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  OIT Home > Security > Guide > How to Dispose of Computer Equipment
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How to Dispose of Computer Equipment


Computers are decreasing in cost and increasing in speed and storage capacity. It's often easier and less expensive to replace old equipment. This means that you will periodically be faced with the prospect of disposing of computer equipment. In addition to business issues involving computers, there are also environmental concerns as some areas are increasing regulation covering computer waste.

Hard Drives

The hard drive is the most sensitive component of a computer because it contains all of the computer's programs and files. The surest way to prevent information on the hard drive from falling into the wrong hands is to remove it entirely from the computer. This way the outside shell of the computer can be thrown out but the sensitive information can be retained. The hard drive should be labeled with information such as which computer it came from, the date and, if known, what types of programs or operating systems it was using. Then the hard drive should be stored in a safe place, just like any other sensitive document.

Some non-profit organizations will accept computers as donations. However, a machine imore than five years old would probably cost too much to upgrade, and so would not be appropriate for donation.

Disk Wiping Programs

If you do not want to take the computer apart to get to the hard drive, there are programs that will wipe the hard drive clean of any data. These programs are generally not guaranteed to remove all data, so you will need to follow their directions carefully and you may also need to run the program multiple times. Please remember that once you start running a hard drive wiping program, you will not be able to recover your data. You can burn a cd backup of all of your data. If you work in an office that has a server, you should go through your computer files to make sure the most vital files are saved to the network drive and not to the hard drive on your computer. In order to avoid interrupting business, you will probably want to have your new computer up and running for a few days prior to any reformatting of an old machine.

Free programs are available on the Internet that will wipe the data from your hard drive prior to disposal. As a caveat, most free or shareware programs do not provide technical support.

The following programs cost money. Many are available for purchase on the Internet, so you can download the program to your computer for immediate use.

Recycling Your Computer

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