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Computer Recycling – Don’t Be A Victim

August 5th, 2008 · 14 Comments

This article explains some important things that you should keep in mind before computer recycling.

This is a fairly common issue in computer recycling and yet, many of us who recycle computers still fail to observe basic safety measures to protect ourselves. I’m talking about identity theft and data protection.

That PC or laptop you’re using right now to read this post have bytes and bytes of personal data in it, that could have a devastating impact on you, if those are ever obtained by unscrupulous individuals. When the time comes for you to recycle that computer, here are a few things you can do to prevent that from happening.

Retrieve Your Data

Before sending off you’re equipment to a computer recycling or refurbishing company or back to the manufacturer, ensure that you’ve saved valuable data in an alternative storage device or equipment. Pin codes, pin numbers, bank and credit card information, passwords – all these sensitive information that you critically need – must be extracted and transferred elsewhere. You can use CDs, disks, flash drives, and other portable storage devices for this purpose.

If you’re like me, you can manually copy these into an old-fashioned handy dandy physical notebook (not the computer). It’s tedious but it’s 100%-electronic spying proof. Admittedly, I have to deal with a different kind of danger, like losing this notebook and ending up in the same predicament if some hacker extracts personal  information from my hard drive. But, you can’t be too paranoid these days. 🙂

Some people apparently have more than passwords and codes to protect. A guy in Hong Kong took his laptop to a shop for maintenance and the technicians there saw album after album of pictures showing him in compromising position with many famous people in that island. The pictures got pasted all over the internet, rocking the  celebrity establishment there in a scandal that reverberates up to today. You may not be a celebrity, but you do understand the need to protect yourself, at all times. And this brings us to the next step in your computer recycling protective measures.

Erase Your Data – Permanently

After you have all the valuable information copied and stored elsewhere, it’s now time to destroy all that data in your old computer so no one else can retrieve it. In a study conducted by a security company last year, they found out that 80% of computers turned over for recycling or thrown away in the landfills (DON’T DO THIS, please) still contain some recoverable data in them.

One way of permanently removing data is to physically destroy the hard drive. Think of a wrecking ball or a sledge hammer. It might seem funny and overkill for some people or impractical for many, but it’s quite reliable. Destroying the hard drive, disk drives, etc. before computer recycling ensures that no data can be extracted from that piece of equipment.

Another recommended method is what is known as “degaussing.” This is done by using a magnet or a magnetic device in close proximity to the hard drive. This effectively erases some data in the hard drive by rendering the domains in “random patterns with no preference to orientation, thereby rendering previous data unrecoverable.” Some domains in the disk, however, may not be affected by this magnetic realignment and may still contain some recoverable data, so degaussing is not 100% reliable.

A third method is overwriting the data several times to make it irretrievable. This is accomplished through the use of software. There are available applications that you can buy and other free applications to overwrite data. This is a very effective method of removing data and is commonly used by the computer recycling companies themselves.
When go and install a software, check the overwrite standard for data destruction. Typically, overwrite standards is any one of the following: basic (which overwrites the file with random data 4 times), the Department of Defense standard (which overwrites the file 7 times with random data) and the Super Secure standard (which overwrites the file with random data 24 times!). Apparently, the Super Secure standard is quite impressive, but the DOD method is reliable enough.

If you’re technically-challenged (although using these data over-write software are a breeze), or simply don’t have the time to do any of these, you can still make sure that you’re data is protected and removed properly. Many computer recycling companies provide information or certification describing company procedures in handling and destroying sensitive data from your equipment.

If you’re not sure – ask. Walk away from a company that’s not forthcoming about this information. There are many reputable recyclers out there and providing you with this information when you ask is a standard procedure. You can also check out non-profit groups like FreeGeek if you want to donate your computer to a worthy cause.

So, there you have it. The next time you’re packing your computer for shipment to your chosen recycler, make sure you’ve observed these basic precautions. It would  simply be awful if you get hurt when you’re simply doing your share to save and protect the environment through computer recycling.

Related Articles:

Recycle Your Computer – Our Only Option – To recycle computer and other electronic devices now emerges as the only viable option for us. Without recycling electronics, we will, foreseeably, be overwhelmed by this ever-growing stockpile of what is now known as e-waste.

Recycle Your Computer at Squidoo – This is the definitive lens on computer recycling providing complete information about the need for responsible recycling, the major e-waste recycling issues, and a list of companies and organizations with reliable recycling programs.

Free Recycle – Recycling Initiative At Its Best – Based on communication and totally free sharing of recyclable goods, the concept of free recycle has become phenomenally successful here in the US and worldwide, in the past few years.

Tags: Computer Recycling

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Recycler // Oct 6, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Check this out:


  • 2 Kirk // Oct 16, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    about that guy from hong kong, are you talking about that celebrity named edison chen… ooops, one false move and it ended his career…

  • 3 theo furber // Jan 6, 2009 at 11:54 am

    We buy surplus computer equipment. Does your company have surplus network equipment, laptops, computers, and monitors?


  • 4 Dominican // Jan 10, 2009 at 11:45 am

    My father lost all his data on his computer, and had to pay an exorbitant amount to get it back.

    This post really hits the nail on the head. You can never be too careful with your computer’s data. Otherwise, you’ll learn the hard way, much like my father did.

  • 5 Neil Maycock // Jan 12, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Good Post. People need to be aware.

    Volunteers wanted . Fixing computers for charities. The Era is looking for
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    collects computers, laptops, monitors, lcds, servers and electronics for
    donation and recycling. Volunteers can earn a free computer for spending
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    time at ERA and helping.

  • 6 Jeff the Ebayer // Jan 12, 2009 at 10:08 am

    in our disposable culture where it is easier to throw things out than upgrade them, it’s easy to overlook erasing sensative data.

    My MIS guy is extremely thorough and overwrites the file with random data 30 times!

    Though it is scary to think that some of the people who I’ve bought material from are not aware how vital this for protecting clients. I just had a conversation with one of my suppliers and this came up. Needless to say it was an eye opening experience for him.

  • 7 robert // Jan 14, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    There are alot of good recycling company’s in the states. that fully recycle locally. One i found at this site:

  • 8 alberta computer recycling // Jan 17, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I think most of us forget about the data. Good article

  • 9 Erick // Jan 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Data over-writting, period. We learned that the hard way

  • 10 Donny // Feb 17, 2009 at 1:34 am

    Thank for sharing this great tips. Data on used computer can be dangerous in our competitors hand.

  • 11 Jimmy // Feb 22, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Thanks for these great tips! I have never done anything about data protecion, well it’s time to start doing something about it.
    ‘m bookmarking your blog right now.

  • 12 Brian Wahoff // Apr 14, 2009 at 9:51 am

    There are a ton of free tools for data destruction, but if you are not tech inclined or have significant quantities there are many companies, like EPC, that provide data destruction services for a fee http://www.epcusa.com/

  • 13 arrah // Nov 28, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Our Asset disposal service allows for the recycling of redundant IT equipment in an effective, environmentally sound manner.
    Computer Recycling

  • 14 Houston computer recycling // Dec 29, 2009 at 2:54 am

    I think the main causes of E-waste are :
    1:-Advancement in technology,
    2:-Changes in fashion, style and status,
    3:-Nearing the end of their useful life.