How to Recycle a Laptop

Don't toss that laptop, recycle it instead

This article walks you through how to recycle an old laptop, including information you'll need to know before you recycle it, and some options for recycling.

How Do You Recycle an Old Laptop?

Most computer manufacturers release new laptops every year, which means people can upgrade their current laptop anytime they feel like it's not working well. However, with the upgrade cycle increasing, more laptops end up in landfills, and it's doing irreparable damage to the environment. A better alternative is to recycle your old laptop.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for recycling. If you have a laptop less than five years old, you may be able to donate it. Non-profit organizations and schools are often happy to receive older laptops in good working condition. They'll refurbish the computers for students or volunteer to use. Earth911 is an excellent place to start looking for places to donate your computer.

Someone moving stacks of recycled laptops.

HollenderX2 / Getty Images

Just enter your zip code and search for organizations that take laptops as donations. And as an alternative, there may be local organizations, churches, or schools thrilled to have a gently used laptop (in complete working condition). You'll need to find those places through local connections.

Older laptops might not be able to be donated and will need to be sent or taken to a recycling center prepared to dispose of the machines properly. Several organizations have recycling programs for laptops (and computer peripherals, cords, and other electronics). Each of these sites offers a program, and for the most part, all you'll need to do is enter your zip code to find a location near you.

Look for a recycling location R2 certified if possible. R2 stands for Responsible Recycling, and the certification was developed by Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI) to ensure the organization doing the recycling follows a set of recycling standards.

How Do I Prepare My Laptop for Recycling?

When you're getting rid of a working laptop, back up all your data and make sure you have copies of everything you want to keep. You can either do so manually or use backup software to help you with the process. Depending on how old your laptop is, this could take a little time.

When you're backing up your old data, try to think about accounts requiring authorization to access the laptop. You may need to deactivate or deauthorize your old device before you can authorize a new one to use in its place.

Once you've backed up all your files, then you'll want to rewrite your hard drive to remove all your personal data before the laptop leaves your possession. Technically speaking, this is a two-step process. First, wipe your hard drive clean of all your personal data, and then do a complete reinstall of your operating system. Reinstalling Windows is slightly different from reinstalling macOS.

Does Best Buy Take Old Laptops?

Best Buy also offers a recycling program got laptops, computers, televisions, and other electronics. The company will recycle your old electronics for free, but you are limited to three items per household per day. Most items, including laptops, can be dropped off in-store. As a bonus, for some in-demand items, you might be eligible to receive discounts for purchases from Best Buy stores or through the Best Buy website.

The company also offers a trade-in program, so before you decide to recycle your laptop, check with Best Buy to see if it has any value. If not, then you can take advantage of their recycling program.

Can I Recycle a Laptop for Money?

Some programs also offer cash in exchange for your old laptop. As previously mentioned, Best Buy does buy some used laptops, but they're not the only company. Amazon is another company offering a trade-in. With Amazon, you'll have to submit your item, and once received and inspected, you'll receive Amazon credit for the value assigned to the laptop.

Keep in mind if you want to trade your laptop in for cash or store credit, you'll need to have a newer model machine, and it will need to be in good working condition. If your old laptop no longer works, you won't get any money in return for it.

Additionally, most computer manufacturers have a trade-in program that could net you credit toward purchasing a shiny new laptop. Apple is well-known for this, but other manufactures may also have similar programs.

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