- Get Started – Just show up for an Orientation on Saturdays at 2pm to find out about us, and what you can do.
- Adoption – Work 24 hours and you will get a credit that will allow you to get a computer, CRT display and the keyboard, mouse and power cables. This system runs Linux and is ready to surf the net, do word processing, spreadsheets, and many other functions with Open Source Software.
- Build – Depending on your drive and understanding of technology you can get to the build group fairly quickly, your first builds will be supervised until you have improved your understanding and skills to build on your own. Building is not a process to start with, you must either work through our others areas to understand the computers components, or prove you have prior understanding of computers. Your first builds will only be done when a volunteer mentor can work with you to build. We can only accommodate a few new builders on certain days, so you will want to get there early and be prepared to do something else if we do not have enough mentors. We are always looking for people to commit to mentoring others, please contact a staff volunteer to learn more.
- Internship – we have not a dedicated internship, but are open to consider sponsorship if we can find the right goals.
What you get: You get to help the environment, help organizations that get grants, help individuals who purchase the very affordable systems and parts, you get to learn about computers, and you get a chance to meet others who are doing the same.
Who can volunteer? Do I need to know about computers?
Anyone who wants to volunteer time at Free Geek and can make it to our facility is welcome. No computer experience is required. Our facility is mostly accessible, and we welcome people with different abilities. People under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult who will work alongside him/her. You will start by learning the parts of the computer in our tear down and recycle room, which gives you valuable insight to how computers and other electronics are assembled.
Is this where you can get a free computer?
Yes, in order to learn more about how to get a free computer as a volunteer, please come by and take a tour (2 pm on Saturdays) so we can answer any questions and get you signed up for the program. Not-for-profit organizations may get free computers through our Community Grants program.
What kind of computer is it? Can I play games?
It’s a PC built from used equipment that has been donated to the recycling center and running the Ubuntu Linux operating system and other Free and Open Source Software. These PCs come loaded with a bunch of software.
The short answer for playing games is “no, not really,” but if a person has the patience and some degree of computer expertise (and is willing to purchase, on their own, more memory and a better graphics card), there is a way to play certain Windows-specific games on a PC (i.e. World of Warcraft). However, there are about twenty games which come pre-installed on your PC, and web-based games work well under Ubuntu.
Can I get a Laptop or Mac?
While we are not able to give these items away through any of our volunteer programs, we occasionally have these items for sale in the Thrift Store.
Do I get to build my own computer?
If you don’t need a computer right away and are interested in learning how to build computers, you may want to join the Build Program. Otherwise, it is and faster for you to go through the Adoption Program. The computers are all built to the same specifications, so you’re not missing out, equipment-wise.
How do I sign up?
There are volunteer orientation tours Saturdays at 2 PM. No appointment is necessary, just show up a few minutes before the tour and check in at the reception desk. The tour takes between a half-hour to 45 minutes and will show you how our different programs work. At the end of the tour you will have an opportunity to sign-up for one of our programs and schedule your first volunteer shift. Just a note, that many of the tasks at Free Geek involve working with stuff that can get messy, InkJet Printers, Dust, Grease can make a mess of clothing, so wear something appropriate and comfortable.
What do volunteers do at Free Geek?
- Volunteers in the Adoption Program perform the following tasks:
- Receiving: helping donors unload, sorting through boxes of stuff, dispersing donated stuff throughout the building
- Recycling: disassembling computers, printers, and other electronics bound for raw material recycling
- Other: Cleaning, Data Entry, Monitor Testing (heavy lifting)
- In the Build Program, we’ll teach you how to build computers. We will teach you the process, including hardware identification, system evaluation, troubleshooting, and assembly. You can earn a computer after 24 hours of vounteering time.
- Beyond that, Mentors, Marketers, Course Development, and many other opportunities exist.
I don’t have time to volunteer. Can I just buy a computer?
Sure! The Thrift Store frequently has a variety of computers for purchase. Plus parts like LCD Displays, Video Cards, blank Hard Drives, Cables, and other parts that still have some use.
Can we put our hours together in order to earn our computer faster?
Yes, you may combine your hours. Please keep in mind that it’s one computer per person, so if you have three people adding their hours together, they may earn up to three computers.
I notice that you guys keep upgrading the specs of your PC. Can I trade mine in for a newer one?
Not exactly. Our policy is that a Free Geek volunteer may earn one PC per person, in exchange for 24 hours of service.
Does Free Geek accommodate handicapped volunteers?
Our facility is mostly handicapped-accessible, and we are sensitive to and can work with people with different abilities.
How about volunteers who don’t speak English?
While there are some folks on staff who speak other languages, they are not always around to translate. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources yet to accommodate non-English speakers (or people who have significant difficulty understanding or speaking English) without translators. Volunteers are welcome, though, if they can bring a translator with them when they volunteer and when they take the class or call for tech support.
Can kids volunteer?
Kids can earn a computer from Free Geek just like anyone else – it’s just that they have to have an adult with them while volunteering if they are under 16.
Do I get a printer with the PC?
Unfortunately, we can’t refurbish enough good, working printers to be able to give one away with each PC. However, if you’re a current volunteer, you may buy a printer from our Thrift Store.
I’ve never used Linux before and I hear it’s hard to use.
While this is a common misconception and Linux can be very easy to use, with theAdoption Program, Free Geek offers help in how to use and personalize the computer you earn. Free Geek also hopes to offer a series of in-depth classes about each OpenOffice.org program (Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation) AND a class which allows you to find out a little more about how to do what you want to do with your computer (“Super Adopter” class). Additionally, as an incentive to keep using Linux, Free Geek offers a year of free tech support for all volunteers who keep Linux on their PCs.
I live in Eastern Oregon/Missouri/Liberia/Mankato, and I can’t come in to earn a computer. How can I get one?
The bad news: we’re not there (yet.) The good news: we DO have affiliates in numerous other places. Check our website for other locations. If there’s no Free Geek in your area, try using http://www.google.com/ and searching for the name of your town and “free computer”. You also might want to search for “Linux Users Group” as many Linux users like to help people set stuff up cheaply.
What do you take?
We take all kinds of computer and computer-related equipment, working or not. This includes printers, scanners and gaming devices. We also accept other consumer electronics, such as fax machines, telephones, audio and video equipment, small appliances. Basically we want to keep these electronic items that far too often are considered disposable from the trash.
For more about what we take, visit our Donate page.
Do you want the software and documentation that came with this stuff?
Not really, since we install Free Software on the computers we give away, the proprietary software isn’t all that useful. You can recycle the paper with your curbside recycling. We will take the old software disks and and old floppy disks and recycle them.
Exceptions: Old video game software (original boxes are sweet!).
What don’t you take?
We do not accept:
- smoke detectors
- fluorescent light bulbs
Well, where do I send that stuff?
Minnesota has state and county programs, as well as many local cities can refer you to the method to recycle or dispose of other materials. Smoke detectors can usually be sent back to the manufacturer (they frequently contain small amounts of radioactive material). There are also a couple of places locally that will take photocopiers and large printers: Google, Metro, or the Yellow Pages can be great resources in this case. Batteries can generally go to Battery Exchange.
What do you do with the stuff that gets donated?
Free Geek strives to reuse as much as possible. Computer equipment that we can reuse is given to those in our Adoption and Build Programs, local not-for-profits through our Community Grants Program, or sold in our Thrift Store. We reuse ~35% of our systems, monitors, and printers this way.
Computers and other electronics that are deemed obsolete or broken are disassembled and separated into their basic components. Free Geek then finds a local industrial recycler to process the materials. Free Geek chooses recyclers that we’re sure process our materials in an environmentally responsible way.
What do you do with hard drives? Is the data on my hard drive safe with Free Geek?
At Free Geek we take the utmost care to ensure complete data destruction of all user data that is donated to us. Hard drives that meet our specifications for reuse are removed from their systems and wiped in our hard drive sanitation banks. The process we use is Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) for data destruction. DBAN overwrites sectors of the hard drive 3 times using a destructive write which ensures that ALL data on the drive is completely destroyed and totally unrecoverable. Hard drives that are below our specifications for reuse are physically destroyed on site.
Magnetic media such as floppy disks and backup tapes are disassembled in our recycling area and the plastic components are shredded by our plastics recycling vendor. Optical media such as cd-rw discs are physically destroyed as soon as we receive them.
What’s with the prices for the donating other stuff? I’m donating it to you, isn’t that enough?
Those numbers are suggested donations you can make along with your donation of equipment in order to show support for our community-benefiting programs and to help us pay rent, utilities, salaries, etc. They are not required, but are certainly appreciated.
Can I buy other stuff?
Why, yes you can. Our Thrift Store has computers, monitors, printers, networking equipment, stereos and more. We also stock all the computer parts you’ll need to work on your computers — or build one from scratch!
Can I buy X other item?
Everything that’s for sale at Free Geek is located in our Thrift Store, so you’ll have to ask there. Please do not ask us to search for a specific gizmo, as we cannot accommodate such requests. If your gizmo is available for sale, you will only find it in the Thrift Store.
But what about that cool gizmo I saw in your receiving area? No one else wants it — can I buy it?
If we opened up our sales policy to include everything at Free Geek, volunteers, donors, store customers, and staff would rifle through everything at Free Geek constantly! And we need to stay on-task so we can save the world from a deluge of techno-detritus.
For this reason, we limit our sales area to the Thrift Store. It is not ok to pick up an item from the non-store section of Free Geek and carry it over to the store. The stock in the store is variable, as it depends on our donation stream, so we can’t guarantee that we have any given thing (though some are more consistently stocked than others).
Can I trade my computer/VCR/stereo for some other gizmo?
Sorry, but there is no trading of equipment or hardware. The only trade we deal in is 24 hours of volunteer time in exchange for a computer (in our Adoption Program). If you’re looking for something other than a computer, you should check out the low, low prices in our Thrift Store.
How long has Free Geek been around, and how did it start?
Free Geek Twin Cities started sometime about 2007, and continues to grow and define itself within the image of the Mother Ship in Portland.
Hours, address, and bus lines
Hours: 12 pm – 5 pm Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays (we are open for dropping of donations or buying things on Thursday and Fridays). Address: 2537 25th Ave S, just West of Memory Lanes bowling Ave in the Seward neighborhood. A map of our location is available on our front page
But really, if you want more complete info, with links, a map, and more, check out our Directions page.
How can I get a computer (or other hardware) for my church/non-profit/revolutionary sewing circle?
Through our Grant Program. Free Geek donates many computers and peripherals to local non-profits and some other organizations. Please note that we do not grant hardware to individuals.
I can’t volunteer my time but I’d like to help Free Geek – what can I do?
Spread the word about Free Geek and Open Source Software. If you don’t live in the Twin Cities Metro area, find out if there’s a nascent Free Geek in your area. We will always accept monetary donations – perhaps your employer will make a matching donation!
Are you hiring?
No. Everything we do is done by volunteers.
How do you make your money?
We primarily earn money from cash donations, recycling income, and sales in the Thrift Store. Unlike most non-profits, Free Geek is financially self-sufficient and only seeks out grant money for extra projects.
Can we get someone to make a presentation on Free Geek at our fair/organization?
It’s certainly possible! Let us know about the event (time, date, how many people, what the audience is interested in, your contact info) on this page.
Do you have Linux classes?
Not exactly. You can get started on the technical end of learning Linux via the Build Program, where you’ll learn basic command line and a bit about how the operating system interacts with the hardware. But we don’t yet have a general-purpose Linux intro.
We are looking for people who want to develop and instruct classes on Open Source Software