How to Dispose of a Computer

Computers and other electronic devices make up a significant percentage of junk in most homes and companies. If you don’t intend to sell or donate your old and outdated computer, you should find better ways of disposing of it. Unfortunately, you can’t dump your computer in the trash because it contains valuable resources and rare elements, such as copper, palladium, and gold.

Computer parts also contain harmful chemicals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, which shouldn’t be exposed to the environment unless they pollute groundwater. Below are a few tips to consider when disposing of your computer.

  1. Backup Your Files

You should back up all information on your old computer before discarding it. This includes photos, videos, documents, and other important files on your computer’s hard drive. The process becomes simpler if you have a cloud-based file syncing service, like Dropbox or Google Drive. Ensure that important information that you might need in the future is synchronized or backed up to the cloud.

If you stored some personal files only on the old computer, you should back them up to a different location. Fortunately, Windows simplifies this process with its built-in File history tool. The tool saves important files and folders to an external hard drive. A Time Machine can help Mac users.

  1. Transfer Important Software

You should also transfer your licensed software from the old computer to your new machine. Some apps, like Photoshop, allow active subscribers to deactivate and transfer their licenses to a new PC. Confirm if you can deactivate all your licensed software through menu commands. If you can’t, reach out to the vendors for guidance. You should copy the product keys to reactivate these programs.

  1. Wipe Your Old Hardware

Wipe the hardware on your old computer after transferring and backing up all the necessary files. You can either reset or reinstall the OS to factory settings to remove personal data. These processes slightly differ depending on the Windows version your computer was running on and Mac components. Third-party tools, such as Active KillDisk and Disk Wipe, are handy in wiping your hard drive.

  1. Destroy the Drive

If you intend to dispose of trash, including parts of your old computer and are concerned about others accessing sensitive information on the hardware, wiping your hardware using software options isn’t enough. You can only be certain that sensitive information won’t be recovered by destroying the hard drive physically.

An easy way of doing this is using a degausser, which magnetically erases everything on the hard drive. It also makes it impossible for tech experts to recover deleted information. Unfortunately, degaussing tools are expensive. Therefore, consider removing and retaining your hard drive as an external hard drive. If you don’t need the drive, destroy it physically with a hammer.

  1. Recycle Computer Parts

As mentioned, you shouldn’t discard your old computer with your usual trash. Computer components are made from different electronic parts that should be discarded properly. Apple and Amazon accept returns for some of their products. Popular stores like Staples and Best Buy also have recycling drop-offs for electronics. If these options aren’t viable, check your district office for recycling facilities and disposal sites, or hire a junk removal service provider conversant with e-waste.


The first step to disposing of an old computer is ensuring that confidential or personal information has been deleted permanently. If the computer isn’t much outdated, you can repurpose it into a home server or use the storage drive as an external drive for more storage and backups. Alternatively, if the electronic components are functional, donate them to charitable organizations.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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