Laptops With a Purpose | Steve’s Story


“Over the past few years, one of my odd but enjoyable hobbies has been receiving donated laptops, fixing them up, upgrading them, and donating them to refugee families. These families often either lack computers or do not have enough computers for the number of users in their household.

For the past several years, DeKalb County middle and high school students have needed a laptop computer in order to complete their homework and reading, much of which is assigned online. However, starting last year, the schools have offered ChromeBooks (inexpensive laptops running Google’s suite of applications) for just $20 insurance fee per student. Something helpful you could do at the start of any school year is help some of our refugee students complete the paperwork (some families may also need help with the fee).

Regular laptops are still very important for adults (e.g., to apply for jobs) and for college students (there are many refugee students enrolled at Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus and the adjacent Georgia Piedmont Technical College). If you donate a laptop, the following are nice steps to take:

  • Definitely:
    • Using a lightly moistened cloth (just water), wipe down the laptop and keyboard, and blow out the keyboard with compressed air (cans of compressed air can be picked up at office supply stores for a few dollars).
    • Reformat the hard drive (to protect your sensitive data) and reinstall the operating system.
      • I’m happy to help you with this step if needed.
    • Include a laptop bag if you have one (or are willing to grab one at Amazon for $20 – definitely get one with a shoulder strap)
  • If needed (and you have experience):
    • Increase the RAM (can be done for well under $100 on most laptops)
    • Replace the hard drive with a solid state drive (Crucial’s MX500 250GB is only $53 and will speed up the laptop enough to make it feel like a new, modern machine and will likely increase its longevity).
    • Add a new Amazon optical mouse ($6).

I fix up to 5-10 laptops per year and would happily consider fixing yours up for a refugee family if you have one you would like to donate. Any donated laptops should be from 2012 or later with a working screen. If you have one to donate, contact me at with a photo of the area on the bottom of the laptop that gives it’s make/model/serial number and I’ll respond promptly with whether it’s a good candidate for donation.”

Steve Heckler


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