Tips For Safe Computer Recycling

Posted on: 1 August 2016

Even in homes where things like plastic, paper and cardboard are regularly recycled, one of the things that many homeowners overlook is the benefit of recycling old computers. Not only can computers be donated to places like local schools and nonprofit organizations, they can also be recycled and broken down for parts. Before you dispose of that computer sitting in the corner, though, you need to take steps to protect your data. Here are a few things you need to know before you hand over your old computer to the recycling service.

What Happens When You Delete Files?

When you delete a file from your computer, it vanishes from the file directory and you're no longer able to open it. However, you may be able to restore that deleted file using an 'Undo' feature or a keystroke combination like "CTRL" and "Z" if you're on Windows. In order for this kind of restore command to work, the computer has to keep a temporary storage structure for those deleted files. On Windows computers, it's called the "Recycle Bin" or the "Trash Can". The files are moved here, giving you the chance to change your mind. Then, you can empty that folder to delete the file entirely. Once the folder is emptied, you cannot use an 'Undo' command to restore it.

Many people think that's enough to clear data off their hard drive. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Unless the section of the drive where that file was stored is overwritten several times, there's still the potential that the file could be restored using specialized software.

How Can The Files Be Recovered?

One of the first things that many people do before recycling a computer is to format the hard drive. This process eliminates the personal files and folders and installs a fresh version of the operating system. For some, this creates a false sense of security because the drive analysis will show that those files are gone. The truth is, the data is still there, it's just not visible to the operating system.

Formatting removes the data that tells the operating system where to find files. Without that infrastructure, the operating system assumes there are no files there. It doesn't, however, remove those files from the computer itself. If your recycled computer finds its way to someone who knows how to run a data recovery utility, those files are still accessible. Even if the recycler you choose breaks the computer down for parts, there's a chance that the drive could end up intact and inside another machine. If you don't want to risk anyone being able to restore your personal and financial data through a recovery platform, there are other steps to take.

How Can You Remove The Data?

To ensure that the data on the drive isn't recoverable after your formatting process, you need to use a hard drive erasing program or a disk wiping application. These programs overwrite the hard drive sectors several times with random data. They overwrite the sectors so many times that it makes it nearly impossible to access anything that was there previously.

Recycling computers is a great way to minimize the accumulation of electronics in landfills. With the information here, you can recycle your old computers without any lingering concerns about the integrity of the data that you may have stored on the drive previously. For more information, contact professionals like Uribe Refuse Services Inc.