BOOT CAMP 572 (15/04/09)
More Uses For Old PCs and Laptops, part
If you’ve reached this episode of Boot Camp via part 1 of this
series then I’m guessing that you have an old PC or laptop that you are
reluctant to throw away or otherwise dispose of and would like to put it to
good use. This week we’ll look at what to do with dead PCs that are beyond
economical repair. If your old or redundant computer is still working then hang
on for parts 3 and 4.
There is very little in a desktop computer or laptop that cannot
be usefully salvaged, recycled or sold and we’ll begin with the hard disc
drive. The first thing to do is remove it from the PC and see if it works.
Standard 3.5-inch drives used in desktop PCs are normally held in place by four
screws, but before you take it out disconnect the data and power cables and try
not to touch any of the contacts or the components or circuit board. To get at
a 2.5-inch laptop drive you may have to unscrew a flap on the underside, remove
the floppy drive module or unclip and lift out the keyboard.
Be careful not to break anything when dismantling a PC, especially
laptops as the parts can be surprisingly valuable, and be sure to collect all
of the little screws and fixings, you never know when they will come in handy.
The easiest way to test a drive is to fit it inside an external
USB hard drive enclosure – widely available for both 2.5 and 3.5 inch drives
for between £15 and £30. However, make sure you get the right sort of enclosure
for the size and type of your drive. PCs more than 3 or 4 years old mostly use
ATA/IDE drives, they are easy to identify as they have a wide 5.5cm (2-inch)
multi-pin ribbon cable connector on the back. Newer SATA drives have smaller
1cm wide connectors. Once your drive is safely installed its new home plug it
into a spare USB socket on your PC. If it works it shows up as a Removable
Drive in Windows Explorer or My Computer. Once you’ve extracted any files that
you need reformat the drive and use it for portable storage or backup.
If there’s room inside your desktop PC you can install a second or
even a third drive as ‘slaves’ for extra storage space. On ATA/IDE drives the
‘jumpers’ on the rear or underside should be moved to the ‘Slave’ position or
the PC may try to boot from it. There’s usually a label or diagram on the case
showing where the jumpers go. If the drive is okay it will show up as a new
volume in Windows Explorer or My Computer and as before you can copy data and
then reformat it.
If the drive isn’t working or it’s generating error messages then
it is fit only for the scrap-metal bin at your local recycling centre, but
don’t forget to give it a good wallop with a hammer or drill a few holes
through it (see part 1), to destroy any data it may contain.
You can also recycle the CD/DVD drive from your old machine and
install it in your desktop PC. You will need a spare ‘bay’ in the case and a
ribbon cable but you can probably reuse the one from the donor PC and two
drives can share the same cable. If there’s no room why not install the CD/DVD
drive in an external USB Enclosure, larger types are available for this purpose
and it’s a useful thing to have if you own a drive-less ultra-thin laptop or
Desktop PC innards, such as the motherboard, CPU and memory
modules are comparatively useless, unless you have another PC of similar
vintage, in which case hang on to them for spares if it’s still working.
Otherwise the best place for them is the ebay auction site ebay where there is
a steady demand for old components. You’ll usually get more if you sell the
motherboard, CPU, memory modules and cooling fan together, rather than
individually, unless they are faulty, in which case split them into separate
lots. Be honest in your description, if the parts are not working, or you are
unsure, say so or you may end up out of pocket.
Thanks to an abundance of clumsy owners laptop PC parts often
fetch good prices on ebay, especially if the laptop in question was a high-end
model from a well-known manufacturer. You will probably get more if you take it
apart and sell the motherboard CPU and memory, keyboard module, screen, floppy
and CD/DVD drives and even the touchpad separately. LCD screens, in particular
go like hot cakes (providing they’re not broken), so take care when dismantling
the case, or leave the screen in-situ and sell it with the plastic shell. For
another use for a laptop screen see this week’s Top Tip.
I’ve heard of people using desktop PC cases as planters and even
frames for aquariums but realistically the best place for lkeft over metal and
plastic parts is your local amenity site.
Next Week - More Uses For Old PCs and Laptops, part 3
Technology Attachment/Integrated Drive Electronics; the circuitry -- built into
the disc drive – that acts as an interface between the drive and the PC
connector or shorting link, used to configure setup parameters on disc drives
Technology Attachment, faster, higher performance interface used to connect
hard disc drives to PC motherboards
If you know your way around electronic circuitry and soldering
irons then you might be interested in several articles on the Internet that
show how to convert a laptop screen into a PC or video monitor. Be warned that
it is quite difficult, and if you opt for the off-the-shelf circuit board
method it could end up costing you two or three times as much as a ready-made
monitor. If you fancy a challenge here’s a few links to get you started:
Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top
Tips at www.pctoptips.co.uk/
© R. Maybury 2009, 2503
Part 1 3 4