Sometimes it’s just time to say goodbye to an old PC

It’s been like a member of the family. There was a time when your life revolved around it, that desktop PC that’s still sitting in the corner bedroom where once you spent so much time staring into that 15″ monitor. It wasn’t that long ago that the personal computer was your one and only link to the internet, that the view it gave of the world changed everything from how you get somewhere to what you do when you’re there.

And then you got a smartphone, and a tablet, and maybe along the way a laptop or netbook, or some other way to communicate with the world outside your door. You kept that old computer around and once a month you powered it on… ever so slowly… to pay bills or check emails on an old account or print out something. It was still a small part of your life, although with every passing month it felt more and more like a relic from another day.

And then, one day, you powered it up … you tried to … but something happened. It shut down unexpectedly, or it just sat there doing “something” but without letting you do anything. It could be something as simple as not being able to get on the internet anymore or not letting you print to the printer you’ve had for years. Suddenly, you were struck with panic. You didn’t use it a lot, but it had always been there for you! What to do now?

It’s a sad but very true fact that computers are not designed to be repaired. That’s been the case for about two decades, really; at first it was just laptops but really no computer today is really terribly repairable, especially after a few years. Even if it’s possible to get to the broken part, even if it’s possible to figure out what’s broken, it may not be possible to find a replacement at a fair price. This is especially true if the broken part uses a technology that’s long been superceded, as is often the case with hard drives and CD players.

You may be able to soldier on, to buy adapters that will allow you to add new tech to an old soldier, but ask yourself… is this really the right way to go? You may be saving a few dollars in the short term but over the long run you’re going to end up spending more and more on a PC that’s worth less and less. You’re better off getting the data you need from the computer and responsibly recycling it. If you’re able to get anything from it after a catastrophic failure, count yourself lucky; on the other hand if you haven’t been backing up your files regularly then shame on you especially if you have impossible-to-replace photos or personal information on that old dinosaur.

If you have the chance to check out new computers, you’ll find the prices are really enticing. After several years of slumping sales, there’s still a glut of really good hardware out there and even the slowest of them is probably faster than your old dino-PC. The new computers will probably not last as long as the old one, but then again you’ll be less tied to it with today’s cloud services.

If you’re looking for a real bargain, check out the outlet stores from the major manufacturers of business PCs. You can get high-quality boxes that aren’t as glamorous but probably work with your old monitor and keyboard (unless it’s really old.) Business PCs tend to be better built than home PCs but also tend to be a little uglier. They’re a good replacement for older home PCs especially if you use them mostly for stuff like word processing and paying bills. They tend to lack the powerful graphics and sound capabilities of home PCs, but if you don’t care about that then why not save a few bucks and get something more reliable?

As for that old PC, take it to a recycling center. It will keep the hazardous metals out of the environment, and the copper, gold, lead and plastic can be used to create new, more interesting electronics that might just keep the circle of life going in the world of computers. You have to feel good about that.