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ATPM 11.01
January 2005



How To



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How To

by Sylvester Roque,

Giving the Gift of Mac

As usual I was a few days behind writing this article. Since it’s now only a few days before Christmas, I was thinking about those of you who will be fortunate enough to receive a new Mac. Congratulations: apparently you have indeed been very good this year.

After a little of the excitement has worn off, you may be wondering what to do with your old Mac. I faced this dilemma a few months ago when I replaced FrankenMac. I have faced this problem one or two other times in the past as I have disposed of aging equipment, so it’s not exactly a new problem. I wish I knew then what I am learning now.

This is the first of what I hope will be at least two articles focusing on what to do with older Macs that are no longer your primary machine. In the spirit of giving, this article will focus on giving away your little silicon buddy. A future article, probably next month, will focus on things you can do with aging Macs.

Before you unplug your little buddy for the last time, there are some things to consider. Answering these questions can perhaps make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Is It Dead Yet, Jim?

Before you decide who should get that beloved member of your computing family, think about its current condition. Does your little friend need some “tender loving care” to get up and running again? If you’re not willing to make the necessary repairs, pass it on to someone willing to make them. Otherwise you have passed on a potential doorstop.

If you are beyond the point where a little rehabilitation will help matters, don’t just haul your friend to the local landfill. Many of the internal components in modern computer systems can be recycled. In addition to taking up space in the landfill, some of the components can be toxic when not disposed of properly. Check with local user groups or your local sanitation officials for any recycling programs that might be available in your area. The National Recycling Coalition’s Electronics Recycling Initiative also maintains a searchable database of recyclers.

Who Will be Providing Technical Support?

How much technical support will the potential recipient have available? Macs are remarkably easy to use, but questions do arise. Are you willing to provide that support? Is there a user group available that might fill this void? This can be a particularly important question if the potential recipient has little or no experience with Macs.

Lack of tech support might even be an issue if you are going to donate to a school. Some districts are more Mac-centric than others. The company that provides support for the schools in my district has one or two Mac users on staff, but the district is running various forms of Windows. If you are determined to donate to a school, ask around. Even if the district is using Windows, there may be individual teachers who would like Macs in their classrooms and have the knowledge necessary to go it alone. If you are inclined to donate to a school but can’t find a local partner, check out the MacTreasures Web site. On their main page is an e-mail link to request information about their 2004 Macintosh Donation Program.

What About Friends and Family?

When casting your net for potential recipients of your generosity, don’t neglect friends and family. A reliable, stable, easy-to-use Mac might be an excellent first machine for someone. I’ve read numerous stories over the years of Mac users setting up machines for older members of their family who simply want a reliable machine to surf the Web or send e-mail to friends. Chances are that you also know several people who might like a second machine so there’s less competition for computer time.

Which Machines Should I Donate?

When you are deciding to give away a Mac, think about the system you are giving away. Some organizations would prefer that equipment they receive be less than five years old. Even if you are giving equipment to family and friends, keep in mind that older equipment does not always make the best impression. For example, one of my previous systems was a Power Mac 6500. Now, there are still a number of useful things you could do with such a machine, but it’s not a great standard-bearer for what you can accomplish with the modern Mac OS. That can be particularly important if the recipient is a new Mac user.

Charity at Home and Abroad

Even if you have exhausted your list of friends, family, and co-workers, that doesn’t mean your Mac is headed toward the landfill. There are many charitable organizations that could benefit from your donation. While researching this article, I encountered Web sites for numerous charitable organizations that accept used computer equipment. I focused on the following because the projects were interesting to me and because they specifically mentioned accepting used Macintosh systems

The MacRenewal Project, headquartered in Eugene Oregon, was first to capture my attention. In existence since 1999, the organization aims to recycle or restore used equipment, match the technology with people who need it, and teach them how to use it. The organization accomplishes its goal by working in partnership with several other organizations.

While checking out the MacRenewal Project I found out about The National Christina Foundation. Established in 1984, this organization provides technology and training to people who are disabled, economically disadvantaged, or educationally at risk.

If you are inclined to think globally, there are a number of projects designed to provide used equipment internationally. CARE Canada’s Web site outlines a project to donate used tools to entrepreneurs in the Third World. This project caught my attention because they not only accept donations of Macs but also a host of other tools including fork lifts and metal working tools.

If none of these projects sounds interesting to you, keep looking. There are numerous other worthy projects out there. A recent story about recycling computers also includes basic information on several other international projects involving used computers.

When making donations to charitable organizations keep, in mind that some organizations only accept working systems. US residents may qualify for a tax deduction when donating to these organizations. The deduction is often equal to the fair market value of any donated equipment plus the cost of shipping. The laws change frequently, so you will need to talk to the organization receiving the donation or a tax professional for specific details.

Although the projects mentioned above strike me as interesting uses for used computers, I have not investigated these organizations personally. Before you make contributions to any charitable organization, investigate them for yourself. For a list of important questions to ask, consult the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance Charity Standards or the American Institute of Philanthropy’s Tips for Giving Wisely.

Final Steps to Take

Before you give away that Mac, there are a few very important steps to take. I encourage you to take these steps whether you are donating to an individual or an organization.

Make sure you have a working backup of any data on the machine. The joy of giving can be seriously hampered by the realization that you forgot important data on a machine that you no longer own. Whether you are talking about financial data or photos from your last trip, copy anything that you want to keep.

If you have made purchases from the iTunes Music Store, be sure to remove that computer from your account. If your Mac is still operational, launch iTunes, navigate to the Advanced Menu, and choose Deauthorize Computer. This is important because even initializing the hard drive does not deauthorize the computer. If you need to deauthorize a computer you no longer have access to, fill in the Web form at the bottom of that page

Take steps to remove any confidential information stored on the system. Use a disk utility to not only erase the drive, but zero it as well. Writing zeros to the drive reduces the likelihood that someone can gain access to sensitive information. Some of my Windows-using friends have even suggested removing the existing hard drive from the machine and replacing it with a new drive. Given the price of some internal drives that would be tempting to me.

While we are talking about what to remove, think about the software you will be giving away. Check out the license agreement for any software you plan to give away. As general rule, you can’t give away a version of a piece of software that you will be using on your system. You might also need to keep older software that you have upgraded. Suppose, for example, you have used several versions of Microsoft Word or Photoshop. You bought the full version initially and that became the basis of future upgrades. I think passing the older versions on would violate the licensing agreement.

There might be a number of other software issues to be considered. I recently purchased a piece of software that is keyed to a specific machine on which it is installed. Check the documentation or contact technical support to determine the correct procedure for transferring the software from one machine to another legally.

When I initially conceived of this article I was thinking in terms of things to do with a Mac you were thinking of keeping. There are a number of useful tasks that can be performed well with older equipment. ATPM publisher Michael Tsai suggested setting up a backup server, and I ran a 6500 as a file server for several months a few years ago. We will tackle those types of projects next month. Until next time the door to the lab is open. Enter if you wish, but ignore that weird greenish glow at your own risk.

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Reader Comments (2)

Sylvester Roque · April 24, 2006 - 22:24 EST #1
According to the Macworld site, beginning in June Apple will offer another recycling option to US customers who purchase new gear from the Apple Store or an Apple retail outlet. Details can be found at Macworld
Hannah Hughes · August 1, 2006 - 19:05 EST #2
Hi! I am the editor of a high school magazine, and I am trying to find a way to recieve a donated macintosh for our layout purposes, but I am having a lot of trouble. Could you offer some advice? Thanks!

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