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Quick Facts About Computer Disposal

Computers often hold all kinds of personal and financial information, including passwords, account numbers, license keys or registration numbers for software programs, addresses and phone numbers, medical and prescription information, tax returns, and other personal documents. If you’re getting rid of your old computer, there are a few things you should do before logging off for the last time in order to prevent your hard drive from becoming a treasure chest for identity thieves and information pirates. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, offers a few preventive steps.

  • Save important files on an external storage device —for example, a USB drive, a CD-ROM, or an external hard drive —or transfer them to a new computer.
  • “Wipe” your hard drive clean. Use utility software available online or in stores where computers are sold. They’re generally inexpensive; some are available on the internet for free. If your old computer contains sensitive information that would be valuable to an identity thief, consider using a program that overwrites or wipes the hard drive many times. Or, remove the hard drive, and physically destroy it.
  • If you use your computer for business purposes, check with your employer about how to manage business-related information on your computer. The law requires businesses to follow data security and disposal requirements for certain customer information.

Once you have a “clean” computer, consider recycling it (check your manufacturer’s website for information), donating it to a school or charity, or reselling it.

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