When you are trying to figure out how to dispose of a computer, there are two main items you need to take into consideration.

First, you want to make sure your private data is wiped clean from the machine. You don’t want confidential information ending up in the wrong hands. If you want to try to do this on your own, the industry standard is to overwrite the hard drive three times in order to ensure that the data cannot be recovered and used by others.

Only after you’ve finished removing the data should you move to the second consideration: how to dispose of a computer in a way that does not harm the environment.

Computers contain several toxic substances that can have a detrimental effect on humans, animals and the planet. Some of the more notable toxins found in computers include lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium. These are substances that will leak out of a machine if it’s left in a landfill.

In addition, several computer components contain valuable materials that can be reused. Again, lead is on this list along with copper and gold.

At home pickup

If you own a Dell computer, the company will pick it up for free anywhere in the United States. You can find instructions for how to start the process on Dell’s website.

In addition, you can use the Reconnect program to donate your old computer to Goodwill. Check the Reconnect website to see if they will accept your electronics and then find a dropoff location.

Another option is to use the website Earth911.com. The site has a ZIP code search function to help you find a nearby recycling program for electronics.

Lastly, several computer manufacturers will allow you to trade-in your old machine when you’re buying a new one. It might help you get a few dollars that you can put toward the purchase of a new machine.

Know of other options for disposing of a computer? Leave them in the comments below.

See also:

Computer recycling made easy