Blog Post

What Do You Do With “Retired” Macs?


What do you do with your old Macs when you upgrade to a new system? Many folks sell their old computer on eBay or locally, but that’s something I’ve rarely done. I mostly either keep them as “B-team” units, or hand them off to other family members.

My Mac laptops are tools of my trade, and I would feel pretty vulnerable if I didn’t have a spare — or two — on hand, with the most likely candidate for understudy usually being the machine most recently replaced as No. 1. For example, when my WallStreet PowerBook’s processor died without warning in August 2002, the 1.5-year-old Pismo PowerBook 2001 I’d acquired nine months earlier got promoted to No. 1 workhorse without my suffering even a day of computer-less downtime.

Even if you don’t depend on your Mac for your livelihood, it’s worth considering how much inconvenience and/or expense you’d incur if your No. 1 machine failed, needed to go in the shop or sent away for repair, or got stolen. Hanging onto old computers as “spares” is, of course, much easier if they’re laptops. Storing retired desktop rigs eats up more space than many will find acceptable.

If you don’t want to bother with the hassle of selling or storing your old machine and have no family members or friends who would be interested in taking it off your hands, either to use or as a parts mule, another potential disposal route, if it’s in respectably good condition, would be to donate it to a school, church, youth drop-in center, a day-care, or other institution that would appreciate it.

On the other hand, if the reason you’re replacing the computer is that it broke, and it’s really not worth fixing (be realistic, even if the old unit has sentimental value) try to find a disposal mode that’s environmentally responsible, rather than just tossing it in the garbage. Techno-trash has become a major global problem. For example, the average CRT monitor can contain up to 8 pounds of lead. Nova Scotia, where I live, has an environmentally sound electronics recycling program run by the government.

Apple (s aapl) has had free computer and iPod recycling programs since 2001. U.S. customers, who buy a new Mac through the Apple Store or Apple’s retail stores, can receive free shipping and environmentally friendly disposal of their old computer. U.S. and Canadian customers wanting to dispose of used computers or monitors at any other time may also use Apple’s recycling program by purchasing $30 prepaid shipping labels to send used units to Apple’s recycling partner. For more information on what is options are available to you, read up on Apple’s recycling initiative.

In some communities, there are also organizations that refurbish old computers for distribution to the less fortunate, either domestically or in developing countries.

So, to post the question again, what do you do with your old Macs?

27 Responses to “What Do You Do With “Retired” Macs?”

  1. Fukuoka-ken

    Generally I subscribe to the eBay option as it involved a lot less hassle as my schedule never works out for the Craigslist crowds. One thing I have realized is that as my “needs” have become more and more down to earth I am keeping my tech a lot longer than before.

    One thing I hate to see is when people give away their old Mac to a friend or family member that doesn’t know what to do with it and is really outdated. I see it all the time, someone gave me this machine and what do I need to get it up to date. More often than not the answer is “just buy a new one”. After buying RAM, a HD, wireless card etc etc the costs just add up to too much for old technology. For someone that is try to convert someone to the Mac that is the wrong way to do it.

    Freecycle is my favorite place to get rid of old tech that I no longer need. Just let the tinkerers have at it for free and hope it finds a good home.

  2. J-TOKYO

    Still happily running a G4 ibook with Tiger. Not interested in upgrading anytime soon either. If you have an old G3 running classic, put Tiger on that thing and donate it to someone. Slow but solid as a rock.

  3. Charles W. Moore


    Re; the WallStreet and Pismo. I purchased the WallStreet in January, 1999 and used it as my production workhorse until August 2, 2002 when the processor overheated and died with no prior warning.

    I traded a G4 Cube even for a year-old (but pristine) Pismo in October, 2001, and used it for experimenting with OS X until the WallStreet croaked at which point it took the baton as number one until it was superseded by a G3 iBook in January, 2003.

    One of my daughters is still using the WallStreet which I revived with a scrounged processor, and it hasn’t missed a beat since – currently running OS 10.4 Tiger. The Pismo, which got a G4 upgrade in 2003, is still going strong as well, in use by my wife.


  4. Louis

    As indicated on the Apple recycling page linked to at the end of the above article, if you live in Texas (USA), like I do, Apple is obligated to recycle their hardware products for free (including paying for shipping of their old equipment).

    Wouldn’t it be great if this would apply to all jurisdictions? And not just computer equipment?


  5. I’ve got my headless Powerbook G4 serving up media and backup via a USB-connected 1TB HD and AEBS. iTunes on all the other Macs points to the shared HD and the ATV is paired to stream all content. Being able to run the G4 24/7 allows me not to have to duplicate content on the ATV or any of the satellite Macs. Also‚ the G4 can be connected to off-site using Back to My Mac.

    I also have an iBook G3 that’s looking for some duty. Would welcome ideas!

    • Marcos El Malo

      In the old days we’d make aquariums from old Macs. Given the dimensions of your old iBook, maybe you could make an ant farm?

  6. Michael

    I sell them on ebay, on craigslist I get too many requests from people to ship them to Nigeria.

    Plus I dont have the disposable assets to hold on to my expresscard pro and buy my sdcard pro.

  7. Desfolio

    I pass them off to family members. I feel better knowing they’re using a mac rather than a PC. Less tech support on my part once they become familiar with the platform.

  8. I cleaned out my old Mac Mini and set it up as a fileserver with Mamp and PHPfileNavigator… works great btw. My old iBook G4 is hidden away… we’ll give it to our daughter when she’s 6.

  9. Mr. Reeee

    I upgrade about every 1.5 to 2 years.

    I get a new Mac, then sell the old one on craigslist (eBay is a huge hassle) and get about half of what I paid originally… CASH. It works out for everyone.

  10. My recommendation is to always find a non-profit that can use the computer. You get a little tax deduction possible and you keep the computer in use. If it’s broken, it’s more environmental in my opinion to sell/give it to someone that might be able to use the other spare parts. My favorite place is a local freecycle list!

  11. sspencer

    I have sold every Mac I’ve had since 1992–about 8 of them. Unlike the the writer’s opinion, I think selling isn’t really a “hassle” thanks to Craigslist and eBay. Sure, a few minutes to take photos and another few to reserach your model to be sure you’ve got all the right info, but else it’s worth it to sell a machine that keeps its value as much as Macs do. I’ve also given machines to family members.

    Another thought–are you sure your recyled Mac doesn’t end up in e-waste landfills in Africa or China? A Frontline episode recently focused on the fact that most of the US’s e-waste isn’t really recycled at all, but rather shipped to developing countries to fester in their landfills. Worth looking into.

    • hi there-
      Any quick tips on how to most quickly clean up the computer of your personal info before you sell it? I’ve fully migrated from my iBook to my new MacBook Pro but would of course want to ensure my old stuff is off the old one.

  12. Snyder

    Yikes! I’m a staunch grammarian, so I’m sad to see I typed “it’s” where I should have “its”. I apologize (whether it’s for being anal or for the error is up to you).

  13. Snyder

    I must note that either you replaced a newer machine with an older machine in 2002 or else you mislabeled said laptops. The Wallstreet was the original G3 PowerBook in 1998. The Pismo was the last G3 – it’s final iteration included FW and USB even.

    I have owned both models, buying each off of eBay without a hitch. Sadly, I’ve also had to sell each for financial reasons.

  14. Sinjin

    My macs last at least 6 years, so by the time I get a new one the old one is too slow to use as an active computer for someone who doesn’t know it well already. However, it makes a rather nice hard drive server. The B&W G3 is in the living room serving up 4 hard drives worth of old pictures, text files and other little things.
    All the 10+ year old macs are now retired in the museum wing of my estate. :)

  15. Jo-Ann

    I usually give the old computer to a kid in the neighborhood. If there isn’t anyone who needs one I contact a school and ask the counselor if they know of a student in need. I asked the kid across the street to cut my grass while on vacation and he agreed. Then after finding out I got the new iPhone, he called and asked if the payment could be my old iPhone! Works for both of us!

  16. Adam Jackson

    eBay. It’s the best. I’ll make 85% on my investment in the first year (or more if I upgraded the hardware & have AppleCare). Just take care of the Mac and you’ll get a pretty penny for it.

    Sometimes I even break even on my sales to buy a new Mac.