Recycle that old computer safely

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The days of one computer per family are long gone. The prices have come down so much that a large number of households now have several computers. In our house, we have 4 people, so we have 4 computers.

That just means that when a computer becomes obsolete (or just stops working and is no longer repairable), there are more computers being disposed of each day. In most communities, it is not acceptable to just throw your old computer in the garbage (and you definitely can’t just toss that old CRT monitor). You generally have to contact a computer recycling/disposal organization and have them pick it up (or take it to them). In our area, there are scheduled “computer collection” days where everyone can bring their old computers to one location (such as a school parking lot), and a company collects them all for proper processing.

However – before you recycle or dispose of your old computer, you need to make sure you have not left any of your data on there. Even if you think the data is not very important, delete it. Maybe there is a cookie on there storing the password for an email account that you no longer use – what harm could that do? Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Someone could get onto that old email account, and send emails that appear to be “from” you. They could perhaps send an email “from” you, to everyone in your old Yahoo contact list, telling all your friends “hey, I am broke and stranded in New York, could you just send me $100 by Western Union today?” If that email went out to 50 people, some of them would wire the money without even verifying any details – because it came from you, someone they trust.

2. Even if a scammer didn’t get into that email account, they would have knowledge of at least one password that you used. Do you use a different password every time you create an account online? Didn’t think so. Now all the scammer has to do is find out what websites you may have registered with, and he has your password for those sites.

How to wipe out all of the data on your hard drive? There are products designed to do just that.

There is a product called BCWipe that is supposed to work pretty well. There is another one called SureDelete, that I believe is free. I have not had personal experience with either of these. Or, for $100 you can go the hardware route. The Drive Eraser actually plugs into your old hard drive and wipes it clean of data.

If nothing else, you can bring it to me and I will destroy the data on the hard drive (and recycle the computer for parts). Whatever your preference, make sure the data is destroyed before you get rid of that old computer.

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