1) Back up important personal data. Once your computer is gone, it’s (most likely) gone forever, so be sure that you’ve made copies of any and all files on the computer that you’ll need in the future.

  • Be conservative – it’s always better to back up too much information than too little.
  • You may use a USB stick or an external hard drive to store your important information – both of these are available at electronics stores.
  • Additionally, a storage method that’s become available in the last few years is the use of cloud drives, which can be free to casual users with the registration of an account.

2) Permanently remove all personal data from the computerOnce your important information has been backed up, it’s wise to delete it from the computer so that future users or identity thieves can’t access it.

  • Deleting data by putting it in the recycle bin or your computer’s equivalent can actually leave it on your hard drive in a form that’s possible for savvy individuals to recover. This means that, usually, rendering your computer completely free of personal information requires formatting its hard drive.
  • Formatting a hard drive is irreversible and will essential make your computer a “blank slate” – free of not just your personal data but of basically all data – so make absolutely sure you’re done with your computer before doing this.

3) Choose an option for disposal. There’s no one “right way” to get rid of an old computer – depending on how well it works and your own computing needs, you may choose to re-purpose the computer for another use, sell it or give it away so that someone else can use it, or allow it to be recycled and/or disposed of in an environmentally safe way.

  • You may also wish to physically remove certain parts of the computer, like the hard drive or video card, so that you can use them in the future, but only remove parts from the inside of your computer if you’re confident you can do so safely or you have access to experienced help.

4) If reusing, selling, or giving away your computer, clean it. If you don’t believe your computer has reached the end of its life, take this opportunity to give it a fresh start by thoroughly cleaning it. Wipe the exterior and the screen with a slightly damp (not wet) rag or mild chemical wipe.

  • Be sure to pay attention to the gaps in between keys on the keyboard, which can become disgusting with long-term use. Use a Q-tip to clean these hard-to-reach spaces. For a deep clean, open the computer’s inner compartment and use compressed air to remove dust.