How to Prepare a Computer for Disposal/Recycling


Nothing lasts forever – including your trusty desktop or laptop. However, getting rid of your old computer is not as simple as throwing it away, and knowing how to prepare a computer for disposal is an important skill.

Simultaneously, knowing how to wipe an old computer before recycling and, perhaps more importantly, asking, “What should I remove from my computer before recycling?”.

This article aims to answer these questions and give you the information you’ll need so you can be safe in the knowledge you’ve covered all the bases before sending your computer on for recycling or disposal.

What Does Computer Disposal Mean?

Prepare a Computer for Disposal

Computer disposal can refer to any process where you pass your computer from your possession to either a new owner or for disposal. This may involve throwing it in the trash (not recommended), selling/passing it on to another person, or passing it to someone who will strip it down for spare parts and recycle as much as possible.

Whatever the destination for your device, you need to know how to prepare a computer for disposal before you pass it on.

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Never Just Give Away or Throw Away Your Old Computer

The number one reason you should never give or throw away your old computer is security. Personal data is a valuable commodity today, and everyone has a responsibility to do whatever they can to protect their personal information.

If people with malicious intent get hold of your data, it can cause you endless problems.Prepare a Computer for Disposal

  • Access to passwords
  • Gather enough personal information to steal your identity
  • Gain access to your bank account or other sensitive websites
  • Apply for credit cards, impersonate you and rack up debt in your name
  • Perform other fraudulent applications with your information

At this point, there are a few key questions you should be asking yourself,

  • Should I remove my hard drive before recycling my computer?
  • Can I learn how to wipe an old computer before recycling?
  • What should I remove from my computer before recycling?

Steps to Prepare for Secure Disposal of Your Computer

Now you understand why preparing a computer for recycling is important, we can get to the steps involved in actually doing it. How to prepare a computer for disposal is a fairly simple process once you understand the steps, so let’s run through them.

serve an essential role in the end-of-life cycle of electronic devices. Rapid technological advancements have led to the rapid obsolescence of electronic devices. When electronic equipment is no longer needed, it is vital to correctly and completely destroy all data. This calls for professional data destruction services.

Step 1 - Save Your Data

Before we get to how to wipe an old computer before recycling, you must first make sure you have saved all the important information stored on the hard disc drive (HDD). During a computer’s lifetime, it will accrue an enormous amount of personal data such as passwords, license keys for software,  financial information, and more. The importance of protecting this information is the reason we are going through this process.

These days, much of this information is now securely stored in the cloud. Your entire password database, for example, can be retrieved simply by logging back into your Google – other search engines are available – account on your new device.

However, there is still a lot of other data on your machine which isn’t connected to your cloud accounts, so grab a USB drive, or open another cloud storage account such as Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc., think, “What should I remove from my computer before recycling?” and copy it all onto the backup drive.

Step 2 – Erase the Hard Disk Contents

How to wipe an old computer before recycling is a critical step, but it’s not just a matter of deleting all the information on it. Manually deleting files does not remove the data from your hard drive; it just removes your computer’s ability to index them. The actual information remains until copied over by new data, meaning a simple data recovery program can bring everything back in a matter of moments.

To avoid this, you need a particular type of software known as disk wiping software. There are plenty of free applications available on the internet to do this.

These programs will make sure all data is removed and not just the indexing.

The steps vary depending on the software you are using, so follow the instructions carefully. Remember that you are permanently formatting your computer’s hard drive, so there’s no going back.

It is important to note that even after using a disk wiping program, a skilled and experienced hacker may still recover some data. However, our goal here is to make it harder for the casual or opportunist criminal to get at your discarded data.

What if you are Giving Your Computer to a Friend or Family Member?

If you run a disk wiping program when you prepare a computer for disposal, you will remove the operating system – e.g., Windows. This can make it difficult for the next user to re-boot the computer up to begin their usage.

In this case, it might be a good idea to reinstall the operating system back onto the device before passing it on to the next person. If you no longer have the disks for the old operating system, you could always install a free one such as Linux to get the new user started.

While this has nothing to do with security, skipping this step could lead to the next owner of your machine getting confused or frustrated at their inability to even perform the most basic tasks on it and ruin the experience for them.

frustrated computer user
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What if your Computer Cannot Even Boot?

One of the main reasons people get rid of an old computer is that it has ceased functioning. In these cases, preparing a computer for disposal or wiping an old computer before recycling becomes a lot harder if that device cannot boot up.

In this event, your only option is to remove the hard drive from the computer and physically destroy it. At this point, the answer to the question about what should I remove from my computer before recycling becomes the hard disk drive as you will most likely not be able to save any data from it manually.

The one exception to this would be if the hard drive is still functioning separately from the unbootable machine and can be connected to another computer and the files recovered. However, care should be taken as the reason for the failure of the old machine may be related to the hard drive – a virus, for example – and connecting it to another computer could cause the same issue to recur.

How to Wipe Windows 10 in Preparation for Recycling

The Canadian government has the authority to enforce legislation controlling products that contain toxic substances listed in the regulation’s toxic substances list. They must reduce harmful substances used in manufacturing products and minimize their release from the same products. 

The toxic substance control list includes common materials used in electronics such as cadmium, mercury, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

How to Wipe a MAC

The Electronics Product Stewardship Standards law was set at the provincial level, but the federal government still enforces its electronic recycling and electronic disposal laws. 

Their main objective is to promote shared responsibility throughout the product life cycle  –  to reduce the impact of their activities on the environment, otherwise known as product stewardship. Additionally, the standards harmonize electronic waste management approaches between Canadian provinces. 

How to Wipe a Chromebook

The benefit of a Chromebook is that everything is automatically stored on Google’s cloud service, meaning it is not stored locally on the machine makes recovering your data a breeze.

To wipe your Chromebook, click on your account picture and open the settings menu. From there, locate the advanced settings section and select Powerwash. You will be prompted to restart, after which all your personal information will be gone.

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Heed Help to Dispose of old PCs or Laptops?

TechReset is an experienced provider of computer disposal services that guarantee the safe and secure disposal of your computer and data. We specialize in the secure and sustainable disposal of electronic waste (e-waste) and secure erasure or eradication of all confidential data through hard drive shredding or certified data cleansing.

We use industry best practices to recycle older or unwanted IT assets in an environmentally friendly manner, providing our clients with peace of mind—and often money back in return. Contact us to learn more.