15 Realistic Ways to Get a Cheap (or Free) Laptop

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Several organizations, including the government, offer ways to get a free laptop for college, work, or even just for personal use. Here's how to get one.

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Trying to find ways to get a free laptop might seem impossible. And there are many scams out there that promise a free computer in exchange for basic personal information.

But there are ways to get a free computer, or at least a deeply discounted one.

In most cases, status as a student or low-income household will increase your likelihood of getting a free laptop.

However, there are ways to score a free laptop regardless of your circumstances.

Here’s how to get a free laptop for college, work, or personal use.

Free Computers for Low-Income Families

Computers can help break the cycle of poverty, but a shocking number of families in the richest nation in the world go without one. These organizations empower low-income families with the technology they need to be engaged citizens in their communities and more competitive applicants in the labor market.

1. Freecycle.org

Freecycle homepage
Source: Freecycle

The Freecycle Network is a national organization with local chapters in almost every major city. Search for your city, join their group, and then start searching for free laptops or computers. Everything listed is free, but the selection will be limited.

Try to check multiple times a day since free computers will probably go fast. You can also get email notifications, but these may not include all the new offers.   

Related: Need Helping Paying Bills? Here’s How You Can Get Assistance Now

2. The On It Foundation

On It home page
Source: On It

The On It (Opportunities Necessary to Increase Technology) Foundation helps low-income families with elementary-age children by providing free computers, computer training, and internet access. Kids will qualify for the program if they qualify for free or reduced lunch at their public school.

There may be limited availability, but you can join the waiting list to be notified as soon as a computer is available.  

The organization is funded in part via its discounted computer program, which sells refurbished Microsoft computers starting at $99, including a warranty.

Related: 15 Places to Get a Free Car for Those in Need

3. Computers with Causes

Computers with Causes homepage
Source: Computers with Causes

Computers with Causes is a non-profit organization that provides free computers to people in need. You have to prove financial need, undergo a background check, and provide references to qualify. 

According to the website, veterans and those living in foster care are particularly good applicants for this program. The application is short and includes just a few questions. 

Related: 35 Legit Ways to Get Free Money When You Need It

4. Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse

Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse homepage
Source: Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse

The AFTRR is a network of non-profits associated with a broad educational mission. They refurbish and distribute computers as a low-cost or free service to those in need.

Because they partner with local groups, you have to find a local organization near you that participates in this group. You can find the nearest location online. Select the pin closest to you to find out more information on your local “Reuse Coordinator.”

5. EveryoneOn

EveryoneOn homepage
Source: EveryoneOn

EveryoneOn is a non-profit that supports social and economic development by helping communities access the internet. They help people find low-cost computers and low-cost or free internet.

To get started, punch in your ZIP Code and answer a few questions about your eligibility. This application process is fairly brief. According to their site, computers are approximately $150.

Attend a College with a Laptop Special Offer

Several reputable colleges and universities offer incentives to entice students to enroll with the promise of a free laptop.

It’s less common, but some schools also offer a zero-cost lease, which means they would request the laptop back at the time of graduation. Like leasing a car, you’d probably be offered a significant discount to purchase it outright.

Here are some well-known, high-ranked schools offering free computers for students.

6. Seton Hill

Location: Greensburg, PA
Tuition Cost: $37,396 per year
Reputation: Ranked #25 in Best Value Schools (Regional Universities North) by US News

A private Catholic school home to just 2,200 students, Seton Hill takes the savvy approach by utilizing technology in the classroom.

They provide all traditional undergraduates with a MacBook and iPad, which are integrated into the teaching curriculum across the campus.

Mobile integration is also practiced at Seton Hill. Apple’s website about The Mobile Learning @ The Hill has named the school an Apple Distinguished School 2017 through 2019, which signifies “educational excellence and leadership.”

A handful of graduate programs are also included:

  • All undergraduate students – MacBook Air
  • M.S. in Physician Assistant – MacBook Air 
  • M.A. in Art Therapy – MacBook Air
  • M.S. in Orthodontics – MacBook Air
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) – MacBook Air

7. Wake Forest

Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Tuition Cost: $57,760 per year
Reputation: Ranked #27 overall nationally by US News

Wake Forest is one of the top schools in the country and provides a free laptop if you receive need-based, academic, and athletic scholarships.

If you qualify for the financial aid package, you’d be eligible for a Technology Grant to pay for the standard “WakeWare laptop.” 

All other undergraduate students are eligible for a deeply-discounted laptop.

Related: How to Make Money in College with Limited Free Time

Colleges with Deeply Discounted Laptops

Many colleges offer discounts to their students. Here’s an in-depth look at some of these schools.

8. Southern New Hampshire University

Location: Manchester, NH
Tuition Cost: $31,136 per year
Reputation: Ranked #1 in Innovation nationally by US News

Southern New Hampshire University is a private and respected school of 3,000 undergraduates. SNHU is also a leader in online learning.

While this university doesn’t offer freebie computers, they have a partnership with both Dell and Apple. You can check those out on the manufacturer sites or at the SNHU electronics store.

9. Purdue University

Location: West Lafayette, IN
Tuition Cost: $9,992 (in-state); $28,794 (out-of-state) per year
Reputation: Ranked #57 overall nationally by US News

Purdue is a public university, founded in the mid-1800s. It’s known primarily as an engineering university.

Most students and some alumni can take advantage of negotiated rates for hardware, including laptops from Apple, Dell, and HP.

How to Find Free (or Cheap) Laptops around Town

Still wondering how to get a free laptop? You may have local places in your neighborhood that offer them for free or at an ultra-discounted rate.

10. Local Computer Shops

While this may involve physically going to view the inventory at a brick-and-mortar store, the deals you find could be worth it.

Try searching the term “buy recycled computers near me,” and you may be surprised by how many results you find for free laptops.

Here are some examples:

  • Laptop Liquidators
  • Computer Outlet Inc.
  • Mr. Computer Services
  • UpTech Computer

11. Green and Upcycling Initiatives

Free Geek home page
Source: Free Geek

The Center for Environmental Policy and Management runs a waste reduction and recycling program. In other areas, this type of non-profit may go by another name.

While these groups’ missions aren’t solely focused on computers, groups like this in your area might be. Also, city governments sometimes run upcycling programs where you can get a deeply discounted used laptop.

An example of a local program is the FreeGeek community initiative, which rewards volunteers who help refurbish with a free laptop.

12. Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace

Craigslist has a free section where people list items they don’t need anymore but don’t want to deal with selling.

People frequently offer free used computers just to get rid of them.

A quick search in Louisville and surrounding cities turned up the following from Facebook and Craigslist:

  • HP printer J610 series ($0)
  • Toshiba Touch Screen ($30)
  • Panasonic CF-T5 Laptops (3 for $25)
  • Acer Chrome Book 11 ($100)

Sites with Deeply Discounted Used and Refurbished Laptops

Here’s where to look for deals on like-new laptops at a great price:

13. eBay

ebay homepage
Source: eBay

While it’s almost impossible to find a working free laptop or computer on eBay, you can find used laptops quite easily.

Make sure you read through the item description carefully so you’re not buying a laptop that’s missing a charger or that has a low battery life. 

You can set alerts for new items by choosing [+] Follow This Search, so you’ll get notified of new listings.

14. Gazelle 

Gazelle homepage
Source: Gazelle

Gazelle buys used devices like iPhones, MacBooks, iPad, and more, and then refurbishes them to resell on their site. You can get an Amazon gift card as your payout method which you can then use toward a laptop.

Gazelle only sells MacBooks, so if you prefer PC laptops, you should search elsewhere.

Related: Gazelle Review: What You Need to Know Before Selling Your Phone

15. Buy a Chromebook

Chromebooks are a great alternative to a traditional laptop because they give you a lot of daily functionality for a great price. You can find Chromebooks for less than $200 on sites like TechRadar. 

You can also find refurbished Chromebooks from as low as $40 from Newegg.

Watch Out for Scams

As the mantra goes, when something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here are a few common online scams to look out for when searching for free laptops.

Sweepstakes or Giveaway Scams

Scammers will try anything to convince you that they’re legit.

Before entering a contest for a free laptop, find out:

  • What information are they asking for?
  • What do you have to do to enter (e.g. download a program that may have a virus)?
  • Who is sponsoring it?
  • How did you hear about the contest (junk mail or a pop-up)?
  • Is the link hosted by a reputable brand’s site or Facebook page or does it have a strange email address?

Related: 6 Common Work-from-Home Scams to Look Out For

Craigslist Scams

Craigslist can be a scammer’s paradise. 

Don’t give out your personal information. Instead, use the Craigslist email relay while communicating with potential sellers. Always use a public place where you’re visible to others, especially after dark.

Watch out for:

  • Anyone asking you to pay them before meeting
  • Weird language or broken English
  • Inflexibility about meeting location suggestions

Related: 14 Craigslist Alternatives to Buy and Sell Used Items

Getting a Free or Heavily-Discounted Laptop is Possible

In order to make good financial decisions, you’ll have to determine if the other costs are worth the free laptop.

Schools that offer free laptops are usually able to do so because their tuition is high. In other words, it’s a small cost to them to acquire a new student.

To be fair, it’s true that higher-priced schools often do offer attractive aid packages. This net price tool can help you understand if a private school may offer you a better overall deal than a state school with lower tuition.

If you do want to get a free laptop, there may be a few different ways. However, you have to be persistent and be willing to spend a few hours searching around.

Annette Miller

Newlywed coach with a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology + specialization in financial wellness for millennial couples. Boilermaker, former Air BnB Superhost, clumsy yogi, tech lover, aspiring whiskey snob, and Heath bar addict. Currently living in Bourbonland, USA (aka Louisville, KY) and tweeting @millerannette.

Cleavis Nowell
Cleavis Nowell

I had forgotten about Craigslist (will be checking them). None of the Goodwill computer stores appear to have re-opened yet.

Helen Clark
Helen Clark

Thank you. I became homeless recently and was staying in my car and then, of course, they impounded my car. And I am now staying in a friend’s camper on some land about 8 miles from town. So now I have no way to town to go to a job. Naturally, I am wanting to do a work-from-home job so I can get out of this situation, but I can’t afford a computer. So, thank you so much for this information! I really do appreciate it. Hope you have a beautiful day.

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