Tips on How to Dispose of Old Computers

Old computer parts in a blue recycling bin are an example of how to dispose of old computers.

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That old computer was cutting edge when you bought it, but now it’s slow, laggy, and can’t handle the latest software. Getting rid of old computers isn’t like disposing of most other items, though. You have saved countless pieces of information on this device, and it may hold everything from your diary to your bank account details.

Your first step is to ensure that you thoroughly delete all information on your computer before getting rid of it. Then you need to figure out what you’re going to do with it. Many thrift stores don’t accept donations of old, broken electronics, and you can’t just throw e-waste into the garbage either. 

Those thinking they can just wrap a computer in a pillowcase and toss it in a dumpster should think again. Doing so may be illegal, so you need to dispose of it correctly and safely. This guide explains what you need to do when getting rid of a computer past its prime, how to dispose of old computers properly, and the risks of not completing this process correctly. 

What to Do Before Disposing of Old Computers

You shouldn’t just unplug your old computer and give it away to a stranger (or even someone you know). You need to make sure to deal with the information on your computer first. Here’s how:

Back Up Your Files

Make sure you keep everything you want from your old computer. You can back up your old files by attaching an external hard drive to the computer and moving all the files there, or you can move them to the cloud. 

Delete and Shred Your Files

Deleting your files doesn’t get rid of them completely. The files continue to exist on the computer, even if you open the recycling bin and hit “empty the trash.” Consider using a digital file shredder to protect yourself from cybercrime. Your information isn’t just in apps and saved files, either. You probably also have a lot of sensitive information stashed in your browser. Take the time to clear your cookies so you can delete all login details.

Break the Hard Drive

You may want to go a step further and actually break the hard drive. Don’t take this step until you’ve decided how you’re going to dispose of the old computer, and only break the drive if no one can use the computer. 

Consider saving absolutely everything, even if you don’t anticipate using the files in the future. You may change your mind, and once the hard drive is gone, you won’t be able to recover anything. Take a lesson from the man who threw away a hard drive without saving everything and now has $280 million in bitcoin sitting in a landfill he’s not allowed to search. 

Man disposing of an old computer

Other Ways to Dispose of Old Computers 

You’ve backed up your files and erased everything from the hard drive; now you have to decide what you’re going to do with your old computer. The options vary depending on the computer’s functionality and your personal preferences, but here is a look at your main choices:

Donate

Some charitable organizations will accept old computers in working order. They often provide computers to families in need or underfunded schools, and they typically only accept computers that have some life left in them. 

You can also choose to donate your computer directly to an individual. Post your old computer on a “buy nothing” page on social media or in the “free section” of your local newspaper if you don’t personally know someone who can use it. 

Trade-In

Many companies offer trade-in programs. They take your old computer or other electronics and give you credit toward the purchase of something new. Many major brands such as BestBuy, Amazon, and Staples offer trade-in options, and you can contact them directly to learn more. 

Recycle

Recycling programs take your old computer and either refurbish it for use or break it down for recycling. You can contact your waste disposal company and ask if they offer an e-waste recycling program, but you may have to find a third-party recycler. 

Look for a recycler that has been certified by Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI). They have to meet standards that prevent them from shipping the e-waste to developing countries, where children are sometimes used to scavenge valuable components from the waste piles.

Work through these options from top to bottom if you want to take the most sustainable approach possible when you dispose of your computer. Donation and trade-in programs keep your computer intact and allow someone else to use it, while recycling salvages the components for future use.

Risks of Disposing of Old Computers Incorrectly

Not disposing of old computers and other electronics correctly can pose several risks. Here are the main reasons you need to wipe your hard drive and carefully dispose of your old computer.

Identity Theft

Someone who steals data from your old computer may be able to take over your identity, get into your bank account, or open new accounts with your information.

Environmental Harm

Old computers are full of toxins like mercury and lead that can get into the groundwater if you don’t know how to dispose of old computers carefully.

Fines

Failure to dispose of old computers and other e-waste correctly can lead to fines for individuals and businesses.

Make sure to protect yourself, your personal information, your reputation, and the planet by disposing of your old computer correctly. 

Contact Shred Cube to Shred Your Digital Files

Old computers can be security hazards, but Shred Cube ensures your digital files are safe. Our device plugs into your USB port and permanently deletes your digital files — the normal deletion process poses a security risk because bad actors can recover the files from your hard drive.

Our drag-and-drop interface makes it fast and easy to secure your data before exploring how to dispose of old computers. Contact us at Shred Cube today to learn more about how digital file shredding can protect your information.

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