The pandemic has caused a ton of disruptions in our daily lives. Millions are unemployed, public schools are going remote, and distance education at colleges and universities is now the norm.
Changes to our schedules have caused more than a headache with childcare or work schedules. They’ve also caused a huge need for access to technology, especially in low-income households. Kids need to do schoolwork online, and it’s tough to do that without a functioning device. Parents need access, too, and not all of them can afford it.
If you or your family need a new laptop but can’t buy one, don’t panic. There are tons of organizations out there that focus on filling in the tech gaps for homes in need. Here are 10 different options for securing a free computer, along with information on the requirements you’ll need to meet to qualify.
1. Check out your local library
Your local library may have partnered with a tech company or businesses in your area to help provide low-cost or free laptops to people in need. You may also be able to qualify for disability grants that some libraries offer. These programs vary from place to place, but in general, you’ll have to prove a need and meet the program’s requirements to qualify.
The best way to take advantage of these programs is to call around to your local libraries and find out what, if anything, they offer. They’ll give you all of the information on any programs and requirements in place to qualify.
It’s also important to note that some libraries will let you check out laptops or other devices, too. If you’re in a pinch, check to see if your local library offers this service. It could help you get through while you look into other options.
2. Attend an online public school
Online public schools have given out millions of laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks to students in the past year. As more schools go fully online due to the pandemic, those numbers will only grow. It’s not uncommon for school districts to issue computers or tablets to students who need them. Your children have to be enrolled in a public school to take advantage of this, though.
There are tons of different options available for enrolling in a public online school. Your best bet is to search based on your state or location and see what’s available. You can also inquire with the district you’re currently enrolled in about whether or not there are devices available to you — especially if you’re doing remote learning due to the pandemic.
3. Attend an online college
Thinking about enrolling in a college to advance your education? If you enroll in an online college, you may be given a free laptop as part of your enrollment. Considering that many higher ed and community colleges are distance or remote only right now, this perk could work to your advantage.
There are a ton of different schools that give away free laptops to new students. A quick search will give you more information, but Seton Hill University and St. John’s University are two options. You will, of course, have to pay for your tuition and books, but if you’re a low-income student, you may qualify for grants or low-cost loans to help out. And that new, free laptop will help you out, too.
4. Apply for a free laptop with the organization With Causes
If you need a new laptop, check out With Causes. This nonprofit organization focuses on giving laptops, computers, and other devices to families in need. The application process is simple, and With Causes volunteers review each help request, case by case, to determine whether they can be of assistance.
You’ll have to apply to take advantage of what they offer, but it’s pretty easy to do. Just fill out the application and explain your situation and your needs. Give them your contact information, and you’ll get a response from the organization once they’ve reviewed your file.
To apply, visit https://www.withcauses.org/askforhelp.htm.
5. Computers with Causes is another good nonprofit option
Another nonprofit organization you should look into is Computers with Causes. This organization provides refurbished computers at no cost to those with financial need. Students and returning military veterans can also qualify through this organization.
This organization does a needs assessment and a background and reference check — so you will have to give them some information to get approved. After your application is submitted, the Board of Directors will review the information provided and then review their inventory. If they can assist you, you will be contacted within 30 days.
To apply, visit https://www.computerswithcauses.org/application.htm.
6. Low income families can apply with Everyone On
If you qualify as low income, check into the nonprofit organization Everyone On. This group helps people on a low income to get complimentary or low-cost laptops and low-cost internet service.
This organization works with many different businesses and ISPs to help get access and tech to low-income families, so requirements will vary based on the program. The programs you qualify for will also vary, so you’ll need to check out the Everyone On website for more information.
To learn more or apply, visit https://www.everyoneon.org/lowcost-offers
7. National Cristina Foundation gives out laptops to people in need, too
National Cristina Foundation is another nonprofit group that works to get laptops to people in need. This group “works to promote technology reuse by educating businesses and the public that technology resources coming out of their first place of use can be given a second productive life for developing human potential.”
In other words, businesses can donate their used tech devices to this foundation. Once they’re spruced up, the foundation gives them to the people who need them most. This foundation works in communities rather than with individuals, so the requirements will vary.
For more information, visit National Cristina Foundation at donatetechnology.org/.
8. Also look into The On It Foundation
Do you have a student in your home who’s enrolled in public K-12 education in the U.S.? Do they get free or reduced lunch (or qualify for it)? If so, you can get a free computer from the On It Foundation.
The awesome thing about this foundation is that they also serve people who don’t qualify via the Jump On It! Program. The one caveat is that you’ll have to pay a discounted amount for the computer you get. Still, this foundation could be a good option for resolving your computer issues even at a heavily discounted price.
You can visit the FAQ page to learn how to apply for a free laptop at https://theonitfoundation.org/faqs/.
9. PCs for People provides computers and low cost internet if you’re eligible
Another nonprofit is PCs for People, which provides computers and low-cost internet to eligible recipients. This organization is a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher as well, so the computers it offers also come with licensed copies of Windows 10.
Want to apply? You’ll need to be below the 200% poverty level or enrolled in an income-based government assistance program to be eligible. Once you’re approved, you can shop on the website or in-store for your new computer, but you’ll need to show a photo ID and proof of eligibility.
To find out if you’re eligible or to apply, visit https://www.pcsforpeople.org/eligibility/.
10. Check out Freecycle
Have you heard of Freecycle? It’s a site where you can find free stuff in your area. Hit it at the right time and you may get lucky and find a laptop.
This website is meant to help people upcycle rather than throw away usable items, so make sure you check it out if you aren’t eligible for the other programs on this list. As a bonus, Freecycle even lets you put in requests for laptops, so you can do that if you aren’t finding what you need.
For more information, visit the Freecycle website.
Bonus: Where to find highly-discounted laptops
There are tons of other places to find highly-discounted laptops if you don’t qualify for the programs above. Check eBay or Craigslist for cheap computers. People like to unload their old tech gadgets on these sites, so make sure you check them out to see what you can find.
Amazon is another solid spot to check. The site recently started offering “Renewed” products — or, in other words, refurbished — so if you need a new laptop but can’t get one for free, check out what they’re offering.
Sites like Rakuten and other discount or coupon sites can help you save a ton on a new device as well. Dell also sells refurbished laptops, so that’s another option to look into. And, as we mentioned above, the Jump On It! program is another great way to find a laptop for a low price. Those laptops start as low as $99, and you can even put them on layaway if you need to.