Have you just bought yourself a brand new shiny computer, but don’t know what to do with your old slow-clapped out brick of a computer? There are some safeguards to consider for computer disposal.
Disposing of an old computer
Before you even think of how to get rid of your old machine, you must consider what data is on it. It is very simple for fraudsters to get at your data (even deleted items) from your computer and use it to impersonate you.
There are three methods to ensure that you don’t have your data, and more importantly, your identity is stolen. Doing computer disposal in the correct way will help stop thieves from getting at your data.
Store your Hard Drive
This is by far the simplest method. Just remove the hard drive from your old computer, put it in a box and store it safely – perhaps in your attic.
The benefits of this method are that you keep your personal data close, you don’t have to pay to get the data removed and by far its the simplest method.
The downside to this is you may forget its there if you ever move – leaving your data in possibly unsafe hands. The other thing to consider is do you want to have lots of old hard drives stored in your house?
Safely Wipe your Hard Drive
There are a number of software solutions you can either buy or download for free that will wipe a hard drive of its contents. For example, The freeware DBan is a useful tool for wiping your hard drives, it does make it very difficult for the average snoop to retrieve your information. To use this simply create a CD with the program on and reboot your computer to the CD and follow all on-screen instructions. But be aware that a determined person may be able to retrieve some items. Alternatively, Blancco wipes your hard drive to DOD 5220.2M standard (completely removing the risk of recovery). Currently, Blancco is offering free licences, but it is normally a paid for the product – it may change in the future.
Please be aware that using either of these tools is at your own risk. Extreme caution is recommended, as you will not be able to recover anything from the hard-drive should you accidentally wipe the wrong one.
There are a number of different solutions to wiping your hard-drive available, it is recommended that you investigate whichever you decide upon fully.
Destruction of the Hard Drive
It is a common misconception that if you damage the hard drive you are guaranteeing that no data will be able to be recovered.
Please don’t fall for this, I have seen personally a hard-drive fully recovered that the owner had drilled through the entire drive.
Many disk platters (the bits inside your hard drive your data is stored on) are made of a glass construction, smashing these more or less is effective at preventing data recovery. However, there are numerous examples of data recovery companies such as Krollontrack recovering data from horrendously damaged hard drives – beware!
Many computer companies offer a safe wipe and computer recycling service. However, please don’t assume because they repair your computer that they also know how to fully wipe your data to ensure that it is never recovered again. Check their website, or ask them directly. You need to be able to be guaranteed that your drive will be wiped to DOD5220.2M standard, this requires that each sector on the hard drive is overwritten 4+ times, once with 1′s, once with 0′s and then with random numbers, this should be sufficient to ensure that your data cannot be recovered. Also, consider asking them if they conform to EU Data Protection Directive (EU DPD) 95/46/EC this requires data sectors to be over-written 5+ times.
Getting rid of your computer
There are a few different ways for you to actually dispose of your old computer. But please DON’T just put it in the bin! The reason for this is your computer has lots of computer circuit boards that contain heavy metals, these will seriously harm the environment, you may also face a fine depending on your local authority. Your local authority will advise you about computer disposal
What are the options?
Donate it to charity – if your computer is in working order charities may be able to use it. See computeraid.org for more details – they even provide free data wiping software.
Give it to a young relative – if you have a young relative, your old computer may be able to be used to help introduce them to the world of computers. But please also be aware, if your computer is no longer any good for you, it will certainly be no good to them either!
Recycle it – your local authority will have a recycling centre. Contact them to see if they are able to help you with computer disposal If they can’t you can use the web to search for companies that are able to recycle your computer for you. However, they do need to conform to the WEEE directive. Click the link to read more information.
Remember that there are other places you store data that you need to consider wiping when you dispose of them. Pen Drives are a great example of this, often we lose them or just simply throw them away without considering the consequences of our data getting into the wrong hands. Roadkill offers a free wipe tool to delete the data from USB memory sticks, it is well worth using when considering computer disposal.