Things to Do Before Throwing Away Your Old Computer

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You may want to dispose of your old computer to make place for a new one. But, there is a lot you need to do before giving away your computer. Most of the times, computers have important personal, professional and financial information stored in them. Erasing the files off the system alone is not sufficient. You need to take backups and clean hard disks thoroughly to prevent cyber criminals from accessing your data.

Take Backup

  • Saving important information present in your computer is the first task to complete. You could use a CD, a USB device or external memory device to transfer files from the system. Remember to include files and folders on the desktop and "My Documents" folder while taking system backup. Take backups of Internet bookmarks, and email messages and contacts. If you use Instant Messengers, take backup of chat histories. Verify your system manual or product manufacturer website to know how to backup system files. For emails and chat conversations, backup procedures are provided by the application or software provider itself, as in-built help. Contact the service provider's technical support for help.

Erase Information

  • Delete all system files once you have had your backup. Remove desktop items, pictures as well as files and folders in different drives on your computer. Delete emails and contacts. Erase your internet histories; your browser's "Tools" option usually allows you to do this. Sign into your Instant Messenger and delete all chat histories.

Clean Hard Drives

  • The hard drive of your system stores data and acts as an index for your data. When you save a file, the hard drive stores it in tiny packets of information. When a file is opened, the hard disk refers to its index and picks up related information packets to reconstruct the file for your use. On deleting a file, the link between the index and the file is removed, which conveys to the hard disk that it can overwrite the space allotted to this file. So, until overwriting occurs, the tiny packets of information related to the file remain on the hard disk and can be retrieved using a data recovery software. Erase the hard disk permanently to avoid this. Utility programs such as Eraser and Blancco that overwrite information on the disk are available online and in shops. Choose programs that are capable to overwrite many times, suggests The Federal Trade Commission, particularly if your system holds sensitive information.

Review Disposal Options

  • Donate your old computer to charities or resell it on websites such as ebay. Alternatively, contact your manufacturer to know if they have any recycling program. Go through their websites or call their customer support for details. Check if your community programs include electronic product recycling. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency website for more information on recycling electronic products.

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