Dead, but not necessarily useless.
Sooner or later, the PC I'm typing this on is bound to drop dead. One day I'll walk in here, push the power button, and hear a scrape and a clunk that tells me my hard drive is out of commission. Or, worse, I'll get nothing at all. Failing that, it's going to end up dying a different kind of death, although one that's every bit as ignominious -- it'll be yanked out and replaced with something a little more cutting-edge, because time and technology have moved on.
Whatever my PC's exact fate, there's one thing I know won't happen: This machine will not sit at the curbside and wait to be heaved into a garbage truck. In this piece I'll talk about four possible fates for dead hardware. "Dumped into a landfill" is not one of them. That's a fate worth working to avoid, especially since so many of the electronic goods that come into our hands can still be reclaimed, no matter what they're like when we're done with them.
What's A "Dead" PC?
Let's start with a definition or three. The most common definition of "dead" is "I can't use this thing anymore." Sometimes dead means too slow or clunky for your chosen use; time and utility have passed it by.
That Pentium III 650 that used to run Windows 2000 but barely boots anymore, the range of software (and hardware) it can support has narrowed drastically? It might be useful to someone who has fewer expectations from their PC, but to you, it's dead.
Sometimes dead means you've simply outgrown what you have. The system runs fine, but you've moved on to bigger and better things. For example: my 1GB single-core Centrino notebook, which I replaced with a 4GB dual-core 64-bit model -- one which, irony of ironies, cost less than half what I paid for the previous one; such is the march of technology. (Keep reading to find out the fate of the old machine.)
And sometimes dead is just dead. Billy Crystal's character Miracle Max in The Princess Bride put it best: "There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive." In other words, even a machine that doesn't boot or power on may still be good for something -- even if it's something you can't think of.