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Dispose of Your Old Computer Safely

Remove all sensitive data before getting rid of outdated technology.

Dispose of Your Old Computer Safely

Before replacing a home or office computer, make sure it doesn’t contain sensitive data that could fall into the wrong hands.

No matter how careful you’ve been, your computer probably contains detailed personal information such as:

  • Passwords
  • Financial, credit and debit card account numbers
  • License keys or registration numbers for software programs
  • Addresses and phone numbers of all your contacts
  • Medical and prescription information
  • Tax records
  • History of websites you’ve visited
  • Photos

Simply deleting a file or emptying the recycle or trash bin isn’t enough. When you delete a file, the links to it disappear but bits and pieces of the information stay on your computer until they’re overwritten. A deleted file can easily be retrieved with a data recovery program.

Clean your hard drive

The safest thing to do is to always assume that some sort of critical, confidential or personal information exists on your computer and you need to securely erase it. To permanently erase data from a hard drive, it needs to be overwritten or wiped clean. Before you clean a hard drive, however, make sure to save the files you want to keep. Once cleaned, the files are completely destroyed.

There are various inexpensive (sometimes free) programs available to wipe a hard drive. Consider using a program that overwrites the hard drive many times. Otherwise, the deleted information could be retrieved.

If you use your home or personal computer for business purposes, check with your employer on how they want to manage any work-related data.

If you don’t overwrite or erase the hard drive, the next best option is to remove it and physically destroy it.

Where to dispose of your computer

Computer disposal is more involved than just throwing it in the trash. The circuit boards and other electronic components aren’t good for the environment and must be handled accordingly. Check with your local sanitation department for rules and regulations regarding electronics disposal. Sometimes a disposal fee is required, but there are many free options also.

  • Recycle it – The Environmental Protection Agency has information about electronic product recycling programs. Your local community may also have a recycling program. For regulations, check with your county or local government, including the local landfill office.
  • Donate it – Many organizations collect old computers and donate them to charities.
  • Resell it – Some people and organizations buy old computers. Check online for a place near you.
  • Repurpose it – Your old computer may still have some use as a DVR for security cameras or as a household media server.

Additional computer security and identity theft protection links:
What's Your Risk for Identity Theft?
Prevent Identity Theft by Protecting Your Online Presence
How to Avoid Identity Theft in Your Home

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