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Disposing of old PC

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#1 k988


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Posted 20 November 2012 - 01:51 PM

Hey, I have an old monitor, optical drive, and desktop tower that I want to get rid of. I figure I can just throw away the optical drive and monitor without any problems but obviously the tower has personal data on it. I've read that even if you format, the data can still be accessed/stolen because the computer just allows that data to be overwritten - it's not actually deleted. So I'm wondering what precautions I need to take before I dispose of the old PC.

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#2 Queen-Evie


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Posted 20 November 2012 - 02:13 PM

Take the hard drive out of the tower. Destroy it. That is what contains the information.

Hard Drive Disposal

If you are disposing of the drive you can take the following steps to make sure that the data on the drive is unreadable.
1.Remove the drive from the computer or its external housing.
2.Use a screw driver to remove the screws from the cover.
3.Put on safety glasses and some heavy work gloves.
4.Carefully use a hammer to smash the platters into little pieces.
5.Dispose of the remains according to your local codes.


Others may offer different methods.

Before you throw your electronics in the trash see if there is an E-Cycle program in your area.

#3 Orange Blossom

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 02:33 PM

How sensitive is the data in question? Is it health information or classified information? In these cases, hard-drive destruction may be what you need to do. However, if the data isn't quite as sensitive as that, you may not need to go to that extreme. If you simply reformat the drive, yes, the data can be rather easily retrieved. However, if you do a significant overwriting of the drive up to DoD standards, it would cost a would-be identity thief an incredible amount of money to retrieve any useful information. The chances are quite small.

Here is a PDF article that discusses data destruction and DoD standards: http://www.reclamere.com/uploads/whitePaper-Destroying-Data-the-DoD-Way.pdf

And here is a flow chart that shows degree of data sensitivity and type of data sanitation to use. Note that it says if you physically destroy the hard-drive, you should still over-write the drive first. http://www.oit.umn.edu/security/security-framework/media-sanitization/index.htm

Yes, definitely look into the recycle options. Here, for example, I can take Dell computer components to Staples who sends them back to Dell for refurbishing etc. and it doesn't cost me a cent. Also, I can take all kinds of used functioning computer hardware to the University Surplus., again for no charge. Computer hardware has a lot of hazardous materials in them.

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Edited by Orange Blossom, 20 November 2012 - 02:34 PM.

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#4 Nanobyte


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Posted 21 November 2012 - 12:00 AM

I usually take my stuff to the nearest eco-station. I also recommend the hammer test to see if the HDD has read/write errors. My preferred tool is a 6lb hammer.

There are some organizations that export PCs to the poor around the world so that is an option. Moderate level overwriting of HDDs is sufficient. The higher the security of the wipe the longer it takes.

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