Disposing of your old computer

Westlake and Bay Village service departments postponed their spring eWaste roundup events due to social distancing mandates. A little more time to prepare your eWaste before disposal!

Preparing your eWaste for safe disposal is about minimizing the chance of your information stored on the old computer, aka data, from falling into the possession of nefarious entities.

Whether computers, tablets, smartphones, or other computer-like electronic devices including Smart TVs, most save mountains of information during the years of usage. We'll cover computers today and cover tablets and smartphones in future issues.

Inside a computer, storage components like hard disk drive (HDD or mechanical drive) and solid state drive (SSD) are responsible for storing information such as documents you wrote, pictures you imported, tax returns if you used tax preparation software, or files you downloaded from the internet.

This article assumes you no longer need the data on the old computer, have a backup, or it's already copied onto the new computer you replaced it with. If this assumption is wrong and you need the data, make sure you have a good backup before proceeding.

Two DIY options exist to remove the data: manually or digitally.

Option 1: Remove the storage components, put them in a shoebox, and store it somewhere safe, then dispose of the rest. This will also be your only option if the computer is not operable.

If you are not familiar with how storage components look, just google "3.5 inch hard disk drive" if you have a desktop or "2.5 inch hard disk drive" if you have a laptop for pictures. After making sure the computer is unplugged for some time and the battery is detached and/or disconnected to avoid risk of electrical shock, find the screws (some have a latch instead of screws) holding the cover. There are just too many permutations of computer cases out there so here, too, a google search is handy.

Once opened, look for storage components. Detach all cables connected to the storage components. There may be more screws to deal with as storage components are typically inside a structure referred to as a "drive cage." Sometimes you need to free the drive cage out of the computer first before the storage component can be slid out.

Option 2: If you opt to keep the storage component intact and instead programmatically "wipe" (aka erase data in an unrecoverable manner) the data on the storage component, I have personally used the free software from the website dban.org with success. This option can be technical so if you need instructions, there are an abundance of "how to" videos on the internet that googling will uncover.

Apple's Mac computer users also have a DIY option: boot into the recovery partition, go to the Disk Utilities selection, and choose "erase" to securely wipe the data. If DIY is not your "thing," contact Apple support and they should help you get into their recycle program where they'll lead you every step of the way. At the end you can even bring in your prepared Apple computer into the Apple Store (closest in Crocker Park) for disposal.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with almost 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

Read More on The Digital World
Volume 12, Issue 8, Posted 8:59 AM, 04.21.2020