Computer Recycling For Dummies | How To Prepare A Computer For Disposal
Are you getting rid of old computers but do not know how to prepare a computer for disposal? If the answer is yes, then welcome to the world of recycling for dummies. Don’t think you’re alone in this and don’t feel bad about yourself. There are many out there for whom the concepts of IT and computer recycling are quite novel.
Every year, our television screens flash multiple times with the news of some company being robbed of the sensitive data. Why do you think that happens? Among other reasons, one major cause is careless disposal of IT assets.
Our computers, laptops, and cell phones contain sensitive information on them. This information, personal as well as financial, could contain our passwords, account numbers, license keys, addresses and phone numbers, tax returns and other personal documents. Information like this is a gold mine for identity thieves and other scammers. So, knowing how to dispose of our IT equipment securely can save us from some major disasters.
If you have just heard the phrase IT recycling and do not know how to securely prepare your old computer for disposal, we’re here for you. Our descriptive attempt at explaining what computer recycling is and how can you prep for it will surely be of assistance. And once you’re done with this guide, you’ll be quite the pro at ‘how to prepare a computer for disposal’.
So, let’s begin by understanding what IT equipment recycling means.
What does computer disposal mean?
Computer disposal or recycling is the disassembling and separation of their components and raw materials. Apart from this, reusing, donating and repairing old computers and other equipment also come under the proper disposal etiquettes. Disposing of a computer is the last step in the waste hierarchy. And to do that you need to know how to prepare your computer for disposal.
But what do we need to do for prepping a computer for disposal? Let’s see!
How To Prepare A Computer For Disposal?
In order to be safe from any kind of data breaches, we must know how to wipe a PC clean before we dispose of it. And not just that, since 2007, it has been illegal to throw your IT equipment on landfills, according to the WEEE Directive. Therefore, computer recycling is mandatory and to do just that we must know how to prepare hard drive for disposal.
The following major steps must be kept in mind before getting rid of old computers:
1. Create A Backup
Before going for any kind of recycling, one thing that needs to be done is saving important data. So, how can we do that? One of the easiest ways to backup data that will be needed afterwards is to save it on a portable storage device. We can save important files on external hard drives, USBs, cloud storage or simply put them in the new PC. This is important before sending the equipment for IT recycling.
2. Clean The Hard Drive
It doesn’t matter if you’re giving away the PC or throwing it away, the hard drive must be wiped. And by wipe, we don’t mean simply deleting data. So, how do you wipe a computer clean to sell it or give it away?
There are several data recovery programs that can retrieve all or parts of your data if not cleaned properly. Therefore, it’s important to know how to prepare hard drive for disposal. Step one is to simply delete the files from the system (shift + Del). Next, you can use several data shredding programs to overwrite the files. We recommend overwriting multiple times to make it even harder to be retrieved.
Before sending the system for computer recycling, make it go through several data shredding software programs. For instance, go for:
- Securely File Shredder
- Secure Eraser
- TweakNow SecureDelete
- Hard Disk Scrubber
All these programs have shown successful results. So, choose one and start shredding.
Wiping Different Hard Drive Types
Moreover, the deleted data can be retrieved on only certain drives, not all. This is the reason each drive must be prepared for disposal in a different manner. For instance;
- Solid-state drive – reinstall the operating system to erase all data
- Mechanical drive – wipe the drive before reinstalling the OS
- External drive – wipe it before reinstalling the operating system
Resetting On Different Windows Editions
Each Windows edition has different features when it comes to resetting it to factory settings. But in order to securely prepare your old computer for disposal, it’s important to know the respective features. So, before opting for IT recycling, know what you can do to wipe the PC clean.
Windows 10 Pro
With Windows 10, the process of resetting has become fairly simple. Knowing how to prepare a computer for disposal was never this easy before. All we need to do is follow a few simple steps and have an all-new looking pc at our disposal.
Let’s see what those steps are:
- Open the Settings of the system
- Click on ‘Update & Security’
- Go to ‘Recovery’ option in the menu on the left side
- Choose the option ‘Get Started’ under the Reset This PC
- Select ‘Remove Everything’ from the dialogue box that pops up like the one below
Go for ‘Remove Everything’.
After completing all the steps Windows will overwrite the data in your hard drive. As a result, you will have a brand-new system once you reinstall the Windows. This feature wipes all the data and makes it unrecoverable.
Understanding how to prepare old computer for disposal, especially the Windows 8 ones, is also easy. Just like Windows 10 Pro, this operating system also has a built-in feature for deleting data and wiping a PC clean.
Opt for ‘Fully Clean The Drive’.
Just like Windows 10 Pro, the steps are quite easy and self-explanatory. Simply:
Settings > Update & Recovery > Reset This PC (or Get Started) > Fully Clean The Drive
Unlike Windows 8 and 10 Pro, Windows 7 doesn’t have a built-in feature to wipe the hard drive. But still, you have to wipe it clean before going for computer recycling or even selling. So, how do you wipe a computer clean to sell it? Well, for starters, you’re gonna need a disk-wiping tool.
One of the most commonly used drive-cleaning tools is Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN). This tool is used to clean the hard drive before we reinstall Windows. It overwrites the hard drive with junk data and completely wipes it away. The data wiped this way is irrecoverable.
Moreover, if you’re sending the computer to be disposed of, this is it. Leave the PC in this state. However, if you’re giving away the system then you need it to be in functional condition. So, only then do you need to reinstall the Windows.
3. Wipe External Drives
If your PC has any external drives connected, like an external hard drive or a USB, then make sure you wipe them too. Although cleaning an external drive is easy, it’s not the same for all OS’s. For instance, we can easily recover the deleted data on Windows XP but not as easily on Windows Vista. Moreover, in Windows 7 the full format feature is not available which is why DBAN is needed.
Make sure you uncheck ‘Quick Format’.
Follow the steps given below to format an external drive before you throw away a computer:
- See if the drive is connected to the system
- Right-click on the external drive
- From the drop-down menu, choose ‘Format’
- Uncheck the ‘Quick Format’ option from the pop-up window
And you’re good to go. Repeat these steps for all the drives that need to be wiped.
4. Delete Browsing History
Apart from all the hard drive and external drive cleaning, you need to wipe the browsing history, too. Browsing history is all that you search for in a browser, like Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Mozilla Firefox etc.
In order to prepare a computer for disposal, this step is quite important, too. So, if your browser is Google Chrome then follow these steps to clear the browsing data:
- Click on these three dots in the top right corner à
- Select ‘History’ from the drop-down menu
- On the next page, click on ‘Clear Browsing Data’
It will take you to the next page where you can select from a list of options what you want to delete. So, if you’re going to get rid of your old computer, we suggest you select all options.
5. Uninstall Programs
While we may consider some programs as the safe ones, like Office, this may not always be the case. These software programs secretly save our personal data like names and addresses. So, in order to securely prepare your old computer for disposal, uninstalling all programs that are there is required.
You can find the ‘Uninstall or Change a Program’ option in the top bar in ‘My Computer’ or ‘This PC’. You can also access it in the ‘Settings’. So, before going for IT recycling, make sure that all your programs are uninstalled.
6. Encrypt All Files
Some people may have extremely sensitive data on their systems. Simple wiping and deleting is not enough for such data. So, what do they do? How’re they ever
Well, this is where encryption of data comes to the rescue. We can always encrypt our data – files, folders, and entire drives. This way all the data is safe and sound with no threat of breaching as it is secured with a password.
So, before sending the PC for computer recycling, encrypt your drive and no one will be able to access your data. You can use TrueCrypt for this purpose as it creates encrypted containers and entire drives. After your data is encrypted you don’t need to worry because any thief will need the encryption key to access your files.
7. Put Yourself To Test
After carrying out all the steps to prep your system for disposing of, it’s time to test it all. In order to do that, you need a file-recovery program. There are many such programs but some of the most popular and trusted ones are:
- Piriform Recuva
- Wise Data Recovery
- PC Inspector File Recovery
- EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free
All these programs help look for the bits of information regarding the deleted files from your system. If the whole process of deleting and shredding was successful, these programs should show no files.
Always keep in mind one golden rule: ‘If you can recover it, it will be a piece of cake for the hackers.’
8. Destroy drives
If all the above steps aren’t enough for you and you’re not satisfied, then there’s only one way left. Smash the drive! Yes, that’s right. Forget about how to prepare a computer for disposal or any sort of computer and IT recycling. All you need to have is a sledgehammer and a railroad spike.
This method may be a bit extreme and dangerous to some extent but it sure is effective. There are two major benefits of this method:
- You save cash
- You have no worries for data breaches
However, on the other hand, there is a downside to it, too. And that’s wasting usable hardware. But for companies and organisations that contain the sensitive data of clients, this method is the best. It saves them from unnecessary risk of security breaches.
Some Other Computer Disposal Options
Recycling should be the first thing that comes into your mind when disposing of old computers. Several organisations work for this purpose in order to keep the environment e-waste free. They take the old computers and other equipment from you and then use it for several recycling purposes.
You must always check with your local government for computer recycling programs and the local landfill office for disposal regulations. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has information on IT equipment recycling programs.
Instead of thinking about how to prepare your computer for disposal, think about how to make it useful. The less-fortunate people can always benefit from your discarded computer if it is in functional condition. So, search online or in your neighbourhood to find a charity organisation that takes old and used PCs and donates them further. You can also donate to a local orphanage/foster care centre.
Several organisations and even countries buy old IT equipment, especially computers. Other than these, several websites and retailers also collect used consumer electronics.
Call Us For Help
IT recycling and secure computer disposal is an efficient way to save the environment from tonnes of toxins released in the air. E-waste can be recycled for several purposes. For computer or laptop recycling choose an efficient agency who will help you get rid of your E-waste.
Ecogreen has a vast experience in recycling IT equipment. In other words, they are experts in secure IT disposal. Recycling in large quantities, their IT recycling UK team can make an assessment on the approximate value that they can achieve for your organisation.