Inevitably, there will come a time when you will need to dispose of an old computer. Spending a little time and effort to do it properly will protect your personal information and the environment. Improper computer disposal could allow strangers to access your personal information and online accounts. It also has the potential to expose the environment to hazardous electronic components such as heavy metals.
A proper procedure for computer disposal includes transferring files you want to keep to a new device, signing out of and deauthorizing online accounts, destroying or erasing the hard drive, and then giving the decommissioned computer to a reliable recycler or donation center. Some computer recyclers will handle all the steps to decommission and dispose of your old computer for you. However, if you want to address some of the processes yourself, see below for additional guidance.
TRANSFERRING OLD FILES
Before you get rid of your old computer, you will want to back up your files. There are a few ways that you can accomplish this--
- Back up your data to a cloud account. There are many cloud storage service providers. Some even offer limited free storage capacity. Check out Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Dropbox, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Transfer your files to another computer. If you already have a new computer, you may want to transfer your data from your old computer directly to your new one using an appropriate file sharing program.
- Save the information you want to keep to an external storage drive. Whether it is an external hard drive, USB drive, or another storage device, you will want to ensure that it has sufficient storage capacity to hold all essential data.
DEAUTHORIZING ONLINE ACCOUNTS
Because some online subscription services have limits on the number of devices that can access an account, you will want to deactivate these accounts on your old computer before disposal. You will also want to uninstall all software programs that you are subscribed to and delete your browser history.
ERASING THE HARD DRIVE
The most effective way to decommission a hard drive is to destroy it physically. However, if you want to preserve the hard drive for future use, you may decide just to erase the files or wipe the hard drive clean. Most computers have a function that allows you to erase the hard drive and reset its factory settings. There are also software programs that will effectively wipe your hard drive clean while preserving it for future use.
Once you have backed up your files, deauthorized your online accounts, and erased or destroyed your hard drive, you can safely recycle your old computer.