Buy used and refurbished business laptops. They are designed to be more durable and repairable than consumer models, and are typically discarded in good condition when companies upgrade en masse. Thinkpads are a good option. Don’t buy into the propaganda that says you need a new computer: Moore’s law is dead and almost all personal computing tasks can be done using a CPU from 2008. Learn to replace hard drives: it will lengthen the lifetime of your own computers, and you can buy units without hard drives much cheaper.
Use free and open-source software whenever possible. It doesn’t matter whether you personally want to make changes to the code: If the users as a group don’t have the ability to read and change the source code of a program, its developers can and will include malicious funtionality such as spying, DRM, lock-ins, forced upgrades, and everything else that makes software horrible.
You should do most of your day-to-day computing on a free, Unix-like operating system. It doesn’t really matter which one, but Linux Mint is probably the best option for newcomers. If you have to use Windows for something, you can dual-boot or use a dedicated physical or virtual machine.
Proprietary software as such is an injustice. You could take a very principled stand by refusing to ever use proprietary software. This is a very difficult path, but one I would commend you for. However, you may find yourself in a position where it is not the right choice for you. For example,
If your choice is between using proprietary software and dropping out of college, then you should probably hold your nose and use the software required of you.
If the only way to operate your computer is to run proprietary firmware, that may be preferable to getting another computer.
If you have to run proprietary software, you should take precautions in doing so. For instance, if you have to run Zoom, install the Flatpak in user mode in separate, dedicated account without access to your main user’s files.
You shouldn’t pay for proprietary software, since that perpetuates its existence.
Video games that run offline are typically not very dangerous.
Use Firefox for general web-browsing and Tor Browser for sensitive activity.
Block unwanted content on websites with addons like Ublock origin and Privacy Badger.
Avoid web-apps and cloud services where local programs and data will do. If you have to use online (dis)services, avoid giving them your personal information unnecessarily. Use fake personal info and throw-away or forwarding email addresses.
Use a feed-reader to follow sites and creators you like through RSS and atom feeds. Many popular websites offer RSS feeds, although
they usually don’t make them easy to find. For instance If you append
.rss to almost
any reddit link, it will be readable by a feed-reader. For instance if you enter the url
http://reddit.com/r/asktransgender.rss in a feed-reader, you’ll be able to subscribe
to the subreddit without a reddit account. Likewise, you can get an atom feed for a youtube
channel by appending the channel id after
https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=. The channel id is the end of
the url for a youtube channel. E.g. if you’re on the channel page at
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBa659QWEk1AI4Tg--mrJ2A, then the channel id is
UCBa659QWEk1AI4Tg--mrJ2A and the atom feed will be at
sites that don’t support RSS can have feeds generated through an rss-bridge instance.
Don’t visit corporate (anti)social media websites. If sites like Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. host user-generated content that you find valuable, use programs and websites that scrape content from those sites and present it to you in their own interface. For example, nitter.net will let you view tweets without visiting twitter.com. Piped and various Invidious instances will do the same for youtube videos. These options are better for privacy and also tend to offer a superior experience. You can use the Privacy Redirect addon to automatically redirect to those sites when you follow a link to a corporate social media site.
Cell phones are more accurately referred to as “personal tracking devices.” Similar to proprietary software, the most principled choice is to reject cell phones entirely. It’s very important that society does not make the use of cell phones mandatory. If someone assumes that you have a cell phone and asks you to use it for something that should not require a cell phone, you should tell them that you don’t have one, even if that’s a lie. For instance, if a restaurant asks you to view the menu on your phone, you should tell them you don’t have one and need a paper menu. This communicates to businesses that they can’t depend on every customer having a cell phone and helps make our society better for people who would be endangered by carrying a cell phone.
If you choose to use a cell phone, you should get one that can run a custom Android ROM, or PostmarketOS if you’re very brave. Google Pixels wth GrapheneOS are the most secure option available, but you may want your privacy lifestyle to not involve giving money to Google. Buying a second-hand Pixel is a good option; if you can’t find one, getting a new device that can run LineageOS is also acceptable.
If you want to keep your location private You should buy your phone and a prepaid sim card in cash. You should use data only and never use your true phone number for anything. If you have to make calls or texts over the phone network, use a VOIP service such as jmp.chat. You should set the phone to airplane mode, or ideally, keep it in a faraday pouch whenever you near your home. If your phone broadcasts its location while it’s in your home, your identity can be easily derived.
If you already have an Android phone that isn’t capable of running a custom ROM, you may not want to produce e-waste by getting a whole new phone. A best mitigating solution is to install F-Droid and disable Google play and all other proprietary applications that came pre-installed on the device.