How to Dispose of Your Old Computer
A technology market research firm recently forecast that 955 million PCs would be retired worldwide between 2005 and 2010. With so many computers becoming obsolete, a lot of us are probably wondering what to do with that old computer sitting at home collecting dust.
Don’t Just Trash It
You wouldn’t put your tax returns, bank statements, medical information and other personal files on the sidewalk, would you? Well, throwing your old computer in the trash is like carting your personal files to the curb. All of your personal information that’s on the hard drive will become an attractive target for identity thieves. And even if you can safely remove your info from the hard drive before trashing it, computers contain many hazardous materials, including lead, mercury, and cadmium, that can have toxic effects on the environment if they end up in landfills.
Trade your Old Computer
You may be able to trade your computer in to a manufacturer and use your trade allowance toward the purchase of a new computer. Trading in your computer allows you to leverage the residual value of the computer for an upgraded model. Check with your manufacturer for trade-in availability. If you choose to trade-in, though, remember to “wipe” the hard drive first—you don’t want the manufacturer to have access to personal information that may still be on the computer. Read more about wiping the hard drive, below.
Newspaper classified ads and Internet auction and listing sites (like Amazon, eBay, and Craig’s List, for example) are some of the outlets available to consumers for selling old computers. But before you sell, do a cost-benefit analysis—if the cost of preparing the computer for sale outweighs the potential profit to be made, you may want to pass on selling. You can check the prices of comparable models on the sites just mentioned—your profit will depend on the computer’s age, condition, and specifications.
The advantage to this disposal method is that you can squeeze some cash out of your old computer. The disadvantage is that you may have to fix the computer to make it market-worthy. While you can sell the computer “as is,” this alternative will likely yield less profit. Again, if you choose this route, remember to wipe your hard drive before selling the computer.
Donate Old Computer
Many local charities, hospitals, schools, and senior centers accept donated computers. While this method doesn’t allow you to get the residual value out of the computer, you can take the fair market value of the computer as a tax deduction (confirm your eligibility for the deduction with your tax advisor, and/or see IRS Publications 526 and 561)—plus, by donating the computer, you’ll be helping those in need! And don’t forget—wipe that hard drive before donating.
Recycle Old Computer
This is a good option if your computer is not qualified for trade-in or donation.
Where to Recycle Old Computers
Various organizations offer or help consumers find recycling services, including computer manufacturers, independent electronics recycling organizations such as
1. The National Cristina Foundation, a nonprofit organization that matches donated computer equipment with needy schools and nonprofit organizations around the world
2. Electronic Industries Alliance , Database of recycling and reuse opportunities for used electronics throughout the US
3. National Recycling Coalition, a Coalition of US organizations committed to maximizing recycling to achieve benefits of resource conservation, solid waste reduction
4. Electronics Recycling which provides a database of USA electronics recycling companies, categorized by activity type and geographical location and
5. The FreeCycle Network(Network to promote waste reduction and help save landscape from being taken over by landfills. The Network provides individuals and non-profits) and some community waste management departments.
Although recycling your computer means that you can’t tap into the residual value of the computer, you’ll be doing your part to be “green.” Again, remember to wipe the hard drive before recycling—even though some recyclers offer to wipe the hard drive, it may be more secure to do this yourself.
Merely deleting files or reformatting your computer’s hard drive is not enough to protect your personal information—even after taking such measures, your information can still be recovered from the computer. To ensure that no information about you remains on the hard drive, you should first backup any necessary data to another medium, and then overwrite the remaining files with a disk-wiping utility. “Wiping” is the process of electronically “shredding” the contents of a file or disk space. There are several products on the market for data removal (some free, some not)—see the websites below to get started:
Download.com: This site has links to many products designed to help you backup and erase your hard drive. Go to the site and search “disk wiping.”
Google.com: Research data removal solutions on Google.com. You’ll find thousands of links to available software.