There is a right and a wrong way to handling computer disposal. Right now there are millions of computers collecting cobwebs all across America. You might have a few relics from the 1990s at your home office or crowding out your office storage spaces right now even.
Computer Disposal: Things You Should Know
It seems pretty easy: Just chuck that old computer into the garbage bin and watch it get whisked away with the rest of your weekly pickup.
Hang on, though, don’t old computers contain a lot of heavy metals and personal information that – if it fell into the wrong hands – could jeopardize your future? The answer: Absolutely.
- Computers as E-waste
Computers are actually a form of electronic waste along with things like batteries and cell phones. With the high rate of tech turnover these days there’s more and more e-waste making its way to landfills and recycling centers.
We really have to be careful in how we dispose this stuff because a lot of our appliances contain harmful heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and maybe even lead. When household appliances and electronics become e-waste we should really be responsibly recycling these things rather than heaping them up on the curb for weekly pickup.
The problem, as we’re coming to realize, is that computers that don’t make it back into circulation and instead wind up at landfills actually pose an environmental hazard.
Some of the heavy metals that are housed in computers can eventually make their way into the soil and local water supply, which obviously isn’t good for anybody.
- Old Computers and Personal Information
What we’ve been talking about is more of a macro view of the problem of treating e-waste and your old laptops, desktops, tablets and cell phones as regular trash.
Your trusty – now obsolete – computer, though, likely still contains account numbers, passwords, your social security number, and maybe even compromising tax information. You don’t want that out there.
There’s no need to freak out….since you can follow a step-by-step process to backup your data, permanently remove all personal files from your soon-to-be-recycled computer, and physically remove or securely erase the hard drive.
There are a lot of ways to go about that last one – i.e., clearing the hard drive – and a lot will depend on whether you want to repurpose your old computer, simply recycle it or pass it on to a hard-up school district.
Ways of Clearing the Hard Drive
It’s really important to back up your data on an external hard drive, flash drive or with something like Google Cloud storage before you wipe the slate clean, so to speak.
Clearing your hard drive really, really limits the chances that you’ll be the victim of identity theft and, if you’re dealing with a company-provided computer, also helps protect the company and yourself against nasty things like legal penalties and possible intellectual property violations. Who wants to deal with that nonsense?
- Wiping the Slate Clean
Backup and restore features are actually worked right into Windows 7 and Windows Vista, and if you’re a Mac user you can always use the USB connections on the device to backup personal information on external hard drives and flash drives.
After you’ve backed everything up, you can make use of a program like Darik’s Boot and Nuke to wipe your hard drive and transition it along that proverbial assembly line and closer to being responsibly recycled.
If you intend to give your computer away for reuse by, say, a cash-strapped school district, then make sure that you either install a free operating system on it or restore your old computer to factory settings.
Junk King handles e-waste disposal – /contact/