Computers are essential tools today. Software demands and hardware capability tend to grow exponentially. So if you want to stay on top of things, it’s a good idea to get a new computer every two to three years. Now what do you do when disposing of old computers?
Whatever you do, there are a few things you must check before giving away, trashing, or recycling a computer. Backing up information and securely deleting private data is one major concern. You may also be able to reuse parts or the entire computer. This article provides a quick overview of your options when it comes to disposing of old computers.
1. Backup Data
Obviously, you will want to keep a copy of your data. Here is a quick list of information you should not forget to backup:
- Personal Files
Pictures, Music, Movies, anything entertaining you have on your computer, don’t lose it. Same goes for any documents or files you have downloaded.
The Best FREE Backup Software for your PC
- Browser Data
This includes bookmarks, saved logins & passwords, extensions, and other personal settings. It’s much easier to transfer the data than to set it all up again, don’t you agree?
Backup & Restore Your Internet Explorer Browser Settings
Back up your Firefox Profile with MozBackup
If you’re using a desktop eMail program like Thunderbird or Outlook, do backup your profile and take your conversations and your address book with you.
5 Easy Ways To Back Up Your Microsoft Outlook Data
Archive Your Browser & Mail Settings With MailBrowserBackup
- Program Data
Did you create databases, make specific settings, or save other data with any of the programs you’re using? Think of calendars, bibliography tools, image editing software, games, or music playlists. Any of that information can be backed up and transferred to your new computer. Usually, these data are saved under documents & settings or in the respective program files folder. The easiest way would be to backup these two folders entirely.
Have you downloaded and installed any additional fonts? They are likely compatible with your new computer, so save you the time of tracking them down again and just backup the fonts folder. In Windows, it’s found under C:/Windows/Fonts.
Is your computer no longer booting or is the hard drive dead? Check out the following articles:
2. Serial Numbers & Registration Keys
This point deserves special attention because losing a serial number or registration keys can actually cost you money. If you’re not sure where you stored that information, retrieve it before it’s too late:
If you purchased software online and downloaded the installation file, rather than having it on a CD, be safe and back that up, too.
3. Wipe Private Data
If you seriously don’t want to keep your hard drive or can’t be bothered to remove it from your old computer, make sure all your private information is gone. Your data in the wrong hands could result in humiliation, financial loss, or worst of all: identity theft.
Neither deleting files, nor emptying the trash, or formatting your hard drive is enough! To be on the safe side, you must shred and overwrite your data. Follow the steps described in this article: How To Completely & Securely Erase Your Hard Drive [Windows]
Some great suggestions on how to delete, shred, and terminally wipe your private information are also given in the replies to this question on MakeUseOf Answers: How can I clean a laptop before donating it?
4. Strip Out Useful Parts
Basically, all parts of your computer, if still functional, may be useful for you or someone else. So think twice before you trash anything. If computer parts are alien to you, read this article first: The Basic Parts Of A Computer & How To Upgrade Them [Technology Explained]
Keep it as a backup, set up a dual screen if your graphics card supports it, or hook it up to your laptop for a better screen.
- Cables and External Devices
Keep one set of everything as a backup. Nobody wants a used mouse or keyboard anyways.
- Hard Drive
Put it into a USB case and use as an external hard drive, hook up internally to your new computer, or wipe it clean before you give it away.
If your old RAM is compatible with your new computer’s motherboard, you may as well use it. However, never mix different RAM modules. Read the answers to this MakeUseOf Answers questions for some leads: How can I upgrade my RAM and hard drive?
- Power Supply Unit
An often searched for replacement part.
- Motherboard & CPU
You won’t need that with your new computer. But someone else may use it as a replacement.
- CD / DVD drive
- Card Reader
- Floppy drive
- Graphics Card
- Sound Card
Try to sell the parts you can’t use yourself on eBay, and give away leftovers via your local FreeCycle.
5. Re-Use Entire Computer
This may be the most important point! Maybe you can actually still use your old computer. So check out the possibilities before you submit it to the trash.
If your old computer is still running, it can serve many purposes. If it can connect to the internet, you could donate the CPU time. Your could also give it to someone who needs it or turn it into an entertainment center. These and many more ideas are summarized in my article Top 10 Cool Uses For Old Computers And Laptops. Finally, if your machine is really old, maybe the local tech museum is interested in it.