Ask LH: What Should I Do With My Old Computer Parts?

Dear Lifehacker, I have built many computers throughout the years, but as they've become obsolete, I've replaced them with new computers. What should I do with all my old computer parts? I'd hate to just throw them away. Sincerely, Hard Drive Hoarder

Title image remixed from Kris Butler (Shutterstock).

Dear Hoarder,

No matter how obsolete your parts are, you can probably find one or two uses for them — even if they aren't in a new computer for yourself. Here are some things you can do with them, both from the obvious end of the spectrum and the less obvious.

Build a Low-Powered, Single-Purpose Computer

It isn't the most original idea, but if you have enough parts to build a new machine — with or without a good case — you can always throw it together and repurpose it like you would an old computer. For example, no matter how old or crappy a computer may be, it can make for an excellent home server that feeds files to the other computers in your house, downloads torrents 24/7 or performs other all-day tasks. It also doesn't take a lot of power to build a home theatre PC for all your movies and TV shows, so that's a good option as well.

Note that if you don't have an old case to use (since cases can pretty much last forever), you can always make a temporary case out of a cardboard box, or build that computer right into your desk for true household integration.

Repurpose the Parts On Their Own

Some parts can be repurposed on their own. For example, you can easily turn an old hard drive into an external hard drive with a simple enclosure, or you can turn a DVD drive into an external DVD drive. If you have some extra NVIDIA graphics cards, you can throw one in your existing computer as a dedicated PhysX card for games that support it (and if your current card isn't too powerful). If you've really got some DIY skills, you could even turn it into an external graphics card for better gaming on your laptop. Not all parts can be repurposed this way, but before you start throwing stuff out, see if any of them have use to your current computers.

Turn Them Into Fun DIY Projects

This one may not be particularly useful, but if you have a lot of parts lying around and want something fun to do, you could always turn them into a fun computer-themed DIY project. For example, you could turn old motherboards and graphics cards into a circuit board coffee table, or one of a million other cool things. Search around to find projects that others have come up with or think of other ways you can decorate your geek cave on your own.

Sell Them

You may not have use for an old Intel Pentium 4 and an AGP graphics card, but someone else might. If you can't think of anything to do with them at home, put them up on eBay or Gumtree and see if you can make a few bucks. You can either put them up as single parts or build them into a few computers and sell them that way. You may not get a lot of money, but you'll at least be giving someone else parts they can use. Picture: acloudman/Flickr.

Recycle Them

If all else fails and you just want to get rid of those old parts, don't throw them in the garbage bin. Those parts could have harmful metals in them you don't want rotting away in a landfill. Check in with your local council or search online for drop-off and pickup options near you.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    This is always a hard one. Every couple of PC Builds I end up with a bunch of stuff that is outdated and I know I will never use again. Best option, take it to you local computer market and gift it to the second hand dealers. Good chance someone else will use it and it puts a big smile on their face. ;-). In Sydney, the North Rocks Computer Market runs every second Sunday.

    I have a large wardrobe full of boxes of old PC parts and cables, a lot of which dates back fifteen or more years. Most of it will no doubt never be used again because it's just antiquated, but I just can't seem to bring myself to dump it. I guarantee as soon as I toss it out, I will find something that could have used it.

    I am pretty much the same! My hard earned money went into all of those parts.

    My $820 Quantum Fireball TM 1Gb hard drive, my $640 for 8Mb of EDO RAM. I think the PCB Coffee table is the way to go!

    One a side note, if power isn't an issue, I run [email protected] on my old machines until they fail. In my eyes they go out in way hopefully helping someone with an illness.

      Good on you mate. That should be added to the next LH 'what do I do with my old computer' article

    Not sure about "no matter how old".. only a few years ago I junked an old 486 w/ 4MB RAM.

    Good luck finding anything useful to run on that nowadays (and no, ancient, crappy, cut-down Linux 1.3 or whatever does not count as useful.)

    Most of my old stuff winds up as an upgrade for someone else's computer. My little brother now has my old GPU, my HTPC got my old RAM and so on

    don't bother with North Rocks Computer Market...used to be good, but not anymore. Hardly any stalls and there are some dodgy guys selling there

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