How can I reuse or recycle a dead laptop?

LaptopMy beloved laptop died last week. It’s actually been dying for about a year but my patience/unwillingness to buy a new one combined with a few last ditch life-extending efforts by John meant it only shuffled off the.. electro-magnetic coil last week.

John bought it five years ago for work and (ab)used it for a couple of years, then I inherited it and have used it as my main PC ever since – and given I work on it all day, every day, it’s really quite impressive that it’s lasted this long.

But now we’ve decided to finally lay it to rest. The power supply (which has been replaced once before) and batteries are utterly shot, meaning it frequently lost power when I was in the middle of my work – and not just once but over and over again until the planets align and it decided it’d accept/store power again. The screen’s casing is physically damaged after an accident a few years ago and something either to do with that or the graphics card meant there were constantly glitches appearing and disappearing from the screen. The airport (wireless) hasn’t worked for years and last time we opened it up it seemed to have melted (??!) and the paint has worn off the edges of the keyboard bit, leaving electric-shock inflicting bare metal. I was happy to live with the latter things – using a wire instead of wireless, wearing a jumper to prevent the shocks – but the power thing became unworkable. There is only so many times something can turn on then off then on then off then on then off… before you want to throw it through a window.

We’re going to see if anyone in our local geeky world can use it for its non-broken parts but if it’s not any use to them, I don’t know what else to do with it. Our usual computer recycling place refurbishes old PCs but I suspect, given this is an Apple and so uses all sorts of proprietary Apple connectors and whatnot, it’ll be too much hassle/expense to fix it.

Any suggestions though?

(Photo by John from when it was shiny and (quite) new, and we didn’t have piles of crap on our shelves)

(Also apologies for the couple of hours downtime that we had yesterday – our server was being moved or something.)

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23 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle a dead laptop?”

  1. dotjay says:

    I’ve not got much in the way of funky reuse ideas I’m afraid.

    As you say, parts may be reusable. Apparently, you can return old Apple products to any Apple store for recycling, but approved Apple repair centres may well be interested in parts. Beyond that, perhaps the circuit boards could be made into funky jewelery, keyrings, etc. It’s unlikely to get much interest on ebay, but that’s an option.

    As far as recycling goes, if the laptop is not too old, you could try a recycling service:

    Failing that, give the hard drive a proper wiping to remove sensitive data and it’s off down the local recycling centre with the other electronic waste.

  2. Tamara Pacillo says:

    perhaps give it to your local elementary. when i was in third grade, my class got to take apart an old pc and look at all the parts inside, giving us an idea of how it was made.

  3. Anne says:

    Ecogeek has a great video about this very topic! You can even make a little money while you’re at it. :)

  4. Bobbie says:

    I once used old pc boards to make christmas ornaments. I cut the boards down to size, then embellished with fake gems. I drilled a hole in the top to attach a wire so it could be hung.

  5. Joe says:

    There are some websites where you can give it away for free. Someone might want it for parts or to tinker with.

    Some of the giveaway sites are listed here:

  6. Alex Bishop says:

    Try selling it on eBay. Broken laptops go for loads of money there. There are plenty of people out there I’m sure who could put it to good use repairing/upgrading their own defunct laptop.

  7. ken says:

    Check out LifeHacker’s recent article on giving your laptop new life.

  8. anna says:

    You can always advertise it for parts at Mac sites, like or appleinsider. Often people are looking for keyboards, single keys, .. any part that is broken on theirs. That way someone else will be able to repair theirs. Or you can also try a sell for cheap, or give away for someone in your area. Mac boards are good to look at.

    If the hard drive is working, you can always take the Mac apart, and get a separate case for it, that way you will have a nice portable hard drive for cheap.

  9. Games says:

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  10. If you want to be 100% positive that your information is secure, your best bet is to hand it over to a company that has an electronic recycling program. I work for a non-profit that has started a program, LCI Recycles, and since we work with the government everyday, LCI Recycles upholds stringent security standards. For more information about the services we provide you can visit our website,, or you can contact me directly: 919-596-8277 ext. 175. We have Computer Recycling Drives the last Friday of every Month from 10am-2pm. You could bring it by then! 4500 Emperor Blvd, Durham, NC 27703

  11. Ken says:

    At Bitz n Bytez you can get your old lappy recycled for free. The sometimes pay you for your old lappy and offer a secure data destruction service.

  12. Gulia says:

    I would glue a mirror to the screen, and pretend it is photo booth! Or let a toddler play with it.

  13. dandin1 says:

    Old post yes, but it *is* the top hit for “reuse dead laptop” on google. Gratz on your SEO. :p
    Selling parts, or the whole thing on ebay, definetely works as there are hundreds of people and shops who take them apart to fix other broken laptops by swapping broken componants from similiar laptops.

    The most reusable part is the cold cathode tube that lights up the screen. They’re usually inter-compatible with many other laptops, and are always in hot demand. Don’t forget the transformer to go along with it. Plenty of fun to be had with it too. If the light it dead, you can always use the screen for diffusion in a project. There was some uv thing on hackaday. Ah, here it is: .

    Things like batteries, hard drives and CD drives can usually be swapped between laptops of the same brand and era. Battery can used for any project. The Hard Drive is IDE compatible, you just need to create a slightly modified cable for it, google it. If it’s dead, don’t forget to salvage the powerful magnet.

    The modem isn’t much use as it’s a winmodem, it’s really just a basic analog to digital chip, everything is done through a device driver. I guess if it’s connected through a standard bus you could wire it up to a computer if you found the pinout.

    Oh yes! Obviously there’s the RAM, all laptops use the same pinout I beleive.

    Note that this is about older laptops, today there’s more goodies inside, and it’s sometimes easier. For example some laptops have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connect to the USB bus, now *that* is the jackpot.

  14. Lesnids3 says:

    If you remove the hard drive and install it in an external USB hard drive case, you can still use all the data on the hard drive direct – but I not the programs I think. You can then dispose of the rest of the machine and still hold on to your data knowing it’s not ‘out there’ somewhere. Make sure the external case suits the hard drive you have (IDE or SATA for instance)

  15. Steve says:

    There’s loads of things you can do with an old laptop, such as make it into a Digital Picture Frame, NAS, BitTorrent box etc, but if none of this appeals to you, it’s quite likely that you can make some money on Ebay, if the screen has no dead pixels or problems. Most laptops break when someone sits on them (for example) and breaks the LCD. As you will see from looking at broken laptop auctions on Ebay. Someone will be willing to pay for a broken lappy with a decent screen, especially a Mac, I would have thought.

  16. MLB says:

    You can visit . They pay you cash for your broken and unwanted laptops. They recycle them and you get a little $$$ in your pocket!!

  17. If your looking for a UK based Laptop Recycling company try .

    Not only will Laptop Recycling Ltd send out a courier FREE of charge they will also give you cash in exchange for your old/broken laptop :)

    Try filling out the form for a free quote to see how much you can get!

  18. Gazelle is a great service and they recycle all sorts of electronics. They pay for shipping and also send you a check for your items. I know they’re a US company, so I’m not sure if they offer recycling for UK residents.

  19. Martin says:

    Looking for whole damaged laptops? Where I can find in good price? Qty which I’d like to buy 50-250 per month.

  20. If your in the North East of England check out they recycle all electronics including PCs and macs.

  21. jim poore says:

    Hello all as to the recycling laptops, I am trying to recycle as i can for needy kids if you have one shoot me a email and i will pay shipping to my house and i can wipe info if needed thank you. have a good day

  22. Richard says:

    I’m going to bump this thread with a word of warning for those in the UK looking to recycle laptops. There looks to be a number of small businesses operating as Laptop recyclers who actively buy laptops, whatever their condition from you (ie even faulty ones). Whilst they wil pay out for laptops, they are in breach of the Hazardous waste regulations 2005 and may result in legal action by the UK’s Environment Agency as they’re unregistered waste traders (need to be registered under WEEE permit 23 or a similar exemption). Faulty laptops are hazardous waste and cannot be transported without a hazardous waste consignment notice accompanying the driver, yet these companies actively use couriers to transport hazardous wastes! They’re further in breach of Trading standards globally as they have no trading address on their site. Beware!

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