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How to dispose of an old computer

Old Computers

Computers don't last forever, so most people need to know how to dispose of old computers at some point. Thanks to their heavy metal content, it's illegal to dump them at landfill sites; instead, they must be recycled. Added to that is the need to delete sensitive information, such as identity data, passwords, software license keys, financial information, and tax returns to protect your identity. Here's how to safely dispose of an old computer.

Back up computer files

The first step is to back up files and data so they can be transferred to the new PC. There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Buying an external hard drive and copying information to the new drive
  • Using software or a computer specialist to clone the information to the new PC
  • Using a cloud or managed off-site backup service

Once this is complete, deauthorize all software such as Microsoft® Office, iTunes®, and Photoshop®, and delete browsing history. Uninstall all software that contains personal or company details and all licensed software, or there may be difficulty reinstalling licensed software on the new computer.

Completely erase hard drives

Users need to erase hard drives of old computers or make them inaccessible. File deletion doesn't work, as it removes index files only, and the original data is retrievable with data recovery software.

There are several alternatives. One way is to perform a full format of the hard drives and reinstall the operating systems. This removes most data, but not all. Another option is to use Bitlocker® for Microsoft, FileVault® for Apple®, or third-party encryption software to encrypt the drives to make the data inaccessible without the encryption keys.

The most effective solution involves wiping the disks. Use file wiping software to completely erase hard drives or use standalone driver erasers to wipe external hard drives and internal computer drives after removing them from the PCs.

Trade in or resell old computers

There is a ready market for used computers. It's best to reinstall operating systems after wiping the hard drives, as this increases the value and usefulness of the computers. Another possibility is to do a parts exchange with Quill Trade-In and earn QuillCash™ toward future purchases. Others ideas include searching for companies that buy used computers, approaching local computer shops, or advertising with online marketers.

Donate to a good home

Instead of selling or recycling old computers, it's a good idea to give them to nonprofit charities or thrift stores. Many of these organizations rely on gifts and donations to fund their charitable work. Additionally, they may not have money to buy new computers so they put used PCs to good use. Other possibilities include local schools that use second-hand computers for teaching purposes. Again, it's good practice to completely wipe the hard drives before donating.

Recycle old computers

Never throw old computers into the trash, because their heavy metal content is harmful to the environment. Send them to approved recyclers who ethically recycle electronics. Many arrange to collect old equipment, and some even wipe hard drives for the owners and supply disk wipe certificates.

Here are some ideas for finding ethical recyclers online:

  • Electronics TakeBack Coalition: This organization keeps a list of approved e-Steward recyclers in each state
  • EPA: Keeps a register of approved E-cyclers
  • Computer manufacturers: Many offer a free recycling service

Old computer monitor disposal options

Before getting rid of old computer monitors, consider the possibility of using them as second monitors. Despite being older technology, they work alongside their LCD counterparts. Alternatively, many charitable organizations take old monitors, even if there are no computers attached. If there's a need to dispose of old CRT monitors, contact an approved recycler who recovers the nearly 4 pounds of lead in each, as well as other metals for responsible recycling.

Knowing what to do with old computers

Enjoy peace of mind by getting rid of your old computers ethically. Learn how to completely wipe hard drives to make certain valuable personal and business information is securely deleted, and preserve the environment by ensuring toxic materials are recycled and kept out of landfills.

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