Mon, 27 Aug 2001

What to do with your old PCs?

JAKARTA (JP): At the end of last year, the number of PCs in the world was reported to have reached 500 million. Does it mean that one in twelve people in the world had a PC then?

You know the answer. Not only are there many cases where an individual has multiple working PCs on his desktop, he may also have several nonworking ones collecting dust in his garage.

Besides, over the years a lot of PCs have filled the earth like old tires and becak (pedicab) confiscated from the streets of Jakarta.

In a throw-away society -- borrowing from Alvin Toffler -- getting rid of old PCs might not be a challenge: Just dump it on the sidewalk and the trashman will take care of it.

However, here in Asia we do not part easily with our properties, and our old PCs soon become a problem.

Yet, even dumping PCs on the sidewalk is not considered a proper thing to do. More and more states in the U.S. are becoming concerned about this as the PCs are by no means an ecofriendly candidate for landfills.

Their most feared hazardous wastes include lead, mercury and arsenic. Fortunately for the people in the U.S., some computer vendors, including Dell, HP, IBM and Sony have started a PC recycling service. It is not free (IBM, for example, charges US$29.99), but the service is certainly a welcome one.

So, if you or your children keep buying a new PC every two or three years, what can you do with the old ones? Basically, you have two options. First, you can try to find a new use for them. Second, you can put them to pasture in a respectable way.

If you choose the first, what are the possibilities?

First, you can upgrade them. Powerleap ( or its subsidiary has several options to increase the performance of your old PCs. Its Renaissance upgrade kits, for example, can magically turn a 286 PC into a 1 GHz speedster.

Powerleap's products are available at local computer stores here. However, you will have to consider the price and, above all, the condition of the other components in your existing PC before you leap. There is no use upgrading the CPU if you still have to buy a new hard disk and power supply.

Once the speed and performance of the upgraded PC is up to snuff, you can use it to run Windows 3.11 or Windows 95. There may still be a problem with software copyright here, though, as you may be required to have a license for these products, even though they are no longer sold or supported by Microsoft.

You need to make sure you have legal copies of the operating system and software.

Another alternative is to run Linux. A 486 DX running at 66 MHz will make a very good Linux server. Consult your local Linux users group if you need more information.

These folks will be more than happy to educate you, as helping each other is the essence of the Linux philosophy.

If you do not believe in Linux and you do not want to invest in upgrade kits, you can still buy software from Cambridge-based NewDeal Inc. (

This company specializes in writing software programs that does not require too much computing power -- even a 286 will do. Their products include SchoolSuite, OfficeSuite and WebSuite.

You can even download a trial version of the company's Office from their website for evaluation.

If you do not have a use for your old PCs, you can sell them. Stores in Gajah Mada Plaza are still willing to give you about Rp 300,000 for a Pentium 90 MHz (without the monitor). Not bad.

However, a 286 may not have too much of a market anymore, so you might want to donate it to a school or foster home.

If you donate your old clunker, just make sure that it is in working condition. If your idea of charity includes giving nonworking PCs to other people, you will be actually transferring your problems to them. That is certainly not the right way to dispose of your junk.

However, about the only place you might consider when trying to find a place to dump your old, nonworking machines is those established computer schools.

Unlike us, seasoned computer professors do not usually find much excitement in working with the latest and the greatest. They usually feel more dignified working on a two-decade old PC or Mac. And they can fix them, too. (Zatni Arbi)