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Prepping Your Computer for Disposal

by on March 08, 2011
in Computers and Software, Computers & Accessories, Computer Safety & Support, Tips & How-Tos, Green Tech :: 6 comments

Ready to give your old computer the heave-ho? Before you do, remember that computers often hold all kinds of personal and financial information that thieves could find valuable—passwords, account numbers, license keys or registration numbers for software programs, addresses and phone numbers, medical and prescription information, tax returns and other personal documents.

To ensure your hard drive doesn’t become a gold mine for thieves, there are things you must do before you shut down for the last time.

Save important files. Back up your files to an external hard drive or online backup service, or transfer them to a new computer. Drives as large as 1TB cost a little over $125 and there are good free and low-cost online backup options, such as Dropbox (2GB free), Carbonite (unlimited backup for $54.95 per year) or SugarSync (30GB for $49.99 per year).

“Wipe” your hard drive clean. When you delete a file, the file name is removed from the list of available files and the computer knows it can use that space to save new data. The old file data is still there, though, until it is overwritten. And the data can be retrieved with a data recovery program. To remove data from your hard drive permanently, it needs to be wiped clean—preferably overwritten multiple times with a dedicated hard-drive wiping program. For Windows PCs try Eraser (free) or EgisTec Shredder ($9.95 on EgisTec.com, supports Windows 7) and for Macs try ShredIt X (free).

Ideally, you'll want to completely reformat your hard drive, as well. But if that sounds a little daunting to you, at least try to follow the additional steps we recommend below.

Uninstall your programs. Some programs, such as Microsoft Office, may contain personal information such as your name and address or other details. While others, such as iTunes, only allow you to install on a limited number of computers. So be sure to deactivate iTunes and uninstall any programs before disposing of your PC.

Delete your browsing history. Most browsers save information about your browsing history and, if you set them to, even your user names and passwords for sites you visit. So it is critical that you delete this information from your browser before disposing of your computer. For Internet Explorer, you click on the Safety tab and then Delete Browsing History. Make sure all of the check boxes are selected so everything gets removed. Repeat this for any other browsers on you computer—Firefox, Safari, Chrome.

Consult your employer about data disposal policies. If you use your computer for business purposes, check with your employer about how to manage business-related information on your computer. The law requires businesses to follow data security and disposal requirements for certain information that’s related to customers.

Once you have a “clean” computer, consider recycling, donating or trading it in – and keep the environment in mind when disposing of your computer.

Disposal Options

Recycle it. You first stop should be EcoSquid. The site will help you determine the easiest and most cost efficient way of disposing of your computer. If that doesn't yield results, many computer manufacturers have programs to recycle computers and components. The Electronics TakeBack Coalition has a list of the major manufacturers’ policies plus resources for finding a local recycler. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has information on electronics product-recycling programs. And always check with your county or local government for recycling programs, and the local landfill office for disposal regulations.

Donate it. Many organizations collect old computers and donate them to charities, including Goodwill. Earth911.com has a list of organizations that will help with donations.

Trade it in. A multitude of websites and major retailers—including Radio Shack, Sears, Wal-Mart, Costco and Best Buy—are running trade-in programs, competing to buy a surprisingly wide assortment of used consumer electronics products directly from individuals. They will also pick up the shipping costs, or conduct the transaction at a store near you. And even if your stuff is truly worthless, they’ll still take it for proper recycling, albeit usually without free shipping or compensation.

There are too many trade-in websites to list and cover in this space, but some of the leaders—which you should consider checking first—are BuyMyTronics.com, Gazelle.com and CExchange.com.



Discussion loading

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Not needed.

From Bill Longstreet on May 16, 2011 :: 10:24 pm

If you wipe your hard drive PROPERLY, you don’t need to do anything else.  No uninstalling programs, no deleting files, no formatting.  Nothing.

If you DON’T wipe it PROPERLY, you might as well not bother will all those other things because they won’t do any good, anyway.

Probably the best tool for wiping a hard drive is DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke).  This is freeware, and wipes a hard drive to DoD specifications.  (Just do a search on DBAN and you’ll find it.)

Use with caution!  It WILL wipe every hard drive on the machine.  That’s what it’s designed to do. 

Plug it into your CD or DVD drive, boot the machine, and it nukes all the hard drives.

Boot and nuke.  Simple.  Effective.  Efficient.

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Data disposal

From jerry on July 10, 2011 :: 1:37 pm

I tell people to pull the drive then donate or recycle the rest.  New drives are inexpensive and often faster than the old one.

Yes, the DOD & NSA certify software for secure erasure.  The dirty little secret is they don’t use the them.  Most government agencies have on site hard drive shredders.  For my part, I’ve built a quiet little business destroying hard drives.  Send me your hard drive & $10.  The drive goes to my firing range for 6 holes through the drive.  Afterwards, the remains are recycled like any other now inert chunk of metal.  Know what you’re doing if you try this yourself.  Hard drives are amazing bullet resistant.

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"Just accept it"

From Chris McCullough on October 10, 2011 :: 2:24 pm

There’s a banking commercial on TV that shows a man pondering whether to accept a bank’s ATM fees, while all these people throughout the commercial tell him ‘It’s what they do, accept it’ in a multitude of ways. Perhaps you’ve seen it (if not, you can go here to watch it: http://bit.ly/rpEK2n).

It’s worth noting because our online lives aren’t much different. There is a way things are done online. You ‘accept it’ or you don’t play, and you know you want to be included… especially when everyone you know, to include your dad, your little sister, even your pet chihuahua, has a Facebook account, posts their thoughts via Twitter, posts their pics to a Flickr account, and shows off their recent antics via YouTube…. you have to wonder if unplugging from the grid is worth it. After all, the internet is how we share our lives today. You don’t want to be left out now, do you?

Think about it… when’s the last time you pulled out a genuine photo album to share pics of little Johnny or Jenny with your mom? But I’m sure she checks out photos of her grandkids via Facebook or Flickr.

It used to be the only time you knew what Uncle Bob was doing was at Christmas time when he sent out his annual holiday letter. Now you can know what he’s up to all year if you want.

Same thing when it comes to Amazon wishlists, and similar lists. If your family checks them, it may be there only way to know WTH you want for Christmas when they’re unsure what to get someone who’s nearly 40 with a wife & kids.

I could go on & on with the examples, but suffice to say, unless you care to unplug from the grid and crawl into a cave (and even there, you’re not immune… even Osama bin Laden had internet wink you’re probably not going to escape the ‘new norm.’

Privacy is dead. At this point all you can control is how much privacy do you sacrifice.

Personally, when I used that pipl.com link provided above, I didn’t find but three places any info about me was listed: Amazon, Facebook and Flickr. And even on those sites I’ve got next to no public information listed on them that I wouldn’t share with you myself.

So you can do as I do, and intentionally limit the info you share using the tools listed in this article (good job btw, Christina) or you can go crazy thinking about all the ways Big Brother has invaded your life. Fact of the matter is, He’s here to stay. How you manage His arrival is up to you.

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Good Advice

From Johann Taylor, Computer Repair Provo on October 25, 2011 :: 5:41 pm

You wouldn’t believe how many people drop off computers for recycling without even asking about what happens to their data.  Luckily, we are an honest company and make sure everything is wiped properly, but I’m sure that is the exception not the rule.  I seem to remember several people getting busted for buying used drives on Ebay or in thrift stores then combing the drives for personal information they could use for identity theft.  Play it safe and wipe everything.

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Preparing your computer for disposal

From Kate on October 27, 2015 :: 10:23 am

Preparing your computer for disposal it’s a very important aspect, however few people take this seriously. Before wiping out all your files, you can use the IBM I modernization to transfer them into another computer or device, for later use. Once this step completed, your computer is ready to be disposed or donated.

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Although not many people think

From Amelia on December 03, 2015 :: 10:02 am

Although not many people think about it, preparing a computer for disposal or donation is a very important step, especially if the computer is used for business purposes. Nothing can replace a computer, but adding the Houston business phone will definitely help you expand your business faster, so it’s worth considering, don’t you think?

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