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Discarding or Giving Away Your Old Computer?

Whether discarding or donating your computer to an institution, a student or a family member, make sure to keep your personal data secure.

So this is it. The decision has been made, and you have purchased a new computer. It matters little why you've decided to get a new computer. What does matter is how you deal with the machine you're replacing.

Aside from keeping it as a collectible, there are really only two options: Discard the old machine or give it away. Discarding the machine is pretty straightforward. Most of us understand the environmental impact of simply tossing the old computer in the trash; as a result, recycling centers have sprung up all over the place. What most people don’t realize, however, is that just because the machine has been discarded doesn’t mean that it cannot be pieced out and reused. That’s how re-cycling centers make their money: They sell off the old components that make up the working parts of the computer—memory sticks or RAM, CD and DVD burners and, yes, hard drives.

With that in mind, make sure to remove your hard drive and throw it in a closet before discarding the machine so that the personal data on the drive is not available to anyone.

Giving your computer away proves a bit more challenging. You still want the new user to have a fully functioning computer (otherwise what’s the point, right?). At the same time, keeping personal data personal is crucial.

 What do you do to make it usable and remove all the personal information? More often than not, people have misplaced the software that came with the machine, so reformatting is no longer an option.

There is a way, and it doesn’t rely on you trusting the new user to be ethical or honest. But it does require finding the right software, and there are several. A quick Bing search came up with a host of companies’ offerings. Here are a few: data-wiper.com, auslogics.com, iolo.com. Most of these programs have several features. However, the key is to make sure the one you choose will securely overwrite the deleted data but not completely wipe the drive.  

Whether discarding or donating your computer, keep your personal data ... personal.

KC July 08, 2011 at 01:50 AM
You forgot that the other thing computer recyclers do is harvest the gold and other valued metals out of it. Also, you don't have to remove the HDD/SSD as long as you request they destroy the drive in front of you. This is basically them taking you to a drill press and drilling a few holes through the platter.
Dixon Kavanaugh July 08, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Gold and other valuable metals...isn't that great, at $1500 an ounce it may be well worth it to strip them down ourselves.....
KC July 08, 2011 at 02:47 PM
They also harvest any electronics, which is why (for example) I can take an old PC down to a UPS store and they will take it for free. Apparently the percentage of gold in electronics is higher than any ore you could find on earth.

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