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How to Dispose of a Computer

June 17th, 2013 - 3:54 PM

Need to Dispose of a Computer?

Maybe you’re moving soon and clearing out the attic. Did you find an old IBM ThinkPad? Or maybe you got the dreaded blue screen of death on your computer and it’s a lost cause. Either way, if you have a computer that you no longer need, you may want to get rid of it instead of paying to move it. Now, sure, you could just toss it in your trash bag, but that isn’t being environmentally responsible or responsible with your secure personal information. It’s important to properly dispose of your computer in order to protect the environment and your personal data. Let’s take a look at some options.

Protect Your Data When Getting Rid of a Computer

Whether you choose to sell or dispose of your electronics, you should protect your data. Hitting the delete button isn’t good enough. Just deleting files and cookies still leaves things on your hard drive. Things like passwords, account numbers, addresses, and other files (some created by your operating system) are all stored on your hard drive. The average person may not be able to locate the files, but an experienced programmer, hacker, or identity thief easily could. There are a few different disk-erasing tools that you can download and use. Check out Active® KillDisk, Softpedia/DP Wiper, or WipeDrive. This will do a pretty great job of getting rid of your data. If you want to be certain your data is completely destroyed, you can remove and destroy the hard drive. Wear some protective gear (goggles, gloves, etc.) and smash it into bits using a hammer. Take care when attempting this, as small pieces may scatter. However you go about it, when you get rid of a computer, protecting your data is smart.

Options for Disposing of a Computer: Resell, Donate, or Recycle?

If your computer is in good condition, you may be able to sell it. Even if it doesn’t work, someone may want it for parts. Post it online, or take it to various pawn shops or used electronic shops in town. Even if you just get $20 for it, that’s $20 more than you had before!

Another option is donating your computer. There are several organizations that accept electronics, including computers, TVs, and cell phones. You can check where to donate your electronics here. They ask that you delete personal information and remove batteries before donating.

Now, if you don’t want to mess with selling it, or no one wants it, it may be time to recycle it. Experts don’t recommend just throwing it out. Computers are not biodegradable, so there are often regulations for disposing of them. See if your state has laws governing the disposal and recycling of electronics (check those here). These laws are in place because computers contain substances that are environmentally unfriendly like mercury, lead, cadmium, and other materials. Dumping it hurts the environment, but sometimes taking it to a recycling center isn’t much better. Some recycling centers dump e-waste in “digital dumping grounds.” Talk with your local recycling center and find out how they dispose of toxic e-waste. Many local solid waste districts have programs in place to recycle computers, so call your waste management department to find out what they do with e-waste.

If you want to ensure your computer is disposed of properly, check out e-stewards, which helps locate “globally responsible recycling centers” that are EPA certified. You can locate certified responsible recycling centers on their site. Now, these centers are spread out a bit (they are constantly adding new locations), but you can contact the center nearest you to find out how you can responsibly dispose of your computer.

No matter whether you resell it, donate it, or recycle it, getting rid of your computer responsibly will protect you and the environment. I call that a win-win. If you have any questions about disposing of computers or other electronics, just leave a comment and we’ll try to get you pointed in the right direction!