How to Safely Dispose an old Computer

by Amy Adkins

In November 2010, technology research firm Gartner predicted that sales of personal computers would reach 409 million in 2011. Computers are becoming more cost-effective to replace, but those old computers cannot exactly be thrown out with the regular trash. According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, computer hardware contains hazardous materials like lead, nickel and mercury that require special handling to protect the environment. In addition, the personal information contained on your computer must first be removed to protect your identity. To safely dispose of an old computer, you can choose between donating or recycling. In either case, you can easily ensure you are doing your part to protect the environment and keep your financial and personal information safe.


Back up and erase your hard drive. Whether you choose to recycle or donate your computer, you will need to clean your hard drive and remove your personal information to keep your identity safe. Use an external hard drive, CD or USB drive to back up any of your information stored on your old computer and transfer it to your new computer.

Install a program that can "wipe" or erase your hard drive. When you wipe your hard drive you are permanently deleting all the information you have stored on it. The program will delete your files, Internet history, cookies and other data contained on the hard drive. You can also remove your hard drive from the old computer, label and store it.


Donate your old computer if it is less than five years old and in working condition. Contact schools and non-profit organizations in your area to find out if they accept computer donations and if so,identify their requirements. Tech Soup suggests keeping your operating system on the computer and providing the facility with the original software and documentation.


Take the computer to a local recycling center if donation is not an option. Because computers contain hazardous materials only qualified electronics recycling centers are able to safely dispose of them. Check out the Electronics Recycling Directory to find an authorized facility in your area. You can also look into electronics stores and manufacturers like Best Buy, Apple, HP and Dell that offer recycling services and may even take your old computer as part of a trade-in program.


  • check Federal lawmakers have been looking at creating incentives to encourage electronic recycling but no real movement has occurred yet. Contact your Congressmen to tell them you want them to do something about this.

Items you will need

About the Author

Based in Omaha, Neb., Amy Adkins has been a professional writer and editor since 2001. She writes primarily on the topic of health and health care and has experience in marketing communications, public relations, corporate communication and technical writing. She received her Master of Arts degree in communication from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images