How to Get a Free Laptop (From Colleges, the Government, and More)
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Wondering if an article titled, “How to Get a Free Laptop” is too good to be true?
There are ways to avoid scams and 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 securing this freebie.
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 even for personal use.
Free Computers for Low-Income Families
Computers are vital to escape the cycle of poverty, but a shocking number of families in the richest nation in the world go without one.
These heartening organizations support the mission of empowering low-income families with the technology they need to be engaged citizens in their communities and more competitive applicants in the labor market.
Benefits.gov is a site designed to connect citizens with government assistance. This includes free computers but also encompasses information from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often referred to as “food stamps”), job training, and Medicaid.
To learn more, you can use their benefits lookup tool.
2. The On It Foundation
The On It (Opportunities Necessary to Increase Technology) Foundation helps low-income families with elementary-age students by providing free computers, computer training, and internet access. Kids will qualify for the program if they qualify for free or reduced lunches at their public school.
The organization is funded in part via their discounted computer program, which sells refurbished Microsoft computers starting at $99, including a warranty.
3. Computers with Causes
Computers with Causes is a non-profit organization that contributes to institutional programs and individuals with “nowhere else to turn.”
According to their website, you’re a particularly good applicant for this program if you’re a veteran or head of a foster home. The application is just a few questions. They select applicants using a thorough assessment of needs, background checks, and reference calls.
4. Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse
The ATRR 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.
With locations across the US, you can find the nearest location to you online. Select the pin closest to you to find out more information on your local “Reuse Coordinator.”
Because they are a conglomerate of individual non-profits, their site says “member organizations vary widely in size, organizational model, populations served, staffing, and related resources.”
EveryoneOn is a non-profit on a mission to support social and economic development by helping communities access the internet. By 2020, they project to help over 1 million people find low-cost computers and/or get online.
Punch in your ZIP Code and answer a few questions about your eligibility. This application process is brief compared to some organizations on this list.
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 and, thus, pay tuition.
One such incentive is a free laptop, which can be surprisingly valuable if you’re prepared for the real cost involved: tuition, registration, and books for the duration of the program.
It’s less common, but some schools offer a zero-cost lease instead of a giveaway option, which means they would request the laptop back at the time of graduation. But, like leasing a car, you’d probably be offered a huge 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: $35,000 per year
Reputation: Ranked #25 in Best Value Schools 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:
- M.S. in Physician Assistant — MacBook & iPad
- M.A. in Art Therapy — MacBook
- M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy — iPad
- M.S. in Orthodontics — iPad
7. Wake Forest
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Tuition Cost: $51,400 per year
Reputation: Ranked #27 overall nationally by US News
Wake Forest is one of the top schools in the country. So, step #1: get accepted.
This famous university was founded privately in 1834. Like other schools on the list, it boasts an intimate enrollment of fewer than 5,000 students. Although this university is exclusive and costly, you may qualify for a scholarship if you’re accepted.
To score a free laptop here, you’ll need to be the recipient of aid from the university. 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.
Colleges with Deeply Discounted Laptops
Many colleges offer discounts to their students. Here’s an in-depth look at some of these colleges:
8. Southern New Hampshire University
Location: Manchester, NH
Tuition Cost: $31,000 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, as you can see in their program catalog.
They take great pride in their empowerment of student creativity. Giving students access to good technology is just a part of that philosophy. They’ve proven their commitment to keeping education affordable by freezing tuition rates and giving generous financial aid packages.
While they don’t offer a freebie computer, 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: $10,002 (in-state); $28,804 (out-of-state) per year
Reputation: Ranked #56 overall nationally by US News
Purdue is a public university, founded in the mid-1800s under the Federal Land Grant Act by President Lincoln; the land was donated by John Purdue, a local business magnate. Orville Redenbacher, Neil Armstrong, Drew Brees, and Amelia Earhart all attended Purdue.
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 pass places regularly that offer them at an ultra-discounted rate in your own town.
10. Local Computer Shops
While this may involve taking a hike to check out 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 with how many results you find for free laptops. Here are some examples: Laptop Liquidators, Computer Outlet Inc., Mr. Computer Services, and UpTech Computer.
11. Green and Upcycling Initiatives
The Center for Environmental Policy and Management runs a waste reduction and recycling program. Similarly, Louisville has a Sustainability Council, but 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.
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
If you’ve spent more than 10 minutes on Craigslist, you’ve probably come across the free section. Sometimes you strike gold, finding things you can flip and make a few bucks. Other times, it’s all junk.
With that said, people frequently offer free used computers just to get rid of them.
A quick search in Louisville and surrounding cities turned up the following for more-than-fair prices between Facebook and Craigslist:
- HP printer J610 series ($0)
- Toshiba Touch Screen ($30)
- Panasonic CF-T5 Laptops (3 for $25)
- Acer Chrome Book 11 ($100)
Related: 35 Legit Ways to Get Free Money
Sites with Deeply Discounted Used and Refurbished Laptops
Here’s where to look for deals on like-new laptops at a great price:
eBay is hit-or-miss with free laptops. You can set alerts for new items by choosing [+] Follow This Search, so staying on top of new listings is a good bet.
Be sure to distinguish your search so you get the right result. For example, you’ll often get results for “free computer shipping” unless you specify “free computer.”
Gazelle buys your used devices like iPhones, MacBooks, iPads and more, then refurbishes them for reselling on their site. You can get an Amazon gift card as your payout method to use toward a laptop.
You’ll primarily find MacBooks on Gazelle rather than PC laptops, but their inventory continuously grows.
Chromebooks are a great alternative to a traditional laptop because they give you a lot of daily functionality for a great price. TechRadar has a great list of current deals. Most are under $200.
Newegg is a great resource for refurbished Chromebooks from as low as $40.
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.
Be critical of contests:
- 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)?
- Is the link hosted by a reputable brand’s site or Facebook page (e.g. ending in a strange address like kodak.cn)?
Craigslist can be a scammer’s paradise. There are also a lot of great people like you, just trying to unload their old stuff so they have more cash in their pocket!
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.
Be alert to:
- Anyone asking you to pay them before meeting
- Weird language or broken English
- Inflexibility about meeting location suggestions
The Costs Behind “Free”
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.
On the other hand, going into debt $10,000, $100,000, or more just to get a “free” laptop wouldn’t make sense. For context, the average amount of student loan debt in the US is $37,172. That’s the equivalent of roughly 30 laptops.
Please give due consideration to the very real and lasting decisions of selecting a college and their total financial aid package.
Getting a Free (or Heavily Discounted) Laptop Is Possible
In summary, here are the ways you can get a free or extremely cheap laptop:
Select Colleges. The top pick for the best value for a free or seriously discounted computer was Southern New Hampshire University. Given their reasonable tuition, the range of their online programs, and the reputation of the school, this college is an excellent option.
Uncle Sam and Non-Profits. Qualifiers apply for government programs, so check to see if you meet the criteria for benefits in your area. A wide variety of non-profit programs also help low-income families procure free laptops and, in some cases, discounted internet.
Around Town. It wouldn’t be out of place for an ecologically-minded mission (i.e. recycling and upcycling programs) to deal in used computers at drastically discounted rates. Your city government, local colleges, computer clubs, local computer stores, or online marketplaces may also have used computers for sale.
Online and Refurbished. Gazelle, eBay, and the Chromebooks store are affordable ways to get a very cheap computer.
Hidden Costs and Scam Cautions. Remember to give very careful consideration to the lasting decisions of selecting a college and total financial aid package. You can’t wipe out student loans in bankruptcy, and your payments might shock you with how much of your paycheck they’ll eat up when you graduate.
Also, remember to be alert to scams! Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, and online sweepstakes campaigns can all introduce deals that seem legit, but most definitely are not.
Please Recycle! If you’re ready to give up an old laptop, please don’t put it in the trash. Recycling programs like these, courtesy of the EPA, are all around you and help keep our communities safe and clean.