old computer

I thought it would be best to start thinking of this before the season got too far along.  I admit it, my wife (at times) wishes she would never see another ‘old’ computer grace the doorstep of our home.  You see, folks give them to me so they can be passed on to some other person that can use them.  Let’s look at some things you need to think of when doing this wonderful deed.

Is the computer worth re-gifting? If your PC is over 5 years old, it may not be.  Technology has been moving along at a pretty good clip, so your older PC’s may not be a great gift for some (but for others, they work wonderful as a print server or file server).  So ask yourself if this is really something the grand-kids or kids will use.  If not, perhaps recycling is a better option.

Should you erase the hard drive? Probably not – the operating system (OS) is what makes the PC function and the hard drive is where it has a home.  The places you would take the PC probably don’t have the money to invest in purchasing and loading a fresh OS on the system, so if you want it reused erasing the data on the hard drive may not be the ticket.  Granted, your data will be gone, but any value the machine had may be gone as well for an older PC.

Should you erase your data from the hard drive? Absolutely. This is different from erasing the entire hard drive, but sometimes it seems like the lines blur.

“Personal information” includes your Internet browser’s cache, cookies, history; your email contacts and messages; your documents; your recycle or trash folder; and all nontransferable software. The best way to clear this is with a disk-cleaning utility that overwrites all the sectors of your hard drives, making your data unrecoverable. Listed below are examples of recommended disk-cleaning utilities.

Commercial Windows Disk-Cleaning Software:

Freeware Windows Disk-Cleaning Software:

Macintosh Disk-Cleaning Software:

  • Disk Utility (built-in in Mac OS X, under “Security Options”)
  • WipeDrive for Mac

If the computer is still under a manufacturer’s warranty, you can also call the company’s technical services department and ask for specifics on how to delete personal files.
(an excerpt from Ten Tips for Donating a Computer)

To add to this, many computer manufactures make hidden partitions so you can restore your computer to the factory settings.  This could be used to effectively remove your personal data – but I’d recommend you get rid of it yourself if at all possible.  That way it won’t be in someones hands down the road who may use it for less than noble purposes.

Lastly, don’t forget any disks / software and other items needed to make the computer useful (keyboard, mouse and monitor come to mind here…).  It gives you the opportunity to clean out some clutter as well as the needed disks in the event the person using the PC ever needs them.

I don’t mind PC’s coming to my house because I can spruce them up and find a home for them (many times it is to a local organization here that places them in homes of kids who can’t afford a PC yet need the ability to get online and the skills that come with using a PC to better position themselves in today’s job market).  But what if you aren’t near me?  Here’s a thought – RECYCLE!

You can start on that quest by reviewing the page Where Can I Donate or Recycle My Old Computer and Other Electronic Products?  This is part of the US EPA’s web site and offers you some national options for recycling.  There are also some manufacturer’s options (Dell, HP and others have them) that could help you, or you may have some local shops in your area that do this as well.  Search and help others – while helping yourself get rid of unwanted clutter.

As always, thanks for reading.  If you have ideas or locations for eCycling, feel free to leave a comment.  God Bless you and your family this joyous Christmas season!