I have an old laptop that I don’t use anymore and I have been trying to decide the best option for getting rid of it. It’s still in working condition, but it’s a little outdated for my needs. So I did a little research and thought I’d share not only the options for getting rid of old computers, but also the steps you should take to protect your personal information before getting rid of your old computer.

Whether you’re donating, recycling or re-selling your computer, you’ll want to make sure you delete all of your personal data and files so that your sensitive information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. This includes sensitive information like your saved passwords for logging into your bank accounts, browsing history, or any other private information that may have been on your computer. Simply deleting the information will not ensure that it cannot be accessed by someone later. To be safe, you’ll need to use a hard drive erasing software such as Darik’s Boot And Nuke (which is highly rated by CNET editors), Jetiko’s BC Wipe, or LSoft’s Active@KillDisk – there is a free version, but those who want extra security can buy the professional version.

Once you’ve wiped the hard drive, you can re-set the computer to its factory default settings.  When you purchased your computer it should have come with a System Restore disc (or Windows XP OEM disc). Simply insert the disc and select the option to install the Operating System again and this will restore the computer to the factory default settings.

Now that your computer is ready to go, you can decide what you’d like to do with it. Here are some great options:


  • Re-Sell: You can always try to re-sell your computer using a site like eBay. Keep in mind that computers lose value very quickly, so a computer you may have spent a hefty amount of change on could be worth as little as $20 or nothing at all, so it may not be worth the effort to sell. Another site worth mentioning for re-selling opportunities is EcoSquid. Although, they don’t currently help you sell computers, they do help you find opportunities to re-sell other unwanted electronics (e.g. digital cameras, cell phones, camcorders, mp3 players, game consoles, and more). Also, if your item is no longer valuable, EcoSquid will also help you find ways to donate or recycle it.


  • Gift It: Do you have a friend, neighbor or family member in need of a computer? Perhaps a school age child you know could benefit from a computer for school work. Just because a computer no longer has the power or speed you want, doesn’t mean it won’t make a great gift to someone who doesn’t have a computer at all.


  • FreeCycle: In the spirit of re-using, FreeCycle.org is another wonderful option. FreeCycle.org is a non-profit group dedicated to helping the planet by supporting the re-use of products by helping you donate or “FreeCycle” them to someone in your very own community. So not only do you get rid of something you don’t need, but you’ve also helped keep a re-usable item out of the landfills. One of my employees used this option and she found it to be quick, easy and very rewarding.


  • Donate or Recycle: Check out the website for the Environmental Protection Agency for a list of local programs available in your area that will help you recycle or donate your unwanted computer.

EPA also lists manufacturer and retailer programs that are available for trade-in or recycling of your old computer or electronics. For example, the Best Buy Trade-In program allows you to bring in your pc computer or laptop in exchange for a Best Buy gift card (if it is determined to have value), or to recycle for free. You can check out their website to determine the value of your computer or laptop. As an added bonus, Best Buy will even wipe your hard drive and remove your personal data for free.

Lastly, another great option for donating your computer would be to contact a local school in your area. With education budgets constantly being cut, budgets for technology may be non-existent. Your local school district may be more than happy to accept your computer donation and you’ll feel good knowing that it’s being used for education.

So the next time you are looking to get rid of your computer, be sure to check out all of your options and whatever you do, keep it out of the landfills! What do you usually do with your old computers and electronics?

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