Seattle PC Consulting Blog
How to Safely and Securely Dispose of an Old Computer
How long have you been working on the same computer? Depending on your answer, it may be time to replace it with a new model. That’s simple enough (especially with our help), but the question remains: what are you supposed to do with the old one?
Believe it or not, there is a very wrong way to dispose of your old business technology that could easily create far greater problems than even continuing to use it might cause. To help you avoid these circumstances, we wanted to share the safe version of this process with you… starting with the one that might circumvent the biggest impact upon your business.
There is a major difference between disposing of the equipment you’ve been using and disposing of the equipment you’ve been using (along with all the important data that might still be on it). It is FAR better to go with the first option, which means you will need to back up any data saved on the device before definitively removing it.
Why take the time to remove it?
Consider, for a moment, the kind of data that could potentially be hidden away in the storage of this to-be-discarded device. Once your technology is no longer in your possession during the disposal process (as we will discuss later), what guarantee do you have that the equipment will be sufficiently secured? As soon as your equipment is out of your hands, you have no way to confirm that the data left on it won’t be extracted and copied before disposal.
However, really protecting your data is going to take more than just pressing the delete button. Instead, you need to acquire a special software that both deletes and overwrites your data, stymying any attempts to recover it. After completing that process, your security measures should continue:
- Encrypt the drive
- Deauthorize any accounts associated with that device
- Wipe all browsing history
- Uninstall all programs and delete all files on the device
Finally, once all that is done, perform a factory reset just for safe measure. Alternatively, you could also remove your hard drive to keep it as an archive (making sure that it is completely secure) or physically destroy the component itself.
If you choose to go the destruction route, make sure that the hard drive is good and destroyed when you’re done. You’d be amazed what data has been extracted from before.
Yes, You Still Need to Do This If the Device Won’t Turn On
Here’s the thing: a dead device isn’t the same thing as a device that’s been wiped of data. In fact, if your computer will not turn on, there’s a very good chance that the data on it is still safe and sound. This is because the kind of issues that typically “kill” your device may not affect the hard drive.
This can be good, or bad, depending on the circumstances. If you want your data, you know that you can still get it with the help of someone who knows what they are doing. The problem is, many hackers will also know what they are doing, and could extract your data if they got their hands on your old hardware.
Speaking of your old hardware…
Properly Disposing of the Equipment
Even if you are positive that your data is good and gone, you can’t just toss the computer to the curb with the rest of the trash. Computers and other electronics contain some materials (including heavy metals) that can severely damage the environment. Therefore, just having it sent to a landfill can cause some significant problems down the line.
It is far better to recycle any of your old, unwanted hardware. Unfortunately, even that can be trickier than it sounds. You must be careful about picking a recycling company to handle it, as some will just ship your discarded device to a developing nation. Once it’s there, children will expose themselves to the hazardous contents we just mentioned while trying to extract the materials in a computer that have some value. Once they are done, all those hazardous materials are left to seep into their groundwater, causing even more damage.
Make sure you find a recycling company that abides by a code of ethics in its operations.
Another alternative you might consider is to donate your old system once the hard drive is fully wiped or replaced with a fresh one. There are many charitable organizations that would welcome a computer but can’t spare the resources to procure one.
For assistance with properly recycling your old business technology, reach out to Seattle PC Consulting! Discuss it with us directly by calling (206) 512-8045.