Recycle your Old Computers

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June 14, 2009

by Geeks on Tour: I don’t think anything gets out of date faster than computers. Except maybe milk! Your shiny new thousand-dollar purchase is ready for the trash heap in as little as three years. That adds up to a lot of trash!

But, you don’t want to just throw these things in the trash! They have nasty stuff in them like mercury, lead, and arsenic. They also have valuable stuff that can be recovered if processed correctly – even Gold!

Before we started living in an RV, we would stack our old computers in a corner of the garage until there was a community event that recycled them. Can’t do that now! Luckily there are lots of options. Check out the EPA’s website on Recycling Electronics and you’ll find general information as well as specific instructions for recycling all sorts of electronic equipment.  It even has it’s own word … E-cycliing!

Drop ’em off at Best Buy
Probably the easiest thing for us travelers is just to drop off those old computers, TVs, cell phones, etc. at your nearby Best Buy store.  They have special boxes at the front of the store for this purpose.  It may cost you $10, but they’ll give you a $10 off coupon in return.

Donating Computers
If your computer is still working, you may prefer to donate it somewhere that it can still be used.  We have given computers to schools, libraries and community centers.  Just be sure they want them!  An old computer takes someone with special knowledge to make it work right – remember why you’re getting rid of it?  You are generally not doing a friend a favor by giving them your old computer!  What originally cost you $1,200 and is now slow and error-prone, is currently available, new and fast, for $600!

What about your Data Files?
When you recycle your computers thru Best Buy, they avoid all responsibility for your data by refusing to accept a computer with a hard drive still in it. Pretty smart. And, I just love this video that shows you how to *really* destroy the data on your hard drive.
If you’re donating your computer, you need to erase the hard drive. For most of us a simple formatting of your hard drive is sufficient safety for your data. It is possible … unlikely, but possible, that a knowledgeable person could recover data even after a disk has been formated. If you really do have top secret data, you may want to use a utility like the free ‘Eraser’ for windows.

Happy Computing!  Think Green.
Chris Guld,
Computer Education for Travelers

Leave a Reply


  1. Patrick W. Tribbey

    There are plenty of programs, both free and paid, that will destroy the data on ANY hard drive. Visit these two just for a start: and There are more available——–just search and look! 🙂

  2. Tireman9

    I wonder if all the concern about protecting your critical computer data is realistic. I would think that other than passwords to credit card and bank accounts there is probably nothing of interest to those that might want to “steal” your info.
    Yes the pictures of your grandchild is “precious” to you, but what thief is going to spend the time and effort trying to restore that info?
    I suggest that you ask yourself about the security of the stuff most thieves are after. Your credit card and bank statements and items with your signature on them. Do you keep and shred ALL your credit card receipts after you received your cc statement? Do you check off 100% of the charges on your cc statement against the receipts? Do you shred ALL your files (after 7 years) that you kept after doing your Income Tax? Do you shred ALL documents with your signature on them?
    I think the policy that places like Best Buy and others about not accepting Hard Drives is based on input from some lawyer so they can try and protect themselves in a law suit.
    My suggestion and policy for hard drives is. Keep all the real critical information in a single file. After transferring this info to your new computer I over-write the files with new files with the same name but junk for content. This partially destroys the magnetic signature for the actual files. Format the hard drive. Reload the original operating system and then give the working computer to Goodwill or some other agency. I would challenge anyone to be able to read any of my critical data.

  3. Merrily

    Goodwill Stores take old computers for FREE!