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Like this article? We recommend Getting Old PCs Ready for Departure

Getting Old PCs Ready for Departure

If you have PCs that are more than two or three years old, they might not be fast enough, have enough RAM, or have enough storage to be good candidates for upgrading to Windows 7. You could repurpose older PCs for experimentation or spares, but if you decide it’s time to dispense with them, you have the following options:

  • You can discard them intact for recycling, donation, or sale.
  • Salvage them for parts you can use for upgrading existing PCs or as repair parts.

Whatever you decide to do with elderly PCs, here’s how you can protect the parts you remove and protect yourself and your company from information falling into the wrong hands.

Protecting Against Data Leakage

Whatever you do with PCs you’re retiring, keep in mind that the hard disks in these systems are potential gold mines of confidential personal or company information. To prevent data leakage, you have the following options:

  • Physical destruction of the media
  • Data wiping

Physical destruction of media is recommended if the hard disks contain extremely sensitive information and are not deemed large enough to be reused. This can be carried out by an electronics recycler for you, or if you prefer to have the drives destroyed on your site, some vendors offer onsite service.

Data wiping is a good choice for drives that will be reused in-house or in systems that will be donated or resold. By using techniques such as multiple pass overwriting and encryption followed by overwriting, data wiping programs make useable information virtually impossible to recover.

Salvage Dos and Don’ts

If you’re planning to recycle old PCs rather than retain working PCs as spares, for sale, or for donation, what can you salvage?

Easy Parts to Reuse

Keyboards, mice, monitors, external devices that use USB or FireWire ports all connect to external ports, making them easy to disconnect.

Some (Dis)Assembly Required

You can salvage anything inside the chassis of a desktop computer (memory modules, processors, hard disks, optical drives, expansion cards, jumper blocks, screws, fans, power supply). Salvage possibilities in a laptop or mobile computer are more limited, but include memory, hard disks, optical drives, and batteries.

Figure 4 A notebook ATA/IDE hard disk partly removed from its mounting tray.

If the computer is more than 2-3 years old, components such as memory and processors might not work in a new computer.

Protecting Yourself, Protecting Your Equipment

Whether you’re removing equipment from an existing system or installing pulled parts into a different system, make sure you disconnect the AC power source from the computer.

During the salvage process, make sure you protect the equipment from electrostatic discharge (ESD):

  • Put on an anti-static wrist strap connected to metal portions of the computer chassis before touching memory modules, expansion cards, or other components (Figure 5).
  • Place parts on an ESD-safe work mat (many include wrist straps).
  • If you no longer have the original ESD-safe packaging, store parts you want to keep in ESD bags.

Figure 5 Using an anti-static wrist strap.

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