Free Geek is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed in Portland, Oregon in late 2000 to refurbish older computers and get them back into the community. People and companies donate computers to Free Geek, where the machines are dismantled, assessed, and rebuilt to run Linux. Any parts that don't work or are too old are disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner, with a donation requested to defray their disposal fees. Computers rebuilt at Free Geek go to local non-profit groups, individuals who cannot afford a computer and enroll in a Free Geek class, and Free Geek volunteers who have worked at least 24 hours assembling and testing computers.

Enough computers are being donated to allow Free Geek to build PCs with parts that are only 2-4 years old, with lesser machines going directly to the recycler. Old Apple Macintosh computers are refurbished in a similar manner by an offsite volunteer.

In 2002, Free Geek expanded their floor space and opened up a thrift store, where excess working parts are sold at rock-bottom prices. I was delighted to pay only US$1.00 for a working keyboard with that antiquated DIN connector used on older PCs. They have plenty of tower computers, decent accessories, and laptop cases, too. Laptop computers are still relatively rare, but that should hopefully change once laptop-crazy Americans start donating their old laptops as they upgrade.

Portlanders are encouraged to get involved with this truly decent organization, but hardware-savvy out-of-towners would probably be welcomed as well. As of 2008, Free Geek is still located in its original southeast Portland address at 1731 SE 10th Avenue, ZIP code 97214.