Owners of startups and small businesses are often obligated to watch expenses carefully. Computers and computer accessories are often a significant expense for these business owners. While it may be challenging to find programs that offer free computers to businesses, it is often possible to get good deals on used and refurbished computers, printers and other electronic devices.

Finding a Computer Recycling Center

Many organizations specialize in recycling, refurbishing or repairing computers. However, just because an organization or business accepts computers for recycling does not mean that they are set up to sell or donate these computers to individuals or companies.

In some cases, organizations or businesses that accept computers and peripherals for recycling transport these items to larger recycling centers where the machines are stripped down for their components and scrap metal.

If you are unsure as to whether an organization sells or donates computers, call or email the organization and ask about the service they provide.

Be specific about the nature of your business: If you are a startup or provide community services, the organization may be very open to giving you a free computer or offering a discount.

Qualifying for Free Used Computers

Some organizations provide free refurbished used computers to qualifying individuals and organizations. In many cases, qualifying standards for these computers are strict, and most for-profit businesses won't qualify to receive one.

For example, you may have to be a registered not-for-profit business at the state level as well as holding tax-exempt status with the federal government.

Still, it may be worth investigating some of these organizations and determining their standards.

If you are a veteran or have a disability, you may qualify for a free used computer regardless of how you plan to use the machine.

If you are operating a not-for-profit business or a business that serves children or a disadvantaged population, you may also be able to qualify for a computer.


Freecycle is a non-profit organization that helps people around the world keep items out of landfills by connecting people who want to get rid of unwanted goods with those who can use them. Freecycle.org offers a free way to connect with people in your community who might be willing to give you a computer that they no longer use.

Low-Cost Computer Options

While finding a free computer for your business may prove to be a challenge, it is far easier to source inexpensive computers and, in some cases, free computer accessories. Ideas for finding used technology at a low cost include:

  • Repair and refurbishing organizations: Your community may have one or more organizations dedicated to computer refurbishing or repair. These organizations may then resell these computers to the public at low prices. 
  • Craigslist and other classified ads: Check listings frequently to find people who are selling their computers. If you live near a college, redouble your efforts in May, which is when students graduate and either receive new computers as gifts or plan to upgrade to more robust machines for professional use.
  • Going-out-of-business sales: Some businesses not only sell inventory at clearance prices when going out of business, they also sell their office equipment, including computers. These sales are not always announced online. Keep your eyes out for businesses with "going out of business" signs in their windows.  
  • Computer repair shops: Businesses that repair computers sometimes sell computers and accessories left behind by customers who didn't want to pay for necessary repairs or failed to pick up their equipment.

Scan a used computer for malware and viruses before using it or connecting the machine to your network.