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Salvaging Old Tech: When to Trade In and When to Dump

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For Women & Co. by Helena Stone, www.ChipChick.com

Many of us have a difficult time parting with our older gadgets, such as computers, mobile phones, and even game consoles. Perhaps it's because we tend to develop an emotional attachment with our technology (we often say good morning to our smart phone before we say it to anyone else!).

But some older electronics can actually be offered a new lease on life, while for others it may be time to finally say goodbye and let go. Here are some guidelines to help you decide when it's smart to hang onto your tech gadgets and when it's time to move on:

Computers

Option 1: Use it as-is.
Consider putting your older (possibly slower) computer to secondary use in your kitchen, a guest room, or in your child's room. If your computer is powerful enough, you might even consider turning it into a media center. You can do that by installing open source entertainment software such as XBMC.

Option 2: Put some money into refurbishing.
Before you put money into repurposing it, however, consider the age of the computer. As a general rule, most computers more than five years old are not worth the money or effort to upgrade. Prices on computers drop very quickly, and you can pick up a budget PC for $300-$400 that may run a lot faster.

What you'll need to do: If you do want to repurpose an older, sluggish PC, begin by wiping the system clean with a format and reinstalling the operating system (you can pick up tips on how to get started with formatting your computer on eHow). This will remove any spyware and viruses that may have been slowing your computer's operations. If the performance still needs a boost, some simple hardware upgrades may be able to offer a new lease on life. For example, adding more RAM or replacing the hard drive with a bigger and faster hard drive are affordable and relatively easy hardware upgrades to perform. You can use a system scan (like Crucial's free System Scan) to help discover which RAM is a right fit for your older system.

Option 3: Get rid of it by selling, donating, or trashing.
If you've decided to get rid of your older computer, take a moment and check online to see if there's any trade-in or resell value. Of course, eBay is a well-known marketplace for selling old tech. Alternatively, you might consider using a major retailer's trade-in program (like the one at Best Buy). Just don't set your expectations too high for the amount of cash you'll bring in.

You might also consider donating your functional computer to a school or charity. Websites like Freecycle and Per Scholas can help you find outlets that will accept your used computer, or check with your local charities.

And finally, if your computer is simply destined for the trash, make sure you follow your local e-recycling regulations by bringing it into an e-Steward Recycler who will take care of dumping it for you. Regardless of whether you're selling, donating, or throwing away your computer, make sure that you have removed all of your personal information first by formatting your computer, effectively wiping it clean of your private data.


Mobile Phones

Option 1: Sell it.
Let's be real: most mobile users only want to use the latest smartphones, which means many of us have our older phones lying around collecting dust. As with old PCs, eBay can be a useful market for reselling used phones. In larger cities, Craigslist has a heavily trafficked cell phone section where people post older phones to sell or trade. But be wary when posting here, as most buyers on Craigslist will be looking for a bargain.

Option 2: Donate it.
You won't get any money in return, but by donating your old phone, you'll get a tax deduction for your donation, as well as the peace of mind that comes with knowing it found a good home with someone who needs it (as opposed to ending up in a junkyard).

Regardless of how you dispose of your old cell phone, don't forget to remove your SIM card and perform a hard reset on your phone before selling it or giving it away. This way, its new owner won't have access to any of your personal data.

Video Game Consoles

Option 1: Keep it.
Your family may already be on to the next big thing in video gaming, but consoles age well and offer great nostalgic value. Kids usually love to revisit classic games a few years down the road, and if you hang onto a video game console for long enough, it may end up becoming a collector's item. Additionally, newer generation consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 can offer additional value as a media center PC for the living room.

Option 2: Donate it.
With gaming technology constantly changing, it can be tough to recoup substantial money by selling consoles, related equipment, and games. As a result, if you're planning on getting rid of your console, consider donating it.

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