How to Safely Dispose of your Old Computer Equipment

How to Safely Dispose of your Old Computer Equipment

Dennis Snider

347 Posts



When you upgrade your computer equipment, the question of how to dispose of your old devices is an important one. Computers contain numerous toxins and plastics that aren’t good for the environment, so you should consider that, and also you have to make sure that all your confidential data has been permanently removed.

As the first step in disposing of a machine, obviously, it’s to make sure that you’ve saved everything you need. A portable SSD is a good place to keep your data, as are cloud services; if you really value your data, using both is a good idea.

Next, you need to think about making sure that anyone who gets their hands on your device once you’ve got rid of it can’t get your information. Just deleting files isn’t enough, they will still be somewhere on your hard drive and can be accessed. Install a program to delete all your files and overwrite them such as File Shredder, delete your browsing history, uninstall all software, and perform a factory reset to guarantee that everything is wiped. If your computer has been used for work purposes, check with your company’s IT department about any additional measures they suggest; you don’t want then coming back and blaming you for company data losses.

Of course, if your computer has no useful life left in it, you can take the nuclear option and remove the hard drive and drill holes in it or break it up with a hammer (make sure you wear safety glasses!) to really guarantee nobody can access its data.

Finally, you need to think about how you are going to safely dispose of the hardware. Many recyclers will be happy to take a used machine off your hands, but often they will then ship them to developing nations where child labour will be used to strip out any valuable metals etc. Recyclers who have certification from Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI) or are members of the e-Steward network are guaranteed to use higher recycling standards. Also, don’t forget that when buying new equipment, many retailers offer generous trade-in programs, even on broken equipment, and many community initiatives might be glad of your old gear so that they can refurbish it and give it to those in need in the community.