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If you find a new computer under your Christmas tree, just what do you do with the former occupant of your desk?
Many households find that one computer per person effectively provides convenience and avoids conflicts over usage. A surprising number of families have both a desktop and a laptop computer. You may simply continue to use your old computer – as a standby system, as a test platform, as a “loaner” for guests, as a dedicated workstation for record keeping or a multitude of other purposes. This may be a prime time to speed up that old PC by cleaning out old or unnecessary programs, cleaning up and defragmenting the hard drive as a thorough tune up can often restore a satisfying level of improvement to an aging system. For some basic information see “Optimize Your PC” at www.microsoft.com/athome/setup/optimize.aspx
If you are interested in doing a little learning and experimenting, try a free copy of Ubuntu. This is a complete Linux operating system which contains all the applications you need: a web browser, office suite, media applications, games, instant messaging and much more. A software center offers instant access to thousands of additional free programs. A new version was just released on October 29; this is surprisingly easy to install and often rejuvenates older systems. Copies and extensive documentation are available at www.ubuntu.com.
As long as the computer still runs, it can still be of use to someone else if you have no further interest. You may well have a family member or friend who can put it to good use. You may be able to sell it, particularly if it is less than 3 years old. Close to home, the Golden Goose and the Salvation Army will usually accept working computers for resale. The Sun City Vistoso Seniors for Kids (Contact Jean Sax at 818-2410) also accepts working computers which are refurbished and given to needy school aged children. These organizations will wipe your private information before repurposing the computer. Similarly, “pre-owned” computers can be donated at World Care (www.worldcare.org) and Rise Equipment Recycling Center (www.riseequipmentrecycling.org) in the Tucson Metro area.
If the computer leaves your control, be sure your personal data is removed. If you want to safely and completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive yourself, “Eraser” works with Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP and Vista; this will eradicate selected data by overwriting it repeatedly with carefully selected patterns. This is a free download from Heidi Computers at http://www.heidi.ie/node/6. Other excellent free alternatives can be found at http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-secure-erase-utility.htm
Please do not simply toss a non working computer in your trash bin! Electronic components contain many toxic and hazardous metals which can return to you in your water supply. Some retailers will accept old computers for recycling when you make a new purchase. Best Buy stores accept electronic waste without a qualifying purchase, but with some restrictions: a $10 fee applies for monitors and laptop computers (you receive a $10 gift card in return) and the hard drive must be removed from the computer. Best Buy will remove the drive for you- for a $20 fee. Find full information under “Services” at www.bestbuy.com. Still more ideas for recycling and disposal can be found at the Tucson Clean and Beautiful website: www.tucsonaz.gov/tcb/
If you need help learning to use that new computer, take a look at the SaddleBrooke Computer Club class offerings on line at www.saddlebrookecc.org after your Merry Christmas.