Recycle Old Desktop PCS With Linux
By Alex Colcernian

As more and more computers find their way to the garbage, we generate e-waste. Everyday the e-waste heap grows, and many of the computers within can be re-purposed and recycled. Re-purposing and recycling computers is extremely beneficial to our environment and light on the check book. After examining why computers typically fail, you will learn how you old desktop PC can become a “new” thin client, allowing you to work with documents, browse the web, and more.

Why Do Desktop PC’s “Fail”?

It is incredibly rare for all of the components in a computer to go bad. Typically, one component tends to be the main culprit… the hard drive. Until the more recent SSDs (Solid-State-Disks), all hard drives spin. The movement within the drive creates the opportunity for damage one way or another. As the hard drive gets older, bad sectors start forming, and eventually the hard drive is considered useless. Damaging the CPU, RAM, Motherboard, or Video Card is less likely compared to the hard drive. Just be sure your fans are doing their job… cooling.

Why Linux Recycles Desktop PC’s

After your hard drive fails, do yourself a favor…

  1. Unplug it
  2. Remove it
  3. Dispose of Properly
  4. Keep Reading

Sure you can put a new hard drive in and keep using it, but what if there was something better? There is…

As long as your Network Card (NIC) has the capability of Network Booting using the PXE protocol, you can turn that used computer into a lively, fully functioning “Thin Client”.

Use the CPU, RAM, Sound and Video Cards, and forget the source of problems – the hard drive.

With Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP), you can load your desktop operating system and applications over your LAN. With a server and a switch, you are well on your way to a license free thin client environment. LTSP has allowed people all over the world the ability to deploy computers that may have found their way to a landfill. Not only are they recycled desktop PCs, but they become centrally managed providing benefits for the IT department. Brand new thin clients are really nice, but if you have the opportunity you should be in the practice of recycling older computer hardware. When acceptable hardware exists, re-purpose it, recycle it, and put it to good use.

Recommended Specifications – Recycling Desktop PC to Thin Client

  • CPU: 800MHz +
  • RAM: 256MB +
  • Video: 64MB +
  • NIC: 10/100 or Better (Must Network Boot via PXE)

Sound Interesting? Get in touch with the open source community. You can join us in the IRC channel #LTSP @ We will point you in the direction of some documentation and a very friendly open source community always jumping at the opportunity to help others.

Alex Colcernian is the Director of Marketing and Sales at founded alongside the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) in 1999, provides thin client hardware and solutions. is the global leader in LTSP deployments, serving businesses, government, non-profits, and schools.