Data Doctors: Where to take an old computer to be reused or recycled

Where can I take an old computer to be reused or recycled?

When it comes to disposing of an old computer, your choices are to sell, donate or recycle it.

What you should never do is throw an old computer in a dumpster as its both hazardous waste and puts your personal information at risk.

Selling an old computer is likely more trouble than it's worth, so I always recommend donating it to an organization that might be able to make use of it if you can.

Unfortunately, when a computer is taken out of service, it often sits in a closet or garage for a couple of years before it's finally disposed of, making it less likely to be useful.

If we all started offering up our old computers shortly after we stopped using them, they would be more likely to be repurposed.

If your computer is less than 3 years old, check with local schools, churches and non-profits to see if they have a program designed to repurpose older technology.

Most Data Doctors locations around the country have a relationship with charitable organizations and responsible recyclers and serve as an e-waste collection point year round.

In Arizona, the next Technology Recycling Day is on Saturday, October 12 and drop-off locations are available in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff.

We work with the Arizona Technology Council and Westech Recylers so any donations that can be repurposed will become usable donations to various educational programs and the rest is responsibly recycled.

There's one aspect of safely repurposing or recycling your old computer that you should always be focused on: deletion of your personal information.

Making sure any personal information has been securely erased from the hard drive is critically important, but simply deleting your files isn't secure as the files can be easily retrieved.

If you want to make sure that the computer is still usable but cleansed of your personal info, you can install a secure file deletion utility such as Eraser for Windows or use secure deletion features in Mac OS X.

This approach takes more time because you have to track down and manually delete your various data files, but it leaves the computer as a fully functional system.

If you want a faster way to securely wipe the entire hard drive and leave it blank when you get rid of it, you can download the free Darik's Boot and Nuke utility. This method does require that you know how to create a bootable disk or flash drive, so some technical skills are required.

If you aren't comfortable with either of those methods, you can remove the hard drive and donate/recycle the rest of the system. This allows you to retain control of your personal information until you find a comfortable way to cleanse the information later.

Please don't use a hammer or drill to destroy the drive and then throw it in the trash…it's still hazardous waste.  If you feel compelled to physically destroy the drive, please be sure you still get it to an electronic recycler for proper disposal.

For those that are getting rid of an old smartphone or tablet, remember that these devices are loaded with sensitive personal information too. Find the factory reset option in the Settings menu so that it's clean when it leaves your possession.

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