How to Safely Dispose of your Old PC

Computers are one of those things whose novelty tends to wear off pretty fast. I find myself upgrading several components of my system every year on a regular basis, in order to keep up with the technological evolution (though often it feels like a revolution rather than an evolution). Even then, every three years or so, I usually end up buying a completely new system. Upgrade is not always a viable solution. As your system grows old, most of its components are no longer compatible with the latest available on the market.

If you do it the way I do, after a few years or so, you'll usually find yourself heaps of computer relics in the corner of your house, and wondering what you are going do with them.

Keep it as backup

your first option would be to use it as backup. Five years old hardware is still more than adequate for undemanding task like web browsing and word processing, for example. It would also be a good place to try out a new Linux or BSD distributions, without challenging your important files. You can run remote control software to control it from your main PC, use it as a download machine, a file server, or maybe just a backup storage. It's always nice to have a backup.

Sell it

Maybe you don't need a backup, or already have one. In that case, why not sell it?
You can try eBay, or put an ad on local newspaper. You can also try selling it on a used-computer store. Don't expect much though. PC technology advances quickly, thus prices of old hardware are usually... Let's just say; less than expected.

Donate it

if you think selling your old PC wouldn't get you much, maybe there's another way for you to get rid of it. Someone might need it, especially if it's only a few years old.

You may first want to look at your neighbours, or maybe even someone in the family who might need it. You may also consider giving it to an organisation which is a commendable option. Local schools, churches, and local charities might find a way to use your old machine. Sometimes they are a bit picky about the specifications, but if you're old PC is functional and no more than three or four years old, chances are they will take it.

Remember, if you delete all the data on the hard disk (including the operating system) before donating then the donor will require BOTH the original operating system disks and the authentic certificate of authorisation from Microsoft if they don't wish to purchase an operating system before they can use it. There are also several organisations which have been set up to accept computer donations and then give them to others in need, such as our own 3R-iT Project. If you use an REI approved organisation then you can be assured that your personal data will be securely deleted and that the equipment will be reinstalled with a legitimate operating system.

Dispose/Recycle it

by now another easy solution may have crossed your mind; why not just leave it outside with the rest of your rubbish? Well, it is an option, and it may seem like the easiest solution, but it's actually worse than stockpiling.

Computers contain many dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, nickel, lithium, cadmium, chromium and mercury. Not just that, these days less precious metals and more plastic are being used in computers, which make it worth less and more difficult to recycle. Some of the plastic is PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), which is the least environmentally friendly plastic around.

To make insult to injury, here come the monitors. There is a reason why these things are heavy. The older versions contain lead to protect you from radiation. The average CRT monitor (which resembles a TV) contains about 2 kilos of lead. End up in a landfill, lead-coated glass can contaminate ground water, causing detrimental effect on children who are exposed to it. Thus a standard monitor is classified as hazardous waste.

To prevent those horrible things from happening to our environment, you need to dispose your PC properly. The problem lies not only with the computer however. Most of us are used to the behaviour of solving our problem with no regards for others. In this case, our problem is how to get rid of the heap of, and usually we don't care if our solution creates another problem. We need to change this way of thinking right away.

Remember to erase your hard drive

should you decide to sell, donate or dispose of your computer; please pay special attention to your hard drive. Your hard drive contains whatever information you have put in it. Some might be important or private, and other people might be curious to take a look. Before you say goodbye to your little precious hard drive, you should take some precautions to protect your personal information from getting into the wrong hands.

Not many realise though, simply deleting files in your hard drive won't do you any good. It will only remove the pointer in your hard drive to the file without actually deleting the data. Deleted files can be restored very easy. Formatting your hard drive is not a solution either. People with moderate knowledge of file system can retrieve your data later.

Your best bet would be using a file shredder. File shredder works by repeatedly overwrites data in your hard drive to ensure that it can't be recovered. There are a lot of such utility programs available as freeware on the internet, and they are relatively easy to use.

Some people might go a little bit farther of removing a hard drive from the computer and smashing it with a sledge hammer to destroy all data in it.

Well, despite the fact that it is fun it may not necessarily stop data from being able to be recovered; a better option would be to drill the platter a number of times, however physically damaging the hard drive only applies if you decide to permanently dispose of your computer.

Of course no-one would find any use for a smashed hard drive.

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