After getting rid of cables and mobile devices, now we need to talk about the biggest of the bunch: old Macs and PCs. That computer you wanted to fix someday, or the PC you switched from but kept around just in case. Now that it's time to get them out of the house, you have a few options.
You Do Not Need That Performa 5200
Just like with mobile/handheld devices, the first move is to be certain there isn’t a machine in your current circle that needs upgrading, be it your parents or children or other people who maybe could stand a slightly newer machine. Once you do that, you have the same options as handhelds: Trade-In, Donate, or Recycle.
If you have a reasonably recent machine that has some life left in it, you may be able to trade that machine in toward a new machine. You can always try selling it yourself, whether it’s a private party sale or contacting Gazelle or Sell Your Mac. You can trade it in at PowerMax or MacMall if you’re interested in cashing in that value toward a new machine. Apple will take in any piece of Apple hardware, regardless of age, but anything with trade-in value will require filling in a form and getting a gift card in the mail.
You'll almost always get the most money if you sell it yourself, be it to a friend, on Craigslist, or even Ebay, where they take a cut. But time is money, and that includes the time to photograph it, list it, and ship it. Especially with a newer Mac, it will be worth the extra effort to sell it directly. But if it seems like a hassle to you, trade it in and stop letting it gather dust.
First off, if you’re interested in donating, make sure the gear is actually useful to the place you’re donating to, not every place wants that PowerBook G3 or a second-gen iPod with a cracked screen. A quick web search for “donate Mac (your city)” or “donate laptop (your city)” should help you find someplace to take the gear locally.InterConnection and Computers With Causes will both take working computers and route them to other charitable organizations. World Computer Exchange does so on a global scale. There’s also the National Cristina Foundation with local links for non-profits that will take that late model laptop off your hands. My local favorite FreeGeek will take mailed in hardware in a package labeled Attn: Hardware Donation.
Some Mac User Groups will also be delighted to take in your old Macs. They might have a program to funnel them to schools or charities—if they do, they'll probably even clean them up and wipe the hard drives first. Austin's CapMac has annual fundraising sales of used Macs donated to them—they use the proceeds to fund their many activities throughout the year.
Check with your local Mac User Group to see if they have a program.
If what you have is non-working gear, your best bet is to recycle it. Apple retail locations will take any Apple product off your hands and if it's recent enough, give you a gift card (by mail) based on the value of your hardware. If it's not recent enough to rate a gift card, they'll still take it in and recycle it for you, saving you the trouble. Ecycling Central will search each state and find dropoff locations for gear which has shuffled off its techno-coil. Some tips and another place to search come from Computer Hope. There’s always the EPA site for donating, and E-Stewards for finding a local place to take in recycling. There are 25 states with some sort of e-cycling law on the books, so check in your area to see if perhaps you can just take that box of miscellaneous computing gear to a local recycler for free.