Give it a good home, either as a whole or in pieces.
I’ve owned seven different computers over the course of my life. Every time I need to get a new one, I get a little sad; my computers are my buddies, and I really hate to see them go. But leaving a computer to rot in a closet somewhere would be nothing but disrespectful to them, to say nothing of the travesty that would be dumping them in the trash. If the time’s come for an upgrade, do right by your buddy and recycle it properly.
Now, when I say “recycle,” I’m referring to both the actual act of recycling the computer as well as the act of donating it. Let’s focus on the latter first. Everyone needs a computer these days, and you could really put a smile on someone’s face by giving them a rig to call their own. However, there are some criteria your computer needs to meet before you can actually donate it. For one thing, it needs to be relatively new, or at least be able to accommodate new software. If your computer is more than five years old, then the hardware and OS are probably too outdated for a charity to make effective use of it. The computer also needs to be fully functional and run at a decent speed. A slow clunker of a rig isn’t going to do anyone any favors. If your computer meets these requirements, then you can donate it. If possible, try to donate a full package with a monitor and a mouse and keyboard as well just to save them the trouble of having to hunt down peripherals.
If your computer is too old or too beat up, then it’s time for the recycling bin. The one thing you don’t want to do with a computer is dump it in the trash. There’s valuable components in even the oldest, junkiest computers, and both nonprofit organizations and manufacturers will happily take them off your hands. If you throw it out, it’s just gonna sit in a landfill somewhere, and that doesn’t do anyone any favors. Whether you donate or recycle the computer, you’ll usually get a receipt that you can use for tax deduction purposes, which is always nice.
Oh, and one last thing: whether you donate or recycle, remember to completely wipe your hard drive before hand. The world doesn’t need to know about your search history.