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Safely Disposing of a Computer

With the cost of laptops and PCs decreasing, it’s much easier these days to upgrade to a better machine. An important issue that presents itself with acquiring a new computer is the disposal of the old one. It is imperative to act responsibly in disposing of computers. Not only do you want to make sure all information has been erased from the hard drive, but you also need to be environmentally responsible.

The Disposal Rule, a part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) requires businesses to remove all information from their machines. At UWG the department of Information Technology Services (ITS) takes care of wiping UWG owned machines before they are sent to surplus. 

Here is a link to the FTC web site for the Disposal Rule:http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/06/disposal.shtm.

The respect for the FTC Disposal Rule should not begin and end in the work environment. Individuals should take great care to follow this rule with their home PCs as well. Our computers hold all sorts of personal data.  Deleting files is not enough. To remove data from your computer permanently, it needs to be wiped clean.

Before you wipe a hard drive you should transfer any important files that you wish to keep to a new computer, or a storage device such as a USB or an external hard drive. Then use a software program that overwrites, or wipes the drive clean multiple times. Some free software for wiping Windows hard drives is available online at the following sites: Seagate DiscWizard Starter Edition, Darik's Boot and Nuke, http://www.killdisk.com/ or BC Wipe. For Macintosh drive cleaning software you can use Wipe Info feature in Norton Utilities (using this, you can delete single documents and files), iClean or SuperScrubber. The catch with free software is that there may not be technical support available. Some programs like DataEraser, Drive Scrubber, Paragon Disk Wiper, Wipe Drive, or CyberScrub Privacy Suite are available for purchase online and can be downloaded to your machine immediately. Keeping a hard drive with information on it is not a good idea and means setting yourself up for identity theft if it is ever found by the wrong people. If you feel that you must keep an old hard drive consider locking it away in a bank vault.

Once your computer has been wiped it is time to dispose of it. Regulations involving computer waste are becoming rightfully strict. At the speed with which technology changes and computers become obsolete just imagine what landfills would look like if all of us carted our computer related trash off to the dump. Statistics show that the percentage of recycled computers remains low…

Donating your equipment would be much more environmentally friendly then dumping it in a landfill. However, before donating your old computer equipment consider doing some research. Out of date systems are sometimes more of a burden than a blessing for non-profit organizations because of the expense to refurbish. Therefore it’s good to donate computers, which are no more than five years old to a company that refurbishes them. They then make sure the equipment goes to non-profits, schools or churches. Remember when donating, to include accessories (keyboard etc) with the computer, as well as the original operating system software, media and documentation. For machines, which are over five years old or other non-usable computer components, contact a commercial recycling company. Websites for either refurbishing or recycling companies will have a listing of what they accept or don’t accept. Be sure to check that first. For more information about donation or recycling of computer hardware check TechSoup or ElectronicsRecycling.org.

We would like to encourage everybody at UWG to be responsible for personal computer waste! Southwire is a company in our community who organizes a couple of recycling events every year. Their next “Electronics Recycling Day” will take place on Saturday April 18th from 9am to 2pm at the Southwire corporate office. The fall event usually takes place around the first or second weekend of October and coincides with ‘Community Day’. 

*For FTC's document "The Download on Disposing of Your Old Computer"http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt120.shtm.