Technical Tips for Small Nonprofits and Social Change Groups:
Acquiring an Inexpensive PC
Acquiring an Inexpensive PC
For old PCs, there are many more surplus computers on the market than for Macs. There are basically two options:
If have no funds to spare, and if you are located in a more populated area where recycled computers are likely to be available, you might want to sign up to receive donations at the Share the Technology website. We did it, and someone gave us a Pentium computer that they no longer needed. The minimum speed requirement we recommend if you want to get work done and use the internet is a 100Mhz computer. For using recently developed software like OpenOffice or Word2000, or for browsing complex web sites, we recommend a 300Mz (Pentium) computer. You will be able to get by with a slower computer only if you are planning to use software that, like Organizers' Database, is tailored for older PC's.
If you can't wait for a donation, you can buy surplus, refurbished, and overstock computers in excellent condition (new or refurbished) through the Internet. One place to go is the "950Mhz and Below" page of the auction web site ubid.com. Other places to try are Computer Surplus Outlet and pricewatch.com. A Pentium 200-400 range computer can be obtained under $150. This computer is perfectly adequate for Windows98, Office97, or Quickbooks -- but we don't recommend it for Office 2000 or the latest graphical versions of Linux.
For $250, you might be able to find a faster system that already has a CD burner, making it easier for you to back up your data. The price of a recent model, computer at the Computer Surplus outlet or at compgeeks.com is around $400 with the operating system pre-installed. We recommend that you buy a computer that already has an operating system, unless your organization has in-house expertise in installing Linux or Windows. If you need to purchase a Windows CD, please note that DiscountTech offers great discounts for non-profits. Please note that these sites allow you to use a credit card so you have recourse in the event that there is a problem.
It is generally best to obtain a monitor locally, since the shipping cost on a monitor is often close to the price. Since older monitors may be susceptible to blurring over time, we recommend that you buy a monitor produced in the last five years. Usually, the manufacture date is written on the back of a monitor. The cost for a new monitor these days is only about $50 for a 15" monitor, and $90 for a 17".
Some of the specifications to shoot for:
-Any CD-ROM (speed is not that important for nonprofit uses)
-Windows95, Windows98, or Windows95-OSR2
-A hard drive with a capacity of at least 1Gb -The capability of accepting PC100 memory chips, so that it will be easy for you to upgrade the memory, if the PC has less than 64Mb. -Memory prices are inexpensive, so we recommend that you go to 128Mb if you want to use recently produced software. If you like to have several software programs open simultaneously, 256Mb will make your PC much less susceptible to crashing.
Last Updated 8/2002.