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How to Find a Free Laptop or Desktop Computer
7 Useful Ideas that may work for you

By Charles DiBella
Founder / Director
Recycles.org
2012 ©

In difficult economic times many are looking for ways to save money, and finding a new or used computer for free instead of needing to pay cash can be a windfall. At Recycles.org, we receive many requests for free equipment, and so we've gathered together a few pointers below to help you with your search.

Please understand we cannot help most private individuals directly, because our exchange network is primarily designed to assist nonprofit organizations. On the other hand, we can offer a few useful alternative approaches for those who are looking for free and low cost used equipment.

One active community-based approach is to become involved with a local nonprofit organization. This can be a church, school, scout or civic group that presently has or may be interested in starting a community computer recycling, reuse, and redistribution program. If you're involved with such a group, they in turn can apply to use our Nonprofit Exchange Network here at Recycles.org, and then you can make requests directly through our web site.

Another approach would be to visit our nonprofit users members page here, and browse around to see if there is anyone near you who is presently using our network. If you find a interesting group near you, contact them directly, and ask them about how you can work with them to acquire a used computer through us.

A third approach would be to determine which office within your local government is responsible for the computer recycling effort in your municipality or county. Most municipal and county governments today have an office responsible for recycling and reducing environmental waste. Many of these offices will hold annual collection drives, where residents drop off old computers for recycling or refurbishment. Find out what becomes of these older computers, and as a special needs resident, you may be able to have access to some of this equipment yourself.

A fourth approach is to frequent all your local Goodwill and second-hand stores. Most all such stores will receive some used by useful computer equipment from time to time. Much of this older equipment is still in very useable, or can easily be reconditioned to be put back into productive use. Some stores have a resident computer technician, either in-house, or on-call. This is a one key person who you will want to get to know if you can.

Each Goodwill or second-hand store will most likely have a policy on what to do with the used computer equipment when received, and it is to your benefit to learn about store policy. Some stores will do testing and reconditioning, while others may not. You may need to be patient and wait a while before a suitable computer comes your way, but many have found great used equipment through using this method.

A fifth approach is to have a story written in a local publication about you and your special need. There are often many small hard copy publications which contain community service articles that appeal to the needs of your community. Possibly, if you don't mind being in the limelight, your story may be interesting enough that others may enjoy reading about your courage and determination. Millions of private individuals across America have older, useful computer equipment which they would love to see benefit another.

The next approach is to find a "Freecycle" group near you. The Freecycle Network is a nonprofit network of individuals who give and receive free things in their local community. See if your community is represented by entering it's name into the search box at their website: www.freecycle.org

And lastly, you might consider developing your own strategy for making direct requests to small businesses in your area. This next approach can work equally as well for an individual, or by a service organization seeking many computers.

To use this approach, take some time to prepare one great letter. Your letter should be direct and personal, yet objective, and addressed to an owner of a small business in your area.

As an individual, include a personal introduction which briefly explains your special need or disability. Explain your career goals, and your computing objectives, along with your general hardware requirements. An organization would want to be equally as brief, because business executives often have very little time for reading long, drawn out letters.

It is important that your letter be clear, concise, and objective. If you write the letter yourself, be sure to seek out a friend or editor to correct and improve it, or to offer advice. Your complete letter should fit on one page, and to personalize it even more, clip a small photo of yourself at the top.

With this letter, seek out small businesses, such as dental and medical offices, copy and print shops, small design and engineering firms, or any small adminstrative or technical business with ten or more employees.

Determine who is responsible for making decisions, and personalize your letter directly to that person. Send out ten letters to ten business leaders, and for improved results, follow up with a phone call to each a few days after delivering your letter.

All over America, many individuals and small businesses have old, unused computers in storage sitting idle, and they would love to have the opportunity to directly help someone succeed.

But be cautious with what you accept! These sources, like our exchange network, can offer very old, worthless items as well. If you are not a technician yourself, you will need some technical expertise at hand to know what you are accepting. Unless your objective is to recycle equipment, you may not want just any old equipment that is offered to you. It may turn out to be completely useless, or more problems than it's worth.

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Charles DiBella is the founder and director for Recycles.org and the Nonprofit Recycling Network. At present, Charles teaches and assists very poor young student leaders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You can read more about Charles and his teaching adventures at his personal website www.bikepaths.org.