power supply resulted in less power used than a 500W power supply in the same system. They published the measured consumption figures, and these showed a considerable difference.

              It was reasoned that a power supply is most efficient towards the middle of it's rated capacity, and efficiency falls off as you reach the limit. In addition, the power supply is more likely to continue to cope even as it ages.

              I measure that my 24x7 firewall, which is currently a AMD K6-II (remember those?) clocked at 550MHz only consumes about 85W measured with an in-line consumption meter, so older kit really does consume less and could be less than a 100W filament light bulb (and my 2GHz P4 T30 Thinkpad only uses about 45W even when charging at the same time as it is running). My kids recent gaming rigs draw more like 500W, though.

              Don't think I would like to use the K6 system as my workstation, however.

              1. Nigel 11

                Power supply efficiency

                It can also be a huge waste of energy to put a high-wattage PSU in a low-wattage system. Some designs of PSUs have to resort to dumping a certain number of watts as waste heat, if the attached electronics don't demand enough watts!

                Another factor can be the relative demand for power at 5V and 12V. This can make it energy-inefficient to recycle an old P3-era PSU into a modern system, because the balance of a typical system has changed and PSU manufacturers have adapted their designs appropriately.

                Not many people chase down the exact technical specification of their PSUs. I wonder how many manufacturers bother? Most people just get whatever PSUs the manufacturer of their PCs chooses to use.

            2. JayBS
              Boffin

              Re Nup on AC

              Sadly, your pithy "Power is Power" explanation is a tad over-simplistic : in AC circuits we have reactive currents as well as resistive: the former do not result in power dissipation. Hence the importance of power factor when specifying many higher-power electrical devices. Of more relevance to the SMPS example given here is the nature of the mains current waveform, which is highly non-sinusoidal, and thus the rms current x rms voltage equation does not yield true (i.e billed) power consumption. The typical error factor is in the range +50 to +100% .

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      I wish!

      Actualy, the way it seems to work here is that you have to dig up evidence relating to the market value of the item. Good examples would be print-outs of ebay auctions or kijiji ads for similarly specced equipment. That information then has to be retained for seven years.

    3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      @The Unexpected Bill

      I have 15 Identical Pentium IIIIs. 11 Years old and <3. More on that, later...

      1. The Unexpected Bill
        Happy

        It will be interesting to see what you come up with...

        I'll look forward to hearing about that. Hopefully they came to a good use or found a good home.

        Another reason for keeping some old systems around just crossed my mind, because it has happened in the past on this end: A couple of times per year, someone will come to me and say "we need to have a demonstration/training/whatever of such-and-such software right away!" followed by "Can you secure ten workstations for this?" Or "we need a server for such-and-such a temporary project, have you got anything?" They've known that they needed this for six or seven months and I don't find out until right when they're ready to tell me, about a week before they need the stuff. It's your typical IT business...

        Of course, there is no time to get a bunch of machines ordered, and even if there was, I'm in one of these IT situations where I have to make do with what I have unless I want to run through a 99-step program to get new stuff. Frequently it just isn't worth the trouble as compared to dusting off some machines, loading them with software and taking it from there. For line of business stuff, the older systems work fine.

        That said, I still very much agree that finding a home for lots of suddenly unnecessary machines can be a problem. I don't think there is one good answer to the problem, but out of several possibilities, most of which were mentioned here, I always find one that works. I hope you can find something that works on your end.

        (By the way, I mentioned selling the machines at an employees-only sale because you mentioned that simply giving them away would incur a tax liability. I don't know Canadian tax law at all, but maybe if you got something from them, it would defray whatever tax liability there was? Thought I ought to mention that, in case it seemed like I hadn't read the article.)

      2. Annihilator
        Go

        Internal beancounting practices

        Depending on your IT policy, you can make "simple" depreciation calcs. For example, we straight-line depreciate our kit over 3 years. Presumably at that point, it's zero-cost and avoids the whole "market value" argument, so as long as it's 3 years old, just give it to staff.

        But then, IANAL or indeed a beancounter. The simplest answer has already been given above, which is leave it chained to a lamp-post. "Alright! I got me a bed.."

    4. frymaster

      No

      No, because then it could be argued that you're trying to get around the tax laws. If a company "sold" you a new car, or a new computer for that matter, for one dollar, they it's pretty obvious that it's tax evasion.

      In this situation, not so much, but you still have to sell them for "fair market value", based on what similar computers are going for.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        not really

        not if you can prove that it is market value. If you cant give them away then the market value for such items is negligible. Just find an ebay ad that expired for a simlar PC, note the price, that becomes a market value.

        We did the same at work, we had a bunch of GX280's - no use to man nor beast. An ebay gx280 expired at £10. Jobs a good one.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now see here!

      "At least I had the sense to remove the drives & zero them, unlike some people you read about."

      Just what are you implying by that? As the Department Head of Governmental IT, I demand to know exactly what you mean by that comment!

      --

      Coxure Braggart, DH GIT

    6. Nigel 11

      Peppercorn

      If the alternative is paying someone to take old PCs away, it makes sense to sell them for a penny (or that quaint UK legal tradition, a peppercorn). Get a signed contract from the buyer, especially if the kit is security-marked by your company. That way if the computer later gets illegally dumped, you wave the sale document at the enforcement agency as proof that it's not your rubbish. Also state sold as seen, no warranty. Of course the buyer will also want a copy of the contract, if only to prove legal ownership to a curious officer of the law, or to your site security on the way out!

  7. Adam Trickett
    Linux

    Never at the right time

    Whenever I want an old PC for a family member there are none going free locally. When I've just bought new, someone offers me a perfectly good PC....

    At work we pay someone to dispose of old kit, which I always find to be a waste of money as we use to erase the drives and give them away naked and ask the person who took them to take responsibility for them.

    Personally I find my local local LUG is a good place to off-load older kit, there is always someone looking for something.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Salvation Army

    Trevor: the Salvation Army usually recycles old PCs, at least they do in Vancouver.

    I gather they make a little money from it.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      @skelband

      Thanks! I will look into this.

  9. Jeremy 2

    Freecycle

    Post them on Freecycle or equivalent with a subject line like...

    "OFFER: 40 older computers (P4 and similar) - good for kids"

    ...and they'll be allocated in 10 minutes and gone in a day - guaranteed.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      @Jeremy 2

      Worth a try. Edmonton's freecycle community isn't exactly something I would call "vibrant." Oddly enough, there is still a Usenet group (?!?) still active in these parts named "edm.forsale." I might actually have some lucky there...but the last time I played around with that usenet group, the crowd was fairly picky. Wanting complete documentation on such "give-away" prizes, etc. Worth a boo, though!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Linux

        Those Radio Hams snap up old gear too..

        check out http://rac.eton.ca/events/upcoming.php for local Hamfests/Fleamarkets - amateur radio software still exists for DOS based systems, altho a lot of Linux stuff is out there and doesn't require high spec hardware. Local hamfests/rallies in the UK always see a bunch of vendors selling old PC kit - and generally the vendor leaves with a lot less hardware and more cash than the start of the day.

      2. HighlightAll

        Other uses

        Computer sculpture? Anyone do art in Edmonton?

        Anyone like to jump over piles of things with a 4x4 or bike?

        Use the cases to house something else?

        Hire out for 90's TV drama use?

        Goal posts?

  10. AdamWill

    Vancouver

    Don't know where you are in Canada, but if you're around Vancouver, best option by far is to give them to Free Geek:

    http://freegeekvancouver.org/

    they may well be able to put you onto good organizations elsewhere in Canada, if you're not in Vancouver. For large chunks of machinery like yours, I think they will even organize a pick-up.

  11. Matt Hawkins
    Thumb Down

    Recycling electronics sucks

    A working PC is easy to donate to charity ... except charities won't accept PCs that are "too old". By "too old" they mean 2 to 3 years. Sorry but I don't replace my entire, working PC every 2 years.

    If you've got an old PC with a broken motherboard you've not got much choice but throw it in the bin. or that bag of old ISA/PCI cards and misc pcbs.

    Our local waste centre recycles "electrical items with a 3 pin plug" but anything else they aren't interested in. The old computer speakers I placed in the "electrical items" bin got removed and thrown in the general rubbish.

    I thought the council was bound by the WEEE regulations but obviously not. Rather than drive my stuff to the tip only for it to be thrown in land fill I just chuck it in the wheelie bin and save myself the petrol.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ebay?

    Pallet.

    Sell as a job lot.

    Buyer collect..

    Job done.

  13. ElNumbre

    One of the few advantages.

    One of the few advantages of leasing, you can tell the company you're 'renting' the kit off to come collect it when you're on the upgrade cycle.

    1. as2003

      Ditto.

      Surely the easiest way.

      Not sure why people pay companies to take this stuff away when you can get people on ebay to pay you to take it away.

      I've mainly been using it to shift a lot of faulty computers and other electronics. Yup - people are even willing to buy and collect faulty old computers!

  14. mal7921

    Sometimes the UK education system is way too picky

    We recently tried to give some of our old PC's to education so that they could be donated to children with no computers at home. They wee refused because they 'Would not be to the same specification as the systems they use within the school"

    WTF??? Surely a PC would be better than no PC at all!

    Sometimes you just can't give stuff away

  15. Do Not Fold Spindle Mutilate
    Thumb Up

    Western Canada - Electronics Recycling Association

    hi,

    I have not dealt with them but http://www.era.ca/ the Electronics Recycling Association is in many cities in Western Canada and has lists of needed equipment for listed charities http://www.era.ca/index.php?page=charities

    I would suggest physically destroying all hard drives to protect confidential data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Alert

      Parents

      "Surely a PC would be better than no PC at all!"

      Trouble is anyone who can't afford £300 for a PC, even less for a second hand one, can't afford to have the internet. So giving them a PC isn't much help.

      Also the reason some children haven't got access to a PC is because their parents are crap and choose to spend their money on other things (fags, bingo, Sky etc). Nothing is going to change that.

      1. CmdrX3

        And sometimes their parents are good...

        ...and choose to spend their money on food, clothes and heating. Some children who don't have access to a PC are not the spawn of chavs who couldn't care about their children. PC's and the internet are not the be all and end all of modern life, in fact many people get along just fine without them.

      2. Stuart 13

        Free sky Broad band

        OK, they have Sky (and the sports package too) ... even with basic sky they get free broadband...

        ok, it's so shite you'll need a month to download that bootleg dvd, but then they'll still be able to sell it down the market... then they can buy that 52" plasma, Xbox and other stuff that they all seem to have,

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Only in an LLU area

          If I were to switch to SKY broadband, even though I would qualify due to my package, it is not available where I live. I can buy the paid service from SKY, but this is delivered using BT Wholesale just like every other provider in the area.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Windows license

      You also have very restrictive conditions on the Windows license. Unless you can pass on all the documentation and original media, the Windows EULA does not allow you to transfer the Windows license. And what good to lower-income households are computers without Windows (yes, I am a Linux advocate, but I am realistic enough to know that most people currently don't want Linux, unfortunately).

      I'm sure that this is often conveniently overlooked, but any organization involved in re-deploying old systems will not risk crossing Microsoft and their lawyers, and will avoid most old kit unless they are putting Linux on it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: physically destroying all hard drives

      Because a PC with no hard drive is so much use to a charity, right? Just run something like DBAN and nobody short of the NSA is going to read your precious data, even with the quicker options.

  16. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Shirley...

    ...they'd depreciate to zero in 3 or 5 years, so there should be no accounting issues with giving them away?

    I can imagine there'd be electrical safety issues to manage, however - AIUI this is why many charity shops no longer accept electrical/electronic goods.

    Otherwise, Freecycle/geek or Ebay or an employee auction/lottery would seem to be the best ways to go.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Depreciation

      is not linear when it comes to depreciating asset value. Each year, the depreciation is based not on the initial purchase price, but the residual value at the end of the previous year.

      Say you depreciate computing kit by 25% p.a, and the initial value is £400

      After one year, it's value is £300, after two, it is £225, after three £168.75, after four it is £126.56.

      This means that it will never drop to zero, and will only approach zero after decades.

      And at least in the UK, if you 'sell' an asset, you are required, as Trevor said, to try to get 'market value' for the asset. One thing I found that I could get away with was declaring the kit broken and of no residual value. This allowed me to dispose of small amounts of kit without getting involved in taxable benefits. My accountant would accept this, and write the annual company report in such a way as to allow the kit to drop off the asset register without declaring where it went. I doubt that you could do this for large amounts of kit, though.

      1. Steven Knox
        Boffin

        RE: Depreciation

        Whether depreciation is linear or not depends on which calculation method your organization chooses to use (which depends on which methods are legal in your country.) Straight-line depreciation is based on the initial value and does allow for a 0 or negative salvage value. You've described the declining-balance method.

        Hardly definitive, but a good starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depreciation

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          I can only comment on the UK

          and this inverse exponential is how I was told to run the residual value of my asset register by two different accountants.

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Go

        RE: Depreciation

        "....I doubt that you could do this for large amounts of kit, though." Ermm.... <cough>maybe<cough>. Strange things, PCs, you just never know how unreliable they can become once that warranty has expired and the new ones have arrived. It's not like we'd falsify records to make it look like they'd been dropping like flies in their third year of use, no sir! And of course, if you have already agreed with the beancounters that after a certain point in the lifecycle, it is uneconomic to investigate a "non-booting" machine and that a "non-booting PC" = "broken", i.e., an asset write-off, then you are left with a pile of "broken" PCs to dispose of. Of course, we do have USB keys with disk-wiping tools for data-wiping servers, and they might reproduce exactly the same "non-booting" symptoms should they by chance be used on a PC, but I'm fairly sure that never happens.

        Should a member of staff then ask if they can remove a "broken" PC as spares we have a form that includes statements around them ensuring it is disposed of in a WEEE-compliant manner, etc. Strangely enough, staff seem to find it very easy to "fix" these broken PCs (could be something to do with the factory CD packs we also dispose of which each PC). Less of a headache for the beancounters, and lots of "broken" PCs going to local charities and staff homes. Just needs a bit of planning an collaboration with the beancounters. Alledgedly. As long as you ignore the M$ licensing issues. <Cough, cough>.

  17. leona 2
    Unhappy

    You have got to love BureauPrats

    Who are happy for you to give your old PC gear to Charity, but you are not allowed to give them away to your staff, how utterly ridiculous!

  18. JaitcH
    Pint

    Small world - thousands of ex-Canadian computers are dotted all over Laos & Cambodia

    Some years ago a Toronto friend was a volunteer in a computer recycling program where large corporate entities would recycle hardware and offer thousands of computers to organisations who used the talents or retired techs to restore them to an acceptable working standard.

    The intended recipients were the disadvantaged youth and single parent families.

    Distribution commenced and follow ups to ascertain program weaknesses and strengths. It was found that many excellent machines had been set aside as the poor deprived kids complained they were no good for gaming!

    There were hundreds of machines looking for a home so I said how about Developing Countries? I rented a 40 foot container and when it was filled it was shipped to VietNam and I personally delivered and installed hundreds of them. The trail of containers was financed at special deep discount rates courtesy of a European shipping line by my employers when destined for VietNam.

    This is why you will find names of outstanding Canadian companies emblazoned on computers in Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Ede, etc!

    Later the Vietnamese owned national telephone company started a similar scheme so we discontinued ours and redirected the containers to Cambodia and Laos where others are continuing the technology transfer.

    There are few things so rewarding as watching the response of children when they are set loose on their very own computer!

  19. A. Lewis

    It is tricky.

    The regulations governing these sorts of things are annoyingly draconian. At work we used to sell off second-hand computers to staff, but that got knocked on the head a few years back because of tax problems and, bizarrely, some quirk of OEM licensing that meant that while the machines all had a COA for a copy of OEM windows, they couldn't be sold with windows on, even if we used the original restore disks to reinstall it.

    We found a local PC recycling company who would take them off our hands, and sort out the paperwork, for free so long as we delivered them. I believe they're on their way to Uganda now to supply some new schools.

  20. yossarianuk
    Happy

    I turned mine into a TV - unlike BT vision you dont pay for free stuff..

    As my house has no aerial at all and I would sooner die rather than give Murdoch/Branson any more money I decided to use my old PC and my TV.

    You can stream all BBC/ITV channels from their websites, and you can get pretty much all other freeview channels from www.tvcatchup.com (including Film4)

    The old PC - A P4 1.6Gz 1GB RAM, Nvidia Geforce 3 ti200 was already doing the job as Firewall/Gateway to the internet - it was running Ubuntu 10.10 server - I just installed the desktop (stopping loads of crap that I didn't need) - I run the desktop at 640X480 which is good enough for normal (non-HD TV) - The quality is far far better than the small internal aerial I used to use (on the normal TV).

    As well as being able to get (nearly) all the Freeview channels you also get access to all the iplayer/4OD/Itv (not that there is ever anything good on itv catchup)

    Unlike the mugs to pay for BTvision I can watch peepshow/iplayer, etc without paying for it (over xmas I was amazed that BT actually charge you to watch what is free via the internet)

    When I upgrade my present desktop I'll be able to my existing one to watch HD tv (flash square 64 bit copes very well)

  21. Ian Ferguson
    Unhappy

    Charity & Schools

    I see a lot of scathing comments here complaining that charities and schools don't want 'old equipment'.

    Tell you what - try working for a few months as a sysadmin for one of these worthy causes, and then accept a donation of 50 assorted PCs from a local company. You will not have time or resources to repair, reformat, reinstall and maintain the eclectic mix of machines you receive.

    It is far easier - and, importantly, cheaper - for a charity or school to replenish their entire computing stock with bargain basement new equipment every few years, and run a common OS and installation spec across the range. When a student trashes a disk - no problem, just copy your master image over it.

    Remember that the main cost for the charity or school is not the hardware, but the sysadmin's wages, not to mention training the staff / students (which is considerably easier if every PC is the same).

  22. ttuk

    leave covered in the front garden with a help yourself note..

    I second the leave it outisde route.. as long as you live on a busy enough street some passer by will either want it, or believe (possibly mistakenly) they can make money selling it, either way not your problem once they take it..

    we once had a cheapo exercise bike that was bought for about £20 quid from asda, it was crap and never got used, but I had no idea how to get rid of it.. left it on the wall of our front garden in the morning with a note saying "no longer needed, working, help yourself" and it was gone when I got back from work

  23. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Scheduling conflict?

    The Ecostations are open most of the day, 5-6 days per week depending on the season, and you work for the Register. How hard can this be?

    Hours:

    Summer - March 29, 2010 to November 20, 2010

    9am to 6:30pm, Monday - Saturday

    Closed Sunday and statutory holidays

    Winter - November 23, 2010 to March, 2011

    9am to 4:30pm, Tuesday - Saturday

    Closed Sunday, Monday and statutory holidays

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      sadly, must agree

      I'm a sysadmin for a charity, and while my time doesn't cost anything there is only so much of it! All too often (and especially since the WEE regs came in) people try to unload non-functioning garbage on us. Just like you out there in the real world, we need to go about 3 years between reinstallations of Windows if we are to maintain our sanity. So that's why 3 year old machines are ideal ('course we don't see any like that!).

      There have been some gems though, the best donations have been batches of identical machines that have OEM XP licenses (THANK YOU VISTA!). About 1/3 of our desktop fleet started life about 11 years ago as Compaq PII systems... 6 years ago when we got them they received new motherboard/CPU/RAM, 3 years ago new graphics/HDD/screen... now I'm wondering what the next step should be...

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Scheduling conflicts

      I don't actually "work for the Register." I work for a company here in Edmonton as a systems administrator full time (8-12 hours a day) as well as maintain about a dozen other networks (for example, those of my company's largest clients) "after hours." I squeeze in writing articles for El Reg mostly because part of my day job is cranking out documentation at work. Incident reports, how-tos, you name it. Half a sysadmin's job is paperwork, the other half is research.

      A good example of a typical day would be today. I woke up at 7am to be on the road before 8am. I had to stop at Memory Express on the way in to pick up a spare disk and showed up at work by 9am. I managed to check the comments section and respond to a few whilst standing in line. I am at work until about 7:30pm tonight, followed by a short dinner date and then a server swap and data migration. I’ll get home around 11:00pm. That is enough time to feed the pets, check my e-mail and collapse into a heap. Rinse repeat until Sunday, which is then filled with doing all of the chores needed to keep a house maintained and various pets happy.

      Even responding to this comment gets delayed; my phone let me know that it was posted at 10:39am. I have been pecking at it in between support calls and troubleshooting ever since. It is now 11:27am

      Between my day job, the various other networks I maintain and writing for El Reg I work 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week. (Usually Sundays off.) Scheduling conflicts are thusly something fairly normal. It is something of a common complaint I hear from other people in the city. Not only sysadmins, but anyone who has to work and commute in this sprawling city knows that ecostation days – like trips to the doctor – essentially require taking a day off work. This is especially true when you consider that it can take an hour to make it through the ecostation once you arrive.

    3. Dcope
      Thumb Up

      howabout..

      nevermiss.tv

      allows all bbc i player itv 4od five etc and you can input you tvcatchup ids in and stream all of freeview, with the benifits of being able to use an mce remote

  24. mgrds
    Happy

    Freecycle or Freegle

    Put them on Freecycle if in US (or in the UK you'll probably do better with FREEGLE - find you local group here http://www.ilovefreegle.org/groups/

    UK has Freecycle too but Freegle usually seems to have more of the community support needed for this sort of distribution in the UK and larger more active groups.

    For example my local freegle group in a smallish town would e-mail your offer to over 12,000 subscriber members in the local area - there are several public spirited members on our group who will even take all the computers - refurbish or improve them - install linux etc - and re-offer as a community minded retiremetn hobby. Your own local group wil have similar.

    Remember following this route

    1) You are giving stuff away to strangers so no rules for the bean counters

    2) The items are being offered for reuse - so are not "waste" - however you should be careful not to try to pass of waste as re-usables or you will be in trouble.

  25. Robert Moore
    Thumb Up

    As a geek and a packrat

    I find that old computers seem to orbit around me.

    When i bought my house, I find 15 old machines in my office/storage room.

    I just dumped then beside the bin, and they were gone in 2 hours.

    I like to think they went to a better place. :)

  26. Peter Simpson 1
    Thumb Up

    Missing hard drive should drop their value

    A new HDD is $50 here in the US.

    Remove the HDDs, offer the non-operational computers to staff at $10 (probably far above fair market value)

    Staff to obtain their own HDD from a source you recommend (NewEgg in the US)

    This leaves the issue of an operating system, but it has been my experience that either Ubuntu Linux or a bootleg copy of WinXP will be easy to find and install.

    Sorted.

  27. JohnG Silver badge

    Beancounters and residual value

    "...giving away a decommissioned PC is considered to be a “taxable benefit” . This means determining the “current market value” of the beastie in question and notifying the beancounters such that they could perform some dark rituals and incomprehensible accounting voodoo. This was a no-go."

    Swap the beancounters' desktops for the obsolete ones that they claim have residual value and see how quickly they can depreciate IT hardware to zero. This also applies to printers.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Residiual Value

      Arrange for me a method of swapping out the PCs of the beancounters in Ottawa that create these silly laws and you’re on. As for the bean counters here at work…they are the “ethical” kind. If you did that, they would still maintain that they had residual value…though they would have a perfectly legitimate reason why they require a PC with more value than that evident in the older PCs.

      Seriously though, who comes up with these laws? I understand that some checks are needed against people who launder money or dodge taxes in this manner…but for the everyday Joe this is just utter lunacy.

      1. Roger Greenwood
        Pint

        Accountancy

        The primary job of the company accountant is to report on the position of the company, in an honest way, at the end of each year (it is one of the few legal requirments of directors). If you have 5 year old desktop computers on your books at £140 for example, this is not honest - your IT assets are overvalued. Switch to straight line (instead of reducing balance) for desktops and laptops, over 4 years, and all will be well. This is not the same as the replacement value for insurance purposes of course. Other kit may be treated differently, but should also be reported honestly. Computers are more like a consumable than an asset, which your accountant may understand better. I am not an accountant.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          @Roger Greenwood

          Well, I ran that idea past the head beancounter. The official response it that the beancounters don't get to decide what is considered a consumable and what is not. Apparently, that is decided by the government...there supposed exists an actual section of law that documents computers and other electronics as being "fixed assets" rather than consumables. Would have been really nice if that trick would have worked!

          I wonder if it does in the US? The UK? Different countries, different laws...

  28. Kevin Reilly
    Linux

    Canteen?

    Swap out the HDDs for Solid state drives. (1GB SD or similar cards fitted into IDE adapters) load the aforesaid cards with one of the CD type kiosk browser Linux editions. Use universal USB creator to make the bootable cards on any netbook/laptop. Hook them all up together with cat5 and an old switch in the company canteen/messroom or similar & all your employees can do facebook etc on their breaks. you can't download anything to them and they reboot every time you close the browser. Cheap Internet cafe for the proles.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      C90LEW Wyse clients.

      I have many.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never considered lying, eh?

    Easiest way to get rid of unwanted equipment is to let the company (et al) simply go right on thinking that the gear is in storage somewhere and then do with it as you please.

    Sure, the company bean counters *might* one day ask you where they went but you can just shrug your shoulders and give a "I don't know, been ages since I saw them last." Since you're talking about maybe a $1k worth of obsolete equipment odds are nobody will ever care or notice.

    At least that's how it works around here; most of that sort of equipment finds its way out the door onto eBay or into a friend's house.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Boffin

      RE: Never considered lying, eh?

      ".....Since you're talking about maybe a $1k worth of obsolete equipment odds are nobody will ever care or notice....." In true BOFH style, you need to consider that some people (aka PHBs) may use such an issue against you at a later date. Might be an idea to get the boss to sign-off on the move of kit to storage so that the papertrail at least has his name on it. Also, try and get some "valued colleague" (aka a mug) that you do not expect to be around for long to be given the responsibility for the storage area, so that when asked where the kit has gone you can always honestly reply; "Well, <insert mug's name here> was resposnsible for that, but he left ages ago." Deflection is as good as innocence. Alledgedly.

  30. Mountford D

    The problem is UK law (as usual)

    The problem with giving away old computer equipment in the UK is basically the law. As many posters have pointed out, if you sell old equipment, you are liable to tax, thereby needing to pay and expensive accountant to sort it out.

    Having Windows on it will also fall foul of licencing laws but that can be got round by using Linux but that will cost money as someone will have to be hired to reload all the PCs.

    If a gifted PC then blows up, catches fire, electrocutes or injures some beneficiary, the donor could be sued. Therefore each PC will need to be checked and PAT tested, again requiring a hired hand.

    Sending them to third-world countries is not the answer either as the cost of doing this is quite prohibitive, not to mention again having someone to check them over though if for other reasons rather than legal.

    The answer? If the government is really serious about green issues and recycling, the law should be changed to accommodate the above. Sure, the treasury will lose a load of tax as I am sure smart entrepreneur will use the bound-to-exist loopholes and make themselves a fortune.

    I'd better get my coat as I can hear the bean-counters and health-and-safety lobby bleating in the wings, drowning out the practical and logical creative-thinking individuals.

  31. David Pollard

    Bletchley Park

    Just in case there is anyone reading who has kit which may be of historic interest, the people at Bletchley Park might want it for their museum collection.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ours used to be ...

    ... Put outside the door.

    Oddly enough, this would happen just before someone found them and took them home. However, we knew nothing about that. At all. Oh no.

    Otherwise... tax... VAT... nightmare.

    Once upon a time a typewriter used to be put on a desk. It remained there until all the keys stopped working and could no longer be repaired (and typewriter repair men were geniuses at their trade). IT, and the perpetual demand for upgrades and new kit, often as part of the user's status symbol, has, and continues to, cost the commercial world a huge and ridiculous amount of money.

  33. whiteops
    Thumb Up

    Computers for schools

    That bag of Ram and bunch of hard drives came in very handy BTW!

    Another place to look at is Alberta Computers For Schools.

    http://www.education.gov.ab.ca/cfs/donating.asp

    But remember to call me first :)

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Always.

      As much as I like to be fair, I am certainly not above a bit of donation-related nepotism, my friend. You will always get first crack at the leftover gear. ;)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I am in canada.

    Old systems go outside, with a note saying what cpu/ram etc is in there and if it works. and most importantly, in big letters "FREE"

    sometimes I can get rid of 2 or 3 a day like that,

  35. Russell Long

    Local charities a reasonable bet.

    I set up new PCs for clients. Most of the time the client doesn't want the old PC so I agree with them that I'll take it to a local charity. They're much less snotty than the big names about what they get. They've a furniture warehouse and they have a part-time geek who builds the computers up and sets them up and sells them on. The machines go without hard disk drives in (those go back to the owners) but they all have an XP licence sticker on the side. Bung in a hard drive, install XP, and you've got a serviceable machine.

    Have a look around and see whether you've any local charities that will do that kind of work.

  36. Tim 64
    Happy

    Computers for Schools

    Computers for Schools is a federally run recycling program for old PCs run be the Canadian Government http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cfs-ope.nsf/eng/Home The should be happy to take your old PCs off your hands.

  37. some guy...
    Linux

    Disposal in central Ohio

    Free Geek also has a branch in Central Ohio. They're excellent....have accepted VT terminals, a MicroVAX, and countless bits and pieces that I had no use for. freegeekcolumbus.org

  38. Darryl
    Thumb Up

    Welcome to Edmonchuk

    Trevor:

    Shanked Computer Recycling on Winterburn Road:

    http://www.scri.ca

    They offer pick-up service and even have one of those big, evil hard drive shredders, if you need to witness them being destroyed.

    That's where all of my surplused systems end up.

  39. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      "Big, evil hard drive shredders."

      I must arrange to send some equipment here, if only for the spectacle of watching a few useless drives get mauled. Beats turning them into coasters. I have about fifty formerly-hard-drive-platter coasters sitting on a shelf and dozens more "dead" drives waiting for a slow day so I can make more...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: I gave up

      Isn't bailiff placation a legitimate use for old PCs?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Underground + don't get caught

    I notice one thing here. Geographic location matters.

    I hear you, how a charity won't take boxes when they just took boxes, understandable then they would be exactly like you, stuck with a junk room or mountain of ****.

    But if you traveled to my geographic location, you could dump 250 boxes on the electronics tech portion of any local college and the students will take them all home and either use them or strip them for the parts. I mean really really strip them leaving nothing but green blackened burnt boards, the older the better, especially TTL logic from the MFM / monochrome days, that stuff works great on breadboards.

    In my location, if you have a LOT, you can start considering selling it for the metal. I have sheets and sheets of gold memory chips from some of those early towers or mini mainframes with the giant vertical slide in cards, I couldn't even tell you what system they came from. Although my dual 8 /12" floppys + working word processing software came out of an old IBM.

    In my location, you could simply do some midnight dumping. While I hate the green's carbon tax bs, I equally don't really like this method as it can pollute if done by a retard who doesn't know how to make a ring for a campfire (you know the type), but it is an option, and strangely enough I have found some gems out in the field rusting in the rain from people who have done just that!

    I used to do dumpster diving and neighborhood driving for electronic parts, of any kind, even audio tubes from old TV's found in a river next to a gas can and a shopping care, now run my vintage guitar tube amp!

    I really hate to say it, but when the laws have become so bad, it's time to ignore them. It's no longer about being green, it's about profit, and corruption. Anybody who want's to go green, can, even I have, but for me it was more about saving on electricity bills.

    A year ago, I'd take them off your hands but then they would have to cross borders into DHS-Nazi-Fascism-ville, shipping costs, gas, ICE, etc. You simply need to find someone like me (closer to you) who will happily take them and strip em down and get the best of the best out of them and keep my mouth shut about it because I hate the bad law but love the parts. Plus I have that small problem I just talked about, saving on electricity, so I set a 10 year plan, which is now realized. So those wasteful 250-500watt PSU's are no longer on my want list, and sadly not even the fan's. My fan's are ittsy bitsy now.

    How many have tossed hard drive disc/plates into a river? (this isn't the whole drive, just the silver plates)

    While the law may say no, I am not the law

    This green **** is actually ruining the economy more. -IMO

  41. Mayhem

    In the UK? Try Computer Aid

    We've managed to offload all sorts of equipment to them, from desktops to fax machines, even an old mainframe.

    They'll happily take anything P4 onwards free of charge, if they can't use it they will charge you a nominal fee for collection and handle the disposal as well.

    On the other hand if your equipment is older than seven or eight years you probably need to go through an office clearance company, like Russell Fewins.

  42. David Lawrence
    Go

    How about 'loaning' them to staff?

    Long ago when PCs were very expensive my manager 'loaned' me an IBM PC (286 or 286 at best) and conveniently 'forgot' to ever ask for it back. Back in those days there was no internet so it was for me (a programmer) to play and develop 'useful stuff' which might be beneficial to my employers. Of couse I ended up playing games on it, naturally!

    Surely a computer 'loan' has no tax implications for either party?

  43. This post has been deleted by its author

  44. IsambardBrunel
    Happy

    UK Ethical disposal

    Hi Guys,

    A friend of mine runs a specialist PC disposal company based in the South.

    Contact. info@eitgroup.co.uk is the best email and 0118 979 8820 is the telephone number. www.eitgroup.co.uk is the website.

    Please mention "The Register" if you do. He can resolve many of the above issues.

    Many thanks

    Isambard

  45. ben_myers

    Computers are like fish

    I have been on the buying end of surplus computer equipment for years. The sticking point with your bean counters is "current market value", as it always is. The bean counters always say something like "I paid $2000 for it four years ago, so it has one year of depreciation left. It is worth $400." And, of course, I am prepared to offer $50 for the same incredibly valuable asset. The bean counters feign being insulted, and there is no deal.

    The bean counters need to understand that computers are like fish. The first day, metaphorically, they are fresh and sweet-smelling and valuable. The second day, the fish are still quite edible, though with a mild aroma. The third day, fish are candidates for chowder. After that, they become fertilizer in the tradition of Native Americans in days gone by.

    The trick here is to expense all computer acquisitions in the first year. This drives the finance types crazy, because they will have fewer valuable "assets" to show on the books. But expensing computers rather than treating them as capital assets is closer to today's reality of disposable electronics... Ben

  46. Steve J. Rapaport

    Some good ideas here

    But nobody's mentioned Freecycle, sort of a city-wide version of the "leave it outside" idea.

    Freecycle.org is pretty active in Canada http://www.freecycle.org/group/CA/ and basically you can put the whole lot of it up on a single posting, and people will come and take it away, gratefully. Not much different from the leaving it outside except that you get a 'face to face' thank you. But somehow that helps.

    Also the selling on ebay as a pallet job lot seems like a good idea. Whatever it sells for (use the auction) is obviously correct market value and that can be used as evidence.

  47. Jeremy 4
    Go

    New England area disposal

    MIT Radio Society Flea Market on the third Sunday of each month from April to October at MIT. There are tons of people willing to buy this stuff off of you.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Easy way to get rid of them to staff members:

    Remove the asset tags and temporarily redeploy them to the back of the building next to the door, and you'll find that if staff know of this move, the problem will take care of itself.

  49. Andy 18
    FAIL

    WEEE stops the skip approach

    I worked with a large company in the UK who had the same problem. Tax compliance and book-keeping effort meant that giving them away or selling them to staff would cost more than the new PCs. Their solution was to recondition the old PCs (make as many working ones as possible out of the pile of parts) and then allow it to become common knowledge that they would be disposing of them in a skip on site on a certain day (a health and safety email to be careful while the PCs were being loaded into the skip was usual). The next day the empty skip would be used to dispose of the non-working PCs and parts.

    Unfortunately, this is no longer possible as you have to get an WEEE certificate for every PC you get rid of.

  50. Giles Hinton
    Stop

    You're likely to regret buying Wyse clients

    We use them at work and they're terrible for any media streaming, diabolical for developers and have some display bugs you won't encounter with a PC.

    In particular the refresh rates are so bad they're unusable with winforms GUI development in VS2005 for example.

    I would personally have stuck with desktops....

  51. ps2os2
    Happy

    What to do with old PC's

    I just use them as NAS. Works fine. Never gave it a second thought.

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