Ever wondered what typically happens during the refurbishment of a computer, be it a desktop PC or a laptop? Why refurbish a computer when one can simply buy a brand new off-the-shelf machine from a retailer, or assemble one from a range of different individual hardware components? Refurbishing a computer helps to extend its lifespan by installing a fresh copy of an operating system followed by any hardware drivers it needs, or using a recovery partition or media to return the system back to a configuration set in the factory. This in turn helps to reduce the amount of hardware that ends up being discarded, usually by taking them to recycling facilities or worse, going into landfill sites.
So how do we refurbish a computer that is given to us by someone who has decided to make the switch to a brand new computer? Well, we first examine the basic specifications of the computer in question, in order to determine whether or not it would be worth refurbishing it; for more recent computers that came pre-installed with Windows 7 or later, they are likely still powerful enough for editing documents and modern web browsing. In the case of very old machines however, the components are very likely too primitive to be of meaningful use for the community so here, they would be used either for spare parts to be used for other computers, or simply be sent out for recycling.
Once we decide to refurbish a computer, we first re-install the operating system in accordance with the Certificate of Authenticity attached to the computer if it can be determined what version of Windows it came with, in the case of computers that originally came with Windows 7 or later pre-installed, or install a GNU/Linux operating system if it came with an older version of Windows pre-installed, or if we were unable to determine what version of Windows was pre-installed by looking at the Certificate of Authenticity. Operating system installs can take some time, depending on the overall specifications of the computer.
After the operating system is installed, on Windows, we go into Device Manager to determine what hardware components require any drivers necessary to function correctly, then locate the missing drivers online, usually on the OEM or manufacturer’s website that provides the correct drivers for the system in question, and then download and install the drivers onto the system. Usually, this is not necessary for GNU/Linux distros as they generally use free/libre firmware provided by the hardware manufacturers or the GNU/Linux community, but in cases where installed components cannot function in GNU/Linux without non-free/proprietary firmware, it would be necessary to install the proprietary firmware available from the component manufacturer, make use of workarounds to get the components to work properly with the proprietary firmware, or use an alternative GNU/Linux distro and install packages that contain the necessary proprietary firmware.
Once the drivers are installed, we then install software packages onto the operating system; typically, the range of software we install onto refurbished machines with Windows operating systems is limited to just the essential applications to enable individuals to get started with using the computers. The applications we typically install are LibreOffice, a set of applications designed to create and edit documents; Security Essentials, a basic anti-virus application from Microsoft that helps protect against malicious software; and Google Chrome, a web browser designed for access to various websites. GNU/Linux distros generally come with a set of software packages already installed, usually including Firefox, LibreOffice, a media player for music and video playback, and a package installer for installing a variety of software packages available from repositories.
During refurbishing, we also install any updates that are available, depending on the operating system; these are necessary as they include various bug and security fixes, performance enhancements and new features. For Windows, these are provided by Microsoft through its built-in update manager, while for GNU/Linux distros, they can be installed using the distro’s software updater utility or through the Synaptic Package Manager.
Once the updates are installed, refurbishment of the computers has finished, ready for people who need a computer for various activities to pick up at our community clinics.