Free Geek

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Free Geek
Founded 2000
Type 501(c)3
Focus Computer reuse and education
700–800 active
Slogan Helping the needy get nerdy since the beginning of the third millennium

Free Geek is a non-profit organization started in Portland, Oregon in 2000. Free Geek has two central goals: to reuse or recycle used computer equipment that might otherwise become hazardous waste,[1] and to make computer technology more accessible to those who lack financial means or technical knowledge.[2][3]

Free Geek's refurbished computers are either granted to schools, churches, non-profit or community change organizations, given to volunteers, or sold in Free Geek's thrift store.


Entrance to the Portland Free Geek during Geek Fair

Free Geek offers a wide range of free classes to its volunteers and to the general public. These classes generally fall into a few major categories including basic computer use, advanced computer courses, digital arts creation, digital nativity/online safety, and workplace readiness. Free Geek also offers phone and drop-in technical support on specific days of the week for the computers it produces.


People who wish to volunteer at Free Geek's community technology center usually choose between two programs: the Build Program and the Adoption Program. The Adoption Program allows volunteers to get to work immediately on relatively simple tasks, such as keeping incoming equipment organized or sorting metals and plastics. In the Build Program, volunteers learn while they work, and are trained to build refurbished computers. Volunteers completing the Adoption Program are given a computer after 24 hours of volunteering[4] while the Build Program volunteers get to keep the sixth computer they build.[5]

Portland Free Geek's computer build training lab

Free Geek has numerous other programs, which are generally run by interns, longer-serving volunteers and staff members. A few examples: The Hardware Grants program reviews requests for computer equipment from schools, churches, non-profit and community change organizations. The Reuse program works to ensure that reuse is prioritized over recycling, and finds new ways to get equipment into the hands of people who will put it to use. The Technocrats oversee the network infrastructure of the organization.

Free software[edit]

Free Geek's refurbished computers run Linux Mint (originally standard Ubuntu) and other free and open-source software. The use of free software has several major benefits to the organization, and to the recipients of equipment: Free Geek operates without needing to devote resources to managing software licenses, and may install software where it is needed with minimal complications from legal considerations; and computer recipients get a wide range of software, which they may easily expand without paying money or entering into restrictive contracts.

Free Geek was the joint winner of the first Chris Nicol FOSS Prize awarded by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in 2007.[6]


Free Geek penguin mascot and banner at Free Geek Vancouver

In addition to Portland, a number of other cities have started their own Free Geek organizations.[7]

  • Portland, OR ("the Mothership")
  • Fayetteville, AR
  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH (Now closed[8])
  • Vancouver, BC
  • Seattle, WA
  • Murfreesboro, TN (Born Again Technologies, no longer recycling)
  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN
  • Toronto, ON
  • Providence, RI
  • Ferndale, MI (Greater Detroit area) (Now closed)
  • Ephrata, PA (South East Pennsylvania)
  • Athens, GA (Free I.T. Athens)
  • Oslo, Norway

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Forsyth, Pete (2006). "Oregon non-profit attacks e-waste at its source". Earth First! Journal. 
  2. ^ MacKinnon, Merry (March 2006). "Computer nerds, and proud of it". Lifestyles Northwest. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  3. ^ Forsyth, Pete (May 4, 2001). "Free software, older computers help group narrow digital divide". The Portland Tribune. 
  4. ^ Free Geek Adoption Program, Free Geek Website
  5. ^ Free Geek Build Program, Free Geek Website
  6. ^ "Free Geek has been keeping the needy nerdy for seven full years". APCNews. 
  7. ^ Free Geek Intergalactic
  8. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°30′37.27″N 122°39′21.63″W / 45.5103528°N 122.6560083°W / 45.5103528; -122.6560083