How to Dispose of Old Computers

Do you know how to dispose of old computers? So many computers and other pieces of electronic equipment become obsolete every year, and yet disposing of computers remains a mystery to many people. Don't just throw them in the trash; there is a proper way to get rid of old computers. You can recycle old computers, which can reduce pollution and the use of energy. Or, you can repurpose or even donate old computers if they still have life in them. 

Electronic equipment contains valuable resources: gold, palladium, copper, and rare earth elements. Computers also contain lead, mercury, and cadmium, all materials that have health effects if they get into groundwater or if they are incinerated. In general, reducing the amount of material in the waste stream is a good idea.

Before we begin, do you really need to get rid of it? Check out our guide that helps you see whether you need to upgrade or replace your computer. Oftentimes, an upgrade will speed up and modernize your system and may surprise you. But with aging PCs, often they just need to be repurposed, donated, or retired and recycled.

Computer components including a monitor, mouse, keyboard and CPUs are discarded in a recycling bin

Security concerns

Before you do anything with your computer, you need to ensure that all confidential or personally identifying information has been permanently removed from your storage drive. Be sure you have all the files you want on your new device before you do this. After you start removing information, none of your files will be usable. You cannot trust that throwing away your storage drive will keep your information safe. You must take steps to ensure that your data is erased.

There are different ways to clear your storage drive. One is to physically destroy the drive. For hard disk drives, it can be difficult to find a facility that will shred the drive, but it ensures that no data can be recovered from it. For solid state drives, it's easier to find machinery that will shred the drive. In some areas, there are document shredding companies that will also have the ability to shred storage drives.

A hard disk drive is being destroyed by an electronic saw or grinder

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Repurpose your old Computer

Often, components or even entire computers can be repurposed for another function. An old storage drive can be wiped and made into an external drive, either for backups or extra storage. An old computer can turn into a home server, allowing you to connect home electronics like streaming devices to your network. 

Donate your old Computer

If your electronics are still functional, consider donating them to a charity. Many charities can put your older electronic devices to good use. In some cases, computers and components can be taken to a nonprofit organization that then sells them to hobbyists or recycles them. Contact your favorite nonprofit organization and see if they can use your discarded computer.

Recycle your old Computer

Depending on your community, there can be multiple options for recycling your computer. Organizations will occasionally run recycling drives to get a truckload of electronics. This is a good way to do bulk recycling.

Electronics waste, including computers, are discarded in recycling bins

In some communities, there will also be a place that can take electronic equipment for safe disposal. This will often be connected to the municipal sanitary landfill, garbage collection, or recycling organizations. There might be limited hours or collection points, so you'll need to do some research.

It's never a good idea to toss a computer out with the trash. In addition to adding to the amount of waste, there are components valuable to someone building a computer, and heavy metals that no one wants in the environment.

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