Recycle Computers

Are you going to get a new computer? What about that old one? Simply throwing it out the window from a great height might fulfill your fantasy, but there are some disadvantages to that, both to the people on the ground and to you. There are some alternatives to watching that computer tumble to the tarmac.

How to put an old computer to good use
Take it apart and keep things around for spare parts.
Turn it into a print server.
Use it on a home network to backup files from your new computer.

How to get rid of an old computer
Donate the computer to a community organization, church group, etc.
Donate it to a friend or relative.
Sell it.
Recycle it.

Yes, you can recycle your computer here in Kelowna. Point your browser to the Stop Computer Land Fill Society website at http://www.sclf.ca/ and check the drop-off locations for Kelowna. You will find one, Computer Basics (125A Highway 33 West, 250-491-3468). They accept all computer and peripheral items, including keyboards, mice, speakers, printers, monitors and more. There is a list here: http://www.sclf.ca/accepted.php. Please check with Computer Basics concerning their hours of operations and any other questions you might have.

Safety first!
There are a few important things you need to do before you toss that computer into the trunk and head out. You have personal information on that computer. Yes, you do! Whether you are recycling, donating, or selling your old computer, you should remove that information, and there is more to that than simply dragging things to the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop.

Move it AND lose it
Start by identifying files that are important to you and saving them to a CD, DVD, flash drive, spare hard drive, or to your new computer. These might be word processing Documents, email, email addresses, browser Favorites/Bookmarks, spreadsheets, files from your tax or accounting programs, photos, music files, or anything else that you would (a) want to keep or (b) would not want someone else to have. Think carefully. Copy them to something else, and then delete them from your computer.

Next, uninstall any programs for which you hold the license. Examples are Microsoft Office, Quicken, Photoshop, and so on. Then uninstall anything else that is associated with you such as AOL, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!Messenger, AIM, Skype, etc. Delete any folders that belong to those programs that didn’t get deleted in the uninstall process. Clear your temporary files and temporary internet file caches.

Factory condition
If you have Windows XP, you may never have received a Windows XP disk with your system. Instead you might have received a Restore Disk. Some computers don’t have even a restore disk. Instead they have a Restore Partition built in. The Restore Disk or Restore Partition will put your system back to the way it came in the box. You might want to do that, especially if you are donating the system to someone or selling it. They will have to install all the updates and service packs, and they will have to type in their own registration information for Windows. If you have other versions of Windows, you won’t have that option.

Zap it
Now even though all that has been a big pain in the neck, guess what? Those files are still there. Just dragging things to the trash or pressing “Delete” will not remove the files. Even when you empty the Recycle Bin, that doesn’t remove the files. All that does is remove the information Windows needs in order to find the files. Even reformatting the disk doesn’t remove the files! It’s still possible for an unscrupulous person to restore all that information.

You need a program that will wipe the erased files right off the disk. There are several good, free programs that will do this. Active KillDisk can be found here: http://www.download.com/3000-2092-10188745.html, Sure Delete is here: http://www.rocketdownload.com/program.php?id=3755, and Eraser is here: http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/default.php. You can use any of those programs to remove permanently the files and folders you want gone, or you can wipe the entire drive if you are simply recycling it. These programs will clear off your data and overwrite it with junk. (Better explanation here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_wiping.) Follow the directions CAREFULLY or have a professional wipe the disk for you.

Good to go
That’s it. Unless you work for the government or for someone who has special requirements, you should be all set. Gather up everything you don’t want to keep, and take it to your friend, relative, friendly community organization, or the recycle depot.

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

Computer Care Kelowna

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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