So you bought a brand new computer and no longer need your old one. You make the decision to drop it off at a recycling depot, sell it, or donate it but doing so without taking proper precautions could cause serious issues for you down the road. Think of all of the files you keep on your computer.
Would you want these getting into the wrong hands? Of course not because if they were obtained by someone able to access the hard drive on your old system, identity theft would definitely be a possibility. Taking these steps will ensure you properly dispose of your old computer and protecting yourself in the process.
1. Back up your files
Your computer holds a lot of personal information such as pictures, passwords, bank information, tax forms, and other personal documents. You want to retain this important information so it is essential that you back up your information before disposing of your old computer.
This can be done by moving all of the files you want to keep to an external hard drive, a USB drive, or to an online cloud service. Another necessary step is deleting or uninstalling as many programs and files as possible from your system as these can hold personal information without you even knowing it.
2. Delete your browsing history
Like many people, you may do banking and tax processes online. While these are safe tasks to do online usually, your browser usually uses something called “cookies” which are files retained on a system specific to a website after that link is accessed. Browsers also save usernames and passwords that can be accessed by anyone using the system. To make sure no one accesses such information after you dispose of your computer, go into your browser settings and delete the browsing history, cookies, passwords, and any autofill data.
3. Fully erase the hard drive
As mentioned, deleting as many programs and files before disposing of your old system is beneficial, but you need to do more to guarantee your private information does not fall into the wrong hands in the future. There are many software applications available to assist you in fully erasing your hard drive. After you do this, run the system restore feature on the computer to bring it back to its factory settings and the disk eraser to overwrite any empty space to prevent people from restoring deleted files.
If you know for sure that the computer will be scrapped, causing physical damage to the hard drive would prevent anyone from accessing personal information as well. This can be done by removing it and drilling holes into it or wrecking it with a hammer.
4. Recycle it
If you know that your old computer is too dated and unworthy to be repurposed or given to someone else, then taking your system to an electronics recycling depot would be best. Computers contain hazardous chemicals in them and as a result, should not be disposed of in your garbage or at a landfill site. Research the recycling depot and confirm that they will not accept it then ship it to developing nations as your system could still end up at a landfill site where someone may be harmed by its elements.
If your old system is still in acceptable condition, sell it in your local classifieds or eBay. You can also choose to donate it to a program who will make your old system operable, update it, and give it to someone in need. Obviously, whether you choose to recycle or donate your system, follow the steps described above to do so in a way that will protect your personal information.