Tech Tips: Preparing Your PC for Disposal


You want to dispose of an old or otherwise unused computer. You may have plans to sell it, give it to an organization, or the PC is so old or inoperable that you want to let go of it. Whatever you intend to do with the PC, there are a few things you should do before saying goodbye, such as how to wipe a PC.

You must first back up private data and files to another location. Deactivate and remove any licensed software from your computer. The hard drive can be wiped to discard any traces of personal details. Lastly, ensure the computer is functional for the next person who receives it. Below are the ways to properly dispose of a Windows or Mac computer.

  • Backing up the files. The first part of the process is to back up any files, pictures, videos, and other documents saved on your computer, which will differ depending on how and where your stuff is saved. Because your files are already stored elsewhere, the process for a cloud-based file syncing service, like Google Drive or Dropbox, is quite simple. Remember that all the files you must keep are synced or backed up to another computer or the cloud. 

You’ll need to back up your files to another location if they are the only thing on the computer you intend to discard. To save important folders and documents to an external drive, Windows includes the File History tool, while Mac users can use Time Machine.

Although a third-party online storage tool will also work, the mentioned alternatives are easier and less expensive. They should be sufficient to back up all important data.

  • Transferring software. Let’s assume you are replacing your current computer; you’ll want to ensure that all of your licensed software applications can be operated on the new system. Several applications, like Photoshop, include a deactivation function that enables you to move the license to a different PC.

Open each licensed program and check the menu commands to determine whether you can deactivate it. If you’re skeptical, contact the manufacturer and ask questions about removing the license from a PC and activating it on another. Make a copy of any license or product codes to assist you in reactivating each program. 

  • Wiping the hard drive. After backing up the necessary data, you should wipe the drive. You can restore the operating system to factory settings and delete all your personal information simultaneously. The process for resetting your Mac will look different depending on the version of Windows and the components inside your Mac. You might also use a third-party tool, especially if the drive contains sensitive data. 
  • Destroying the drive. If you intend to dispose of your computer and are concerned about obtaining access to sensitive data stored on the drive, software options may not be sufficient. The only specific way is to destroy the drive. You can use a degausser to magnetically wipe away all data on a drive, making it impossible to retrieve. However, degaussing tools can be pricey.

An affordable alternative is to detach the drive from the computer. You may then use it as an external drive with a SATA-to-USB adapter, a dock, or an enclosure. If not, you can crush the drive with some hard hits from a hammer. Just be careful when doing it. Use safety goggles and gloves. Furthermore, ensure that the drive is destroyed.

  • Recycling the PC unit. If you decide to remove the computer, don’t place it in the rest of the garbage. Computers must be disposed of properly. There are recycling drop-off locations for different kinds of electronics at large retail chains. In addition, some gadget stores will accept their products. 

Check with your city’s district office to find out if there are any recycling or disposal facilities where you can drop off the waste. Try searching for local recycling centers to see if any will accept computers.


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