Personal computers are a core part of our lives and are packed with information about us, our jobs, our families, our finances, and much more. That’s useful – but it also means that getting rid of an old computer can be a challenge. There are recycling options that will help dispose of a computer in a safe way, but you also need to make sure that there’s no sensitive data that can be stolen. Here’s everything you need to know before recycling your old computer
Back-Up All Important Data
This is the first important step in computer recycling, and one of the easiest for modern computers. Is there data on your computer’s local storage (the hard drive inside the computer) that you want to save? If so, back it up. There are several popular options for backing up data like this:
- Transfer it to a new computer: If you have already bought a new computer, you should be able to transfer your data during setup, either via a USB connection or through Wi-Fi. This is one of the easiest options!
- Backup on an external hard drive: If you have an external hard drive, you can simply copy all your important folders directly to the drive. External drives also work with apps like Time Machine which can automate a lot of backup procedures.
- Back up on the cloud: Backing up via cloud storage can be very effective…as long as you don’t have too many files to save. Free cloud storage options tend to have limited space, so storing something like an entire photo album won’t be possible. But for small amounts of important data, the cloud is easy, free, and doesn’t require additional devices.
Check with Your Business if Necessary
This is a good point to check with your business if you use your computer for work purposes. Many businesses have their own requirements for wiping and preparing a computer if it has stored important professional data. They may even be able to take care of some of the details for you. So it’s a good idea to shoot a message to your manager or IT department and ask if there are any procedures you should know about.
Fully Erase Saved Data
Now it’s time to erase all the data you’ve stored on your computer. This can be a little more complicated than it seems, because simply moving everything to trash and deleting it isn’t enough. There are still ways hackers can quickly retrieve data erase with such conventional means. That’s why many organizations, including the government, require additional steps.
One of the most effective erasing options is a program that fully overwrites files with scrambled information, making it much harder to recover. We suggest using something like the free File Shredder app, which is designed to do exactly this.
Deauthorize Any Accounts and Clear Browsers
Many services today (VPNs, music apps, etc.) only allow a certain number of “authorized” devices per account. This is a good time to head into those services and de-authorize this particular computer to make room for other devices, and prevent anyone from using your accounts without you knowing. It’s also a good idea to clear your browser cache for similar reasons – especially if you have used your browser to remember passwords and login information for you. You don’t want any of that data winding up with a stranger.
Perform a Factory Reset
Recycling computer prep should always include a full factory reset, as well. Factory resets differ between computer types, but there’s always a way to do it, usually by booting up in a utility or recovery mode. A factory reset will erase all current data and settings on your computer, and return it to the setup state that it was in when you first turned it on. This is especially important if the computer will be used again, such as with a donation.
Prep for Trade-In If Necessary
If you are planning on trading in a computer, check with your trade-in site or company for any requirements. You may need to remove stickers, order a trade-in kit, fill out information about the physical condition of the computer, and more.
Separate the Hard Drive if You Can
If you can take the hard drive out of your computer, consider doing it now. Today’s SSDs are excellent for fast storage, but they also make it easier to recover data, even once it had been re-written. If you want to make extra sure that no data on the drive can be accessed, your best option is to remove it and send it to a hard drive shredding company that can physically shred it (banging an SSD with a hammer, unfortunately, doesn’t have the same results).
Send Your Computer Off for Recycling
Don’t let your computer contribute to e-waste problems! If you aren’t trading in or donating your computer, make sure it is recycled properly. Your local city or county website will have information on how to recycle electronics properly in your area, and where you can drop them off at.
If you have a lot of computers to get rid of at once, consider finding a computer recycling company with services that can help you. Contact the e-waste recycling team at Stream Recycling to dispose of your computer safely and properly.