Buh-bye Vista

windows-vista-screenshotBuh-bye Vista: a reader asks…

I have an older Windows Vista PC that I need to get rid of. I have a new Windows 10 PC. What should I do at this point?

Since Microsoft stopped providing updates more than a year ago, Windows Vista has been off life-support and really, nobody should be using that version of Windows any longer, any more than Windows XP. So yes, it’s time to get rid of that old PC. I doubt you’ll find any takers for donating it, schools, churches and other non-profit organizations really need more up-to-date computing equipment and have stopped taking any of our old computing equipment. So what you need to do is wipe your personal information from the computer so that it cannot be recovered, and then take the computer to a recycling center.

If you haven’t already copied your personal data from the old computer to the new one, then you should take a few minutes to do that. The easiest way is to use a thumbdrive, copy everything from the old computer to that, and then copy the thumbdrive to your new computer. This is what’s called using a ‘sneakernet’ and I lay out how to copy files to and from a thumbdrive in my article What is Sneakernet. You may also want to take a look at my article My New PC to make sure that you’ve got your new Windows 10 computer setup correctly.

recycle-symbolOnce you’ve gotten everything off the old computer, you need to prepare it fr recycling. Check out my article Secure Erase Computer for exactly how to go about doing this. Basically, you:

  1. create a new administrative user account on your computer,
  2. log out of your user account and into that new account and then delete your old user account, and then
  3. securely wipe the free space on the hard drive so your files can’t be reconstituted.

For step 3, you don’t need any fancy software, Windows Vista has secure erasing capability built in. My article Recycle Computers lays out exactly how to do this. You’ll be using the old-DOS command “Cipher” which overwrites the free space on your hard drive with random 1’s and 0’s. That is needed because when you delete files in Windows, you’re not actually deleting the data, just the directions on how to access it. The data sits on the hard drive until it’s been overwritten by other new files. The Cipher command makes sure none of your data can be recovered by anyone.

pile-of-computer-equipment-image-from-shutterstockOnce that’s all done, you can take the computer to your local recycling center. Don’t think you can just put it in the trash or in your home recycling bin, electronics need special consideration and most municipalities have set up facilities specifically for recycling computers, TV’s and other electronics. A quick search of your local government website should tell you what you need to do. Try a google search using terms such as your local city or county, and the words ‘electronic’ and ‘recycling’.

When delivered to a recycling center, you lose control over the computer, which is why it’s important to securely erase your data from it first. You have no idea whether the computer will be broken down for scrap, or simply sent to a 3rd world country to be put into use. It’s quite possible your computer (or at least the hard drive) might make its way to a criminal element who would use any data on it to commit identity theft or worse.

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