Upgrading and Recycling Old Computer Parts to Save Money

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It’s not an uncommon thing for someone to scrap their old computer and use some of the parts in a new machine that they plan to either build or buy. Not only can you save a lot of money that way, but it can make the transition of data from the old computer to the new one a lot easier. This article will cover some of the basics of what parts you can recycle and which ones you ought to replace.

CPU and Motherboard

If you are using your old parts to build a new computer, the main thing you are upgrading is the processor and motherboard. In doing so, there’s a good chance that your old RAM won’t work on the new motherboard, as these are the three main things that will determine the speed of your computer. Sometimes your old motherboard will take a faster processor than what you already have on it, so this is an avenue you can explore if you are able to identify the model of your motherboard. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading the processor unless it is a big change in speeds. With the way that processor speeds are determined, you may hardly notice any difference between, for example, a 3.0 and a 3.1 GHz processor.


Because RAM comes in different speed ratings, your new motherboard may be able to use your old RAM, but it may not run as quickly as the system is capable, so you’d be shortchanging yourself. Be sure to look at the specs on whatever motherboard or system you choose to make sure you buy the fastest possible RAM that will work with your PC. If you are buying a PC from a company like Dell or HP, check the system specs of the machine to determine what RAM is needed. Sites like Crucial.com will let you look the computer up by model number, which greatly helps.

For more advice and guidance on RAM, CPU & Motherboards visit the CPU, Graphics & Memory catalog.


The hard drive and DVD/CD drives are always salvageable from an old computer, and this can make it so much easier to transfer data. Depending on the age of the hard drive, it is usually best to get a new hard drive for your new computer and just use the old one for data backup or as a spare drive. My reasoning behind this is that hard drives are mechanical devices that slow down over time and can eventually fail. An old, worn-out hard drive can drag down a system and potentially lead to data loss. Besides that, you can buy a brand new hard drive with hundreds of gigabytes of space for less than a hundred bucks nowadays. That extra drive is great for things like your browser cache or the Windows swap file for virtual memory. DVD and CD drives will work in most any computer, so no big worries there.


The main thing you have to watch for when carrying over your drives is to make sure they will connect to the motherboard. The two most commonly used connections are IDE and SATA. IDE type drives are the oldest and are not always supported by newer motherboards. Likewise, SATA is relatively new and may not work on an older motherboard. If you are building a new computer, be sure to look at the specs on whatever motherboard you wish to buy in order to make sure it will support what you need. There are plenty out there that support both drive types, but plenty more that support only one. For your new hard drive, you definitely want to go with a SATA connection.

For more advice and guidance on Drives and Storage visit the Data Storage & Backup catalog.

Go External

If you are buying a PC from a manufacturer and the motherboard does not support your old IDE drive, you can always buy an external drive enclosure. This will let you take your old internal hard drive and turn it into an external one. The enclosures provide a power source and USB or Firewire connection so that the hard drive will work on most machines. The average price of the enclosure is around $50, depending on style and features.

Case and Power Supply

For those wanting to build a new computer out of an old one, two more parts you can recycle are the case and power supply. I think most people would want to get a new case since it is the outwardly visible part of the PC, but that can work both ways if you don’t want your new machine to look like a new machine. The power supply can also be used again, but make sure it has enough power to push your new system, especially if you are adding a high end video card that requires a bigger power supply. You need to also make sure your old power supply has the right connectors for your new drives. Sometimes it is nice to get a new power supply since your old one may be full of dust and noisy from years of use.

For more advice and guidance on PC Casing and Power visit the Power Supply catalog.

Keyboard, Mouse, and Monitor

The keyboard, mouse, and monitor are all interchangeable with other computers, so there’s no need to buy new unless you just want something new. I know that I tend to get attached to my mice, but I wear out keyboards every couple of years. It’s nice to have a fresh new keyboard to go with your new computer because it will feel new. The same goes for having a new monitor, but budget constraints may prevent you from buying an expensive new one.

For more advice and guidance on Keyboards and Mice visit the Keyboards & Mice catalog.

There’s always eBay!

As for those old parts that you can’t use in your new machine, such as the old motherboard, RAM, or processor - there’s always eBay or your local newspaper. In the past, I’ve made back quite a few bucks selling parts out of old computers. I figured it would be better to sell them to someone that might need them as opposed to letting the old PC collect dust in a closet somewhere.