/ Technology

Poor old desktop PC, sitting unloved in a dusty corner

Dusty computer keyboard

Man cannot live by iPad alone. Laptops, tablets and smartphones may be leaving PCs gathering dust in the corner, but is there still a place in your life – and living room – for a desktop PC?

My old PC has been sitting in a corner at my parents’ house for years. Last year my dad bought an iPad which lets him email and web browse with speed and ease, leaving my old PC gathering dust.

But after spending two hours on Easter Monday trying to upload a photo from my dad’s iPad onto a non-iPad optimised webpage, we conceded that we’d have to fire up the old computer. The final ‘photo upload’ hurdle proved insurmountable for his iPad.

So it seems you can’t put all of your (chocolate) eggs in one (iPad) basket. Now I know my dad’ll be reluctant to chuck out the old workstation without having a desktop replacement.

Replacing your desktop PC with a laptop or tablet

However, with laptops becoming ever more powerful and with plenty of cloud storage options available, the case for having a PC sitting around at home is becoming less convincing. This is backed up by our latest survey, where nine in 10 laptop owners told us they mostly use their laptop at home.

However, there are still lots of desktop machines out there. Of the people who responded to our computer reliability survey last year, 69% said they owned a desktop or all-in-one – 2% more than owned a laptop. But how many of those are being neglected in favour of laptops and tablets? Quite a few I imagine, given that 28% of PC owners bought theirs before 2007.

Which leaves me wondering whether the majority of PCs are sitting neglected in the corners of bedrooms, home offices and living rooms, watching the walls and gathering dust. Or are there some times you just couldn’t be without your home PC?


I use a laptop most of the time, but my desktop computer (iMac) certainly has its uses. It’s used for financial records and other documents that I am not going to use outside the house and as a repository for old files that are taking up unnecessary space on my laptop. It is invaluable when I am producing a document and need to consult websites and other documents, so I can read and write at the same time.

I have an older iMac that gets taken to events attended by a charity, to display slideshows. It has a big bright display and is ideal for the purpose. There’s no need for a keyboard, just the computer, power lead and mouse.

I have an even older (2002) iMac, also an all-in-one desktop computer, that lives in a cupboard and comes out when I need to find an old photograph. I really should transfer them, but they are nicely organised and I have not managed to work out how to transfer the images, keep the structure and avoid changing dates.

Another reason I hold on to old computers is that some software does not run on newer operating systems or hardware. For example, I have numerous files produced in Freehand that I may need to open and tweak. If it’s something I know I will use regularly I will spend time on doing a conversion to current software and correct the inevitable problems, but it’s usually much easier to go back to the old computer.

I go back to the old computers if I want to see emails before 2009. That does not happen often but can be invaluable.


I’m sitting here 2 desktops up and running and not a laptop or tablet in sight.


How many have Which? Conversation up on them? 😉


Just one, but not all the time.


I got rid of my desktop very recently, and I can’t say I miss it! I just removed the hard drive and then put it up on freecycle. The guy who came to pick it up was delighted, so I can assure you that even if some people no longer use them, there are lots of people who would be really pleased to have even a simple old desktop like mine (I think it was about 7 years old!). The main reason I’d taken so long to get rid of it is that I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I was really pleased to find a way to dispose of it without just throwing it out.

stanley says:
5 April 2013

I have an old desktop also printer I tried giving them to a charity they did not want them.
I removed the hard drive. It worked perfectly. Can you please tell me what is freecycle?

PaulA says:
5 April 2013


To check there is the facility in your area.


The reason that most charities do not accept electrical goods is because they have a responsibility to make sure that they are electrically safe. I have a friend who works for a charity doing this work (PAT testing) and has to reject quite a lot of donations because they are dangerous, even if they could be fixed by fitting new cables or attending to other problems.

A charity is probably not going to be interested in having a computer without a hard drive, so Freecycle or similar is probably the best option.