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Don't pass on your personal data when you dispose of your old computer

You don't know where your old PC might end up after you get rid of it. Here's how to dispose of old laptop computers to ensure your personal data doesn't end up in the wrong hands.

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Last updated: 24 August 2020

How to dispose of old laptop computers

Back-up your data

The first thing to do when you are thinking of how to dispose of a laptop is to make sure you don't lose any valuable information. You can do this by backing up your data.

The best back-up device depends on how much data you have. The most popular ways are:

Delete your data

Your main worry when you think about how to dispose of laptop computers you own is what will happen to your personal data.

Deleting your files and emptying the recycle bin doesn't remove them from your hard drive. They can be easily retrieved with the most basic recovery software.

Even formatting your disc will fail to remove your personal data from the hard drive.

There is a range of software available for download which can erase your data. However, just as you erase it, someone could easily download a program to retrieve it.

Demolish your hard drive

If the idea running software fills you with dread, a practical way of getting rid your personal data is to destroy your hard drive.

Remember to back up your data beforehand, if you don't do this then you will lose your data forever.

Removing your hard drive is relatively simple:

  • Disconnect your PC from any power source.

  • Open the casing and locate the hard drive (usually connected to a flat, wide IDE cable).

  • Undo any screws that secure the hard drive to its wire cage.

  • Remove the hard drive.

Reduce the hard drive to tiny little pieces. Remember to wear protective goggles or wrap your hard drive in a towel to prevent being struck by flying plastic.

Afterwards, It doesn't matter how you dispose of it - no one will be able to recover any personal data from your drive.

Find your old PC a new home

PCs contain harmful substances like mercury, lead and arsenic so it can be tricky to know what to do with old laptop. UK councils will not allow such dangerous materials in wheelie bins, for example. However, there are a number of ways you can dispose of your computer:

  • Recycle: Your local recycling centre may be able to take it. Contact them to find out if they will accept it.

  • Sell it: If your PC still works, you can list it on sites like eBay. Don't worry if you have removed the hard drive as they are relatively inexpensive to replace.

  • Donate it: Charities like Computer Aid International refurbish your old computer and send them to developing countries. You can also hand it to a local youth club, school or give it away using sites such as Freecycle.

Computer Aid International


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