How to reuse and recycle old computers safely

Old computers should not be thrown out with the general rubbish. Apart from contributing to the 330m tonnes of rubbish the UK generates each year, computer equipment contains harmful substances that aren’t allowed in landfill sites.

Can you find another use for it?

With a bit of ingenuity, an old PC can be useful for a lot of things even if it isn’t the latest, greatest model. For example:

  • As a dedicated internet computer. You don’t need lots of disk space and speed to run a web browser.
  • As a place to store MP3s and pictures and share them over a network.
  • As an internet firewall.
  • To run simple games for children.
  • Turn it into a print server so that multiple computers can share a printer over a network.

There are some great tips and ideas on this website.

How to delete your personal information

Before you part with an old computer, you need to make sure that you have copied all the data on it that you want to keep and fully erased the hard disk so that any personal information is completely deleted.

  • There are several ways of copying data. The easiest is if two computers are connected on a network. If this is not possible, see make regular backups for more information. Alternatively use USB sticks to copy your documents over to your new computer, or use an external HDD.
  • Simply deleting files isn’t enough to permanently erase them. You need a special utility, such as Evidence Eliminator, KillDisk or Eraser, that will delete all traces of the files.

For an example and explanation of the risks associated with not securely removing your personal data before disposing of your PC, read the e-crime story on this page.

How to recycle or dispose of old computers

You may be able to sell your old equipment on eBay or another auction site or through classified listings in your local paper or online.

If selling it isn’t viable and your old computer isn’t hopelessly out of date you might be able to give it to charity. Different charities have different minimum specifications, so check websites first.

  • Computer Aid will accept business and individual donations for charity. There is a small postal charge but you can also deliver in person.
  • Donate A PC is a free ‘matchmaking’ service between individual PC donors and potential users from charities, not-for-profit organisations and schools.

If donation isn’t an option, you’ll have to find a way to safely dispose of your old computer. Chucking it in the bin isn’t an option.

  • PC Disposals will collect computer equipment from small businesses inside the M25 for a small fee.
  • There’s a list of local computer recyclers and refurbishers on the Waste Online website.
  • Your local authority will have more information about disposing and recycling rubbish.

Matthew Stibbe is writer-in-chief at Articulate Marketing. He is also an avid blogger, closet geek and HP fanatic.