old computers

Do you have an old non-working computer stashed away somewhere in your garage, attic, or closet because you’re not sure how to dispose of it? Do you have a stack of CDs with old backups on them that you no longer need? An old printer or monitor? Power cords or connector cables that you don’t use?

Here are a few suggestions for how to dispose of these items safely and responsibly.

Back Up Your Data
If you’re disposing of a working computer, first be sure to back up any data stored on it. If you already have a comprehensive back up plan in place, then you could probably skip this step. But it doesn’t hurt to double check that you have a backup of all relevant directories on the machine.


Erase your Hard Drive
If the hard drive on your unwanted machine is still working, you’ll want to be sure to remove all your personal files from it before donating or recycling it.

Simply deleting files (and emptying the Recycle Bin) does not fully remove them from the hard drive, so for enhanced privacy protection for files with personal data or financial records, you’ll want to use a file or operating system wiping program. These programs overwrite the data sectors on the hard disk in multiple passes to prevent recovery of deleted data:

If you use one of these tools to completely wipe the operating system (recommended for enhanced privacy), you can then install a clean copy of Windows, install Linux, or reformat the Mac OS before donating the machine to charity.

Donate a Working Computer
If your old computer is less than 5 years old and is in working condition, consider donating it. The National Cristina Foundation provides referrals to local schools and nonprofit organizations with specific requests for donated equipment. Simply enter your zip code and find an organization near you that can use your old machine. Additionally, Goodwill, in partnership with Dell, accepts any brand of computers and refurbishes or recycles them.

Recycle Responsibly


Learn about what happens to e-waste:
Gizmodo video of tech equipment going through the demolition and recycling process

Separate your electronic waste, such as computers, cell phones, chargers, cables, monitors, batteries, and storage media from your other recycling or trash. Electronic items contain many toxic materials that can’t be processed properly at traditional landfill or recycling sites.

Consult your local community’s recycling center for information on electronics recycling options in your area, or use the following resources:

Do you have old electronics equipment at home? let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Nicholas]