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Checklist for Rehabilitating 
Donated PCs

A Step by Step Procedure
for Processing and
Rehabilitating Donated PCs

Edited By Paul Pruitt - MCP, CompTIA A+, 
CompTIA Net+, HDI Helpdesk Analyst

 Revised 3-1-04

Note: First Time Computers accepts donations of computers and computer components. We put them together into usable systems for kids from lower income families in the DC area who couldn't otherwise afford to have computers at home.

We accept PCs & Macs, keyboards, mice, speakers, printers, modems, NICs, and other cards, software, and monitors. We can't use pre-Windows 95 PCs or really old [pre-1995 or pre-PowerPC] Macs.  Computers should have a CD Rom drive.  So far [as of mid-February 2004] we have taken in 48 computers and placed 32.  Most of our computers have gone to students and their families in Northeast and Southeast DC [including Deanwood and the Congress Heights/Ballou HS area of Anacostia], PGC, and to Maryland non-profits using Macs.

Comments on this checklist are welcome.  Email to   If anyone has a comparable list for Macs they are willing to share, please let me know.  –Lowell Dodge, 1st Time Computers 

Hardware Checklist (Do First)

  1. Check start-up and shutdown.  Need hard drive? Corrupt OS?  If machine runs, but significant problems are apparent, run Scandisk on “Thorough”, set to “fix errors automatically.”  

  2. Test all drives; remove/replace obsolete drives --e.g., remove 5 ¼” floppy drives, replace with CD-ROM drives [if machines will take them], etc.

  3. Modem/NIC -- check/install as appropriate.  Ideally each machine should end up with both.

  4. Replace any missing case parts; clean case, monitor, mouse, keyboard as needed.

  5. Open case; carefully blow dust out of inside.

Software Checklist (Do Next)

  1. Privacy – if any personal files created by previous users remain, email him/her/them to inform them, and to get guidance [return computer to him/her to delete files?  Email files to them, then delete the files? Wipe hard drive?].  For all: delete Temp Internet Files, Cookies.  Run Search on names of person/org donating computer, and delete as appropriate.  Delete any porn.

  2. Clean up desktop; re-set background, screensaver, energy savers, etc., as needed; uninstall/disable bizarre pointers and icon customizing.

  3. Remove unneeded programs, using the application’s own Uninstall if provided, or Add/Remove if not.  Click on “No to all” if asked about deleting shared files.  Run search on name[s] of removed program[s] to locate deletable litter left after the uninstall.

  4. Run Disk Cleanup or Norton CleanSweep, and then run Disk Defragmenter.

  5. Upgrade Operating System as appropriate – shoot for Win98SE as minimum.

  6. Install new programs, including an anti-virus program, as needed. Consider Avast, Zonelabs as alternatives to Norton, McAfee.  Don’t heavy up older machines: e.g., don’t install Norton Internet Security or equivalent on Windows 95 or 98; don’t install Norton SystemWorks on less than a Pent II.   Don’t install all of Office – custom install selected applications… consider Open Office [], 602 Office and EasyOffice [on the wild side].  If installing AOL, pick an earlier version of AOL such as 5.0 or 6.0 on resource-poor machines [these older versions are on all AOL discs; access by going into “view” when in “Explore” for the disc, put a bullet in the “show all files” circle.]

  7. Check Device Manager for yellow question marks.  Deal with any driver issues.

  8. Test internet connections [modem and NIC]; configure as necessary; set Google as IE home page.  Under consideration: enable new Google tool bar [may serve well as an accessible pop-up blocker, among other things].

  9. Using high speed internet connection if at all possible, update virus definitions; in Norton, repeat “Live Update” until no more are available.

  10. Do Full Virus Scan; deal with any viruses.

  11. Using high speed internet connection if at all possible, run Windows Update repeatedly, until all available Critical Updates are installed.

  12. Run Scandisk on Standard [except on Windows 2000/NT—has no Scandisk].

  13. Run Defrag again.    If Norton SystemWorks is installed, the run “Optimize Registry” option in Norton Utilities  --Running Optimize Registry will also cause Speed Disk [Norton’s version of Defrag] to run, after restart, if needed.

  14. If Norton SystemWorks is installed, run One Button Check; run fixes.

  15. Run msconfig, or WSI [Windows Startup Inspector – tells you more about what programs on the startup list actually do], or Codestuff Starter, or Startup Mechanic; drop as many programs from startup list as possible.

  16. Run spyware program such as SpyBot or AdAware.

  17. Deal with any remaining error messages, warnings, functional problems with software and hardware [e.g., “expand registry”]; email s2services for help if need be.

Administrative Checklist (Last)

  1. Test each system -- fully assembled with all components, peripherals.

  2. Disassemble; box up loose components, peripherals.  Include surge protector, mouse pad if non-optical mouse, and ream of paper [free from Office Depot] with each printer.

  3. Type up Guidance to Recipients

  4. Deliver to recipient.  Set up the computer in its new location, do any necessary troubleshooting.

  5. Thank you [s]; inform donors where their computers ended up.

  6. Record transactions]

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