What should I do with my old computer?

If you’ve replaced your older computer to upgrade to Windows Vista, chances are you’re now faced with the question of what to do with it. Getting rid of an old computer is not that difficult, but before you do anything with it, you'll have to keep certain issues in mind.

Here’s a quick guide to help you decide what you want to do with that old machine.

First things first

There are several reasons for taking extra care when replacing an old computer. For one, computers (and most electronic equipment) contain chemicals that, if not disposed of properly, can be very damaging to the environment. They can pollute groundwater and are a toxic hazard to people who might come in contact with them. Also, most of our computers contain all sorts of personal information that you probably wouldn’t want to get out, so it makes sense to try to get rid of as much of that information as possible.

Before you get rid of your old computer, do the following:

  • Copy files and settings from your old computer. If you’re moving from Windows 2000 or Windows XP to Windows Vista then just use Windows Easy Transfer, which allows you to copy files and settings from your old computer to your new one. For more information about using Windows Easy Transfer, see Transferring files and settings: frequently asked questions. If you’re using an older version of Windows, or can’t use Windows Easy Transfer for some other reason, you can burn the files that you want to save to a disc.

  • Delete everything from your hard drive. Once you’ve got the data that you want to save, you should delete everything from your hard drive. It could be relatively easy for someone with access to your old hard drive to retrieve information from it. Everything from passwords to financial data to pictures and even e-mail can be retrieved and used to steal your identity. The best way to delete the contents of a hard drive is to use special software that will make sure that all traces if identifiable information are removed. For more information, search the web for "delete data from a hard drive."

Recycle it

Many components inside computers are recyclable. Computer recycling companies can salvage usable components and make sure that dangerous materials are disposed of properly. Check with your local waste disposal company for more information about recycling computer equipment.

Many computer manufacturers now offer their own recycling programs. Often, manufacturers will charge a small fee for recycling their own equipment. Some manufacturers also offer to recycle your old PC for you when your order a new one. Contact your computer manufacturer for more information.

Give it away

Often, schools and other charitable organizations don't have enough money to spend on computer hardware upgrades; therefore, they are usually ready to accept donations of working computer equipment. Or, you can give away your old PC to someone in your family or neighborhood, or to a friend who's looking for one.