How to Remove the Hard Drive Before Recycling a Computer

Why Should I Remove the Hard Drive Before Recycling a Computer?

Recycling old computers is a great thing to do, but should you remove the hard drive before recycling a computer? The answer is – it depends!  Whether you remove it or not depends on how you plan to do the recycling. 

Suppose you’re sending your computer to a specialist recycler like TechReset, or you’re not worried about your data being read by someone else. In that case, it’s not essential to remove the hard drive before recycling a computer, but you should at least format the hard drive as a minimum.  

Learning how to remove the hard drive from a computer before recycling is a good idea to prevent your personal data from ending up in someone else’s hands.

Why Recycling Computers is a Good Thing to do

The problems from discarded computers and other electronics affect every country in the world, even remote areas like the Arctic and the Yukon. 

Computers contain toxic substances like lead and mercury that cause pollution. They also contain valuable materials, including gold, copper, and silver. Dumping old computers without attempting to recycle these materials depletes the earth’s natural resources and harms the environment. 

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Protecting your Data

Hard drives contain data. Your data – including:

  • Usernames
  • Passwords
  • Confidential data
  • Bank account details
  • Credit card information
  • Browser History
  • Photographs

…..and more

This is personal data that you don’t want to get into the wrong hands when you recycle your computer.

Does Erasing a Computer Hard Drive Before Recycling Protect Me?

Just deleting files or using wiping software to delete the data isn’t enough, as criminals could still get your data using widely available software tools for restoring data on a hard drive. Finding out how to remove the hard drive from a computer before recycling can help protect you from harm.

How to Remove the Hard Drive from a Computer Before Recycling

Where Can I Find the Hard Drive?

The location of hard drives varies between desktop PCs and laptops. You will require some tools such as screwdrivers and pliers to remove the hard drive.

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Desktop PCs

Most PCs use a standard type of computer case. Once the enclosure side is removed, it's generally easy to spot where the hard drives are. Typically, drives look like a small rectangular metal box with a label that usually has the manufacturer and the drive's storage capacity (250GB, etc).


Laptops are more of a challenge when learning how to remove a hard drive. If you're lucky, there will be a removable cover on the back or side of the laptop with a hard drive underneath it.
Many laptops hide the hard drive inside the laptop. Sometimes it's underneath the motherboard, making it even harder to find. This makes the removal extremely complex, even requiring the removal of the screen and keyboard.
If in doubt, seek specialist help before you try to remove a hard drive from a laptop.

First Steps

When learning how to remove the hard drive from a computer before recycling, reviewing these first steps can save you a lot of trouble

Read the manual

It's always a good idea to read the manual for your computer before starting to remove the hard drive before recycling a computer. It might have useful information that can help you.

Unplug everything

The most important thing to remember when learning how to remove the hard drive from a computer before recycling is that you must check that there is no power to the computer. The easiest and most foolproof way to do this is to take the power lead out of the back of the computer.
You should also unplug all cables, including the monitor, mouse, and network, and anything plugged into the USB ports.

Find somewhere suitable to work

You need somewhere with enough space to put the computer and its parts as you take it apart. Ideally, this should be somewhere dry and tidy – searching for a dropped screw in an untidy garage can be a challenge!
The area needs good light so you can see what you're doing.

Don't try and do something else at the same time

All of us multitask at some time, but multitasking to remove the hard drive before recycling a computer is a bad idea. The job needs your full attention.

Put a soft mat down

If you want to avoid scratching the computer case, it's a good idea to lay a soft mat down that you can put the computer on.

Clean your hands

Make sure you keep your hands clean and dry. You might need to clean them several times as you go through the steps to remove the hard drive before recycling the computer, as you can pick up things like dust and grease on your hands.

Remove any metal items

Metal items that you're wearing like rings, bracelets or watches can scratch the computer and damage the internal components. Take them off and put them somewhere safe.

Eliminate static

Wear clothing that doesn't create static electricity, like wool or cotton. Otherwise, there's a risk that you could damage the delicate electronics inside the computer.
You might also want to earth yourself off before you start to remove the hard drive before recycling a computer by touching something metal or even wear an antistatic wrist strap.

How to Remove the Hard Drive

These are the standard steps for how to remove the hard drive from a computer before recycling:

ITAD Compliance

Desktop PC: open the outer case

Remove the screws that fasten the left side cover of the case using a suitable screwdriver. Then slide the cover off and remove it.

Laptop: Remove the battery

Unlike PCs, laptops have batteries that need to be removed to avoid causing any damage to yourself or the laptop electronics. You might need to take the laptop to a specialist if the battery is built-in and not removable. 

Laptop: Unscrew the hard drive access panel

Find the drive and disconnect all cables from it without using any force.  Gentle wiggling usually helps. Needle nose pliers can also be useful to hold the cables while you lever the drive away.

Remove the drive from the bracket

Use the correct screwdriver to remove the screws, then take the drive off the bracket. If the bracket is fastened on both sides, you might have to remove the other cover as well to get at the screws.

The drive should now be removed, ready for you to destroy, reuse, or give it to a specialist recycler like TechReset, who can safely and securely destroy it for you.

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Final Tip

Erasing a computer hard drive before recycling will help to prevent your data from being stolen. Destroying the data will guarantee that it is safe.

You can destroy the drive yourself; you can use any of these three methods to destroy the drive platters. All need effort and safety equipment!

  • Use sandpaper to remove the magnetic surface
  • Drive nails into the platters with a hammer
  • Smash the drive into small pieces using a heavy hammer.

When you remove a hard drive before recycling a computer, you risk having your personal data compromised if you don’t erase the drive’s data or make sure it’s no longer readable.

The best way to do this is to take the removed drive to a specialist recycler like TechReset. They have specialist equipment that mechanically shreds the drive into fine particles, guaranteeing that all data is erased. Contact us to discuss how our secure data erasure services can help you.