Sean Nicholson, OEM 3R (Redesign, Reuse, Recycle) program manager, Microsoft
Schoolchildren in Madagascar using refurbished PCs to learn IT skills
Every year around 20% of the PCs in use worldwide finish with their owners. Many will be broken or very old, but around half of them can still be reused, especially as entry level PCs for internet use and learning IT skills. These reused PCs represent some of the most affordable ways for people to own a PC with commercial prices starting from under $100 and donated PCs just requiring the cost of cleaning them up, testing, and performing a clean software install.
Microsoft has been supporting the reuse of PCs for over 5 years. In our last financial year we helped over 400,000 PCs be reused by schools, universities, not for profit organizations and technology access programs around the world. This work is part of our Registered Refurbisher Program, which has both commercial software licenses that any refurbished PC can use, along with special Citizenship software licenses that only education, non-profits and specially approved recipients are allowed to use. The refurbishing organization can be commercial or charitable and may use both license types depending on who they are supplying the refurbished PC to.
The Citizenship software licenses offer Windows 7 for around $6 and Office 2007 for a similar fee. The fees are used to cover the cost of running the program as well as support the reuse of PCs. For example Microsoft has been sponsoring the International Computer Refurbishers Summit (ICRS) for the last few years which many non-profit refurbishers attend to share knowledge on PC reuse. Microsoft also operates a program for large commercial refurbishers called Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher.
Microsoft defines a refurbished PC as a PC that has been used, is over six months old and has its original motherboard and processor. The refurbishers may choose to upgrade things like memory, graphics and disk storage. The refurbishers are also required to follow local environmental legislation and international data wiping standards to ensure no confidential or personal data is left on the used PC.
Currently we have over 2,500 organizations that have joined the program from over 80 countries. They range from small non-profits who refurbish fewer than 50 PCs a year, up to large organization's handling tens of thousands, often sponsored by governments. Some of our large commercial refurbishers operate programs that allow corporations to donate their used PCs to help others, for example Serious Good from Redemtech. Directories of all the organizations in our PC refurbishment programs along with guidance on buying a refurbished PC can be found here.
To support this work we have developed special software tools that make reimaging a refurbished PC easier, especially when you have to do hundreds at a time. Unlike the new PC production line where each PC is the same model, with the same device drivers, a refurbishers production line handles snowflakes in that each PC is different and will require different configuration options. We have also produced guides on disposal of your PC which you can read here along with guidance on the licensing rules when reinstalling Windows operating system on PCs.
While reusing PCs is great for the environment my favorite part of running the citizenship refurbisher program is meeting and hearing stories around the impact these affordable PCs have on people lives.