1. Users of Microsoft Operating Systems can check the Microsoft website to determine if thier operating system is still supported. If it is, you can also find the date that support for the operating system ends.
Microsoft Support

2. Developers will list system requirements on their website so users can determine if they can upgrade. For example, the following link has requirements and even a downloadable app to determine if your PC will run Windows 7.
Windows 7 Requirements

3. Global energy crisis information may be found at the following link.

Personal Computers: Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose, or Throw Away?

OK, so you want to know what you should do with that old PC. First, you have to ask yourself the following questions:

Do I really need to upgrade?

Do I need to upgrade?

This question can be tough. If we listen to all the marketing thrown at us every second of every day, the answer is, of course you do. Upgrade and upgrade often is what the companies want. However, you need to be realistic. Is your PC doing everything you need it to? For most consumers the answer is yes. The average PC user simply uses the PC for document creation and online comunication. These are not complex tasks that require a lot of power. If this sounds like your usage, then a new PC with a new operating system is simply not needed. Of course you may not be an average user. If you use your PC for multi-media tasks or media production then chances are the newer versions of software you need will require upgrades of some kind.

With that said, there are other reasons to upgrade. Security is another reason to consider an upgrade. If an operating system is too old then it may no longer be supported by the developer and updates may be non-existent. This can lead to your PC not being protected against the latest threats. It is a good idea to see if your operating system is still supported by the manufacturer. For example, Windows ME and older versions are no longer supported by Microsoft1. Computers running these older operating systems should be updated to a newer version of the operating system, which means that for most of them, the computer itself will have to be upgraded or even replaced. Windows XP is supported as long as you have downloaded and installed service pack 3. Windows XP SP3 will be supported for a few more years, but users may still want to consider upgrading.

Do I have to replace the whole PC?

funny ram pic
image courtesy of icanhazcheezeburger

So your PC runs an old operating system and you want a new one to continue receiving updates and be secure. You may not need a completely new PC. Often you can get away with upgrading components within your PC. Components that can breathe new life into a PC include: graphics card, memory, and hard drives. Check the system requirements of the operating system or software you are considering2 and see if you can refresh your PC to these requirements. If you are unsure about replacing these components, the internet has many guides to help, or you can visit your local computer shop.

One component of the PC that should be replaced is a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor if you are using one. CRT monitors are old, bulky and energy-hogging displays. These should be replaced with much more efficient and space saving LCD flat panel monitors. While, it seems wasteful to get rid of a display that works, the energy savings helps alleviate another modern environmental crisis3. This upgrade may even save you some money. If your PC is already using an LCD monitor and the size is fine for you, then you should keep this part and consider just replaing the CPU tower or just components in the CPU tower.

Do I know anyone that could benefit from my old PC?

So you have now determined, based upon your needs, the whole PC needs to be replaced. Perhaps you know someone with less demanding needs than you who could use the PC. If not, then look at donating it to organizations that will reuse them. Nonprofit organizations fullfill much of their equipment needs through donations.

After answering these questions and you have decided what you will do with your old PC, use the navigation links on the left for additional information and resources.