Old computer? Donate or Recycle!

recycleOld computer? Donate or Recycle! You may find few takers for donating an old computer. Your county or city may offer electronics recycling, either no-cost or nominal cost. But before you just turn over your old computer to someone else, make sure you wipe or scramble the hard drive! Your personal data should remain personal, and once you give someone else your computer, you have no control over it from then on. So before you get rid of that old computer, take a little time to get your data completely erased. Here are a few methods:

For a handy printable tip sheet, please click this link: DonateRecyclePC.pdf (Adobe PDF, get free reader here)

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  1. use the computer’s system restore disks (or the manufacturer’s system restore partition on the hard drive) to restore it back to factory specs – that wipes the drive. Then you can donate/recycle the whole computer.
  2. use a hard drive eraser program (like these free programs: Eraser from Heidi Computers or Active@ KillDisk from LSoft Technologies) to wipe the hard drive, then donate/recycle the whole computer.
  3. use a professional hard drive recycling service (like Shred Ace or Back Thru the Future) – this may be less expensive than you’d imagine.
  4. hard-drive-being-destroyed-with-hammer-image-from-shutterstockremove the hard drive and smash it with a hammer (you would need to really break it open and make sure the internal platters are all broken as well)
  5. remove the hard drive and take it to a computer or office supply store (like Staples or Office Depot) – they may be able to wipe the drive for you (and recycle it unless you want to put it back in the computer to donate)
  6. remove the hard drive from the computer, and scramble it with a very strong magnet (one capable of lifting 10lbs or more of metal) by running the magnet over every external surface of the hard drive – do this several times and leave it in place for a few minutes. Then you can replace the hard drive in the computer. If the computer starts up in Windows, you’ll know your magnet wasn’t strong enough, otherwise it’s ok to donate/recycle.
  7. remove the hard drive and just hang onto it until you get the chance to have it wiped, and donate/recycle the computer immediately.

Method #1 is good enough for most people – it would take an amazing amount of work to reconstruct your personal data – nobody would spend that much. Method #2 may have options for government-level security wiping that will make sure nobody can get to the data. Method #3 is the most reliable, as long as you choose a reputable company. Many of these companies operate on a truck, come to you, and will destroy your hard drive while you watch!

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