Protect your personal data before selling, donating or recycling your computer.
It is very important that you prevent access to personal information that was stored on the computer.
Data files can be recovered from a computer's hard disc, using specialized data recovery software, even if they have been deleted or you format the hard disc. The magnetic imprint of the file remains on the hard disc unless that part of the disc is over written with new files. There are however several methods that you can use to protect your personal data before you recycle your computer or laptop.
Remember to back up any files you wish to keep onto CD, DVD or External hard disc drive before you clear or destroy your old hard disc.
Best Buy Geek Squad
If you are not familiar with the workings of a computer we suggest taking your PC to Best Buy for recycling. Just ask their geek squad to destroy the hard disc for you. It only costs $9.99 for this service. Not bad for peace of mind.
Do It Yourself Options.
If you are going to recycle the computer then physically damaging the hard disc platters, so that they can no longer be read, is one option for protecting your personal information. Backup and then delete all the personal files from the computer. Then use a hammer or drill to break the hard disc platters so that they can no longer be used. See this video from the Best Buy website for an explanation on how to do this yourself.
However there is a less destructive method that protects your personal information but allows you to sell or donate the computer for reuse, because the hard disc is still usable.
If you use a MAC computer the disk utility program on your computer already gives you the option to permanently erase the hard drive so that nothing can be recovered from it. Staff in your local Apple store will be able to give you advice on how to use this utility. There are also instructions on the Apple support web pages.
For people using a Windows PC or Linux operating system you will need to install specialized hard disc erasing software such as Eraser (free software).
This software will first blank your hard disc and then record over the whole disc multiple times with random nonsense files or zeros before finally formatting the disc to empty it again. By overwriting the hard drive multiple times you remove all trace of the files that were previously saved on the disk. It is then not possible to recover your old files, even with data recovery software.
Eraser is free to download and can be installed simply by double clicking on the downloaded file.
(For business E-waste recycling, click here)
Computers, laptops, games consoles, printer, fax machines, copiers, Televisions, Monitors, DVD players or VCR's, as well as individual electronic parts such as motherboards and hard disc drives, should be recycled to prevent the toxic chemicals that they contain from contaminating the natural environment.
Fortunately there are lots of options available for arranging for reusing or recycling your unwanted electronic equipment.
However, make sure you remove all personal information files before you sell, donate or recycling your laptop or computer. Simply deleting the files or even formatting the hard disc, is not sufficient to prevent a criminal from recovering your personal data. See the options described in the grey panel (right) for more details on how to protect your personal information.
If you wish to sell your computer, or donate it to charity as a working machine use specialist software to completely clear the hard disc of any trace of your personal information files.
Where Can I Sell My Old Electronics?
Selling your old electronic equipment is a great option to consider. It not only puts some cash in your pocket but also means that the equipment will be reused, saving the energy that would have otherwise been spent on recycling the equipment.
There are several companies that will purchase your old electronic equipment for a fixed price. They a/re not going to offer top dollar for the equipment because they need to be able to make a profit from any resale. However, they guarantee a price for your equipment and will often either arrange to pick it up or pay for the shipping themselves.
These companies will purchase electronic equipment. Click on the company name below to be taken to their website.
We have contacted these three companies on your behalf and they have all assured us that they follow the current best practice with regard to deleting all information on the hard disc, cell phone or other devices that store information, before they sell or redistribute the equipment. However, it is still advisable to take steps yourself to ensure that you have removed all personal information before you ship the device to them.
We do not recommend for you to sell your electronic devices that have data storage capacity (computers, laptops, cell phones) via ebay, ebay classifieds or craigslist unless you take the correct steps to permanently erase all trace of your personal information.
For devices that do not store personal information (televisions, DVD players, printers...) then selling this equipment via ebay or craigslist can be a good option.
Donating Electronic Equipment to Charity
Unless you understand how to use the Eraser hard disk wiping software (or an equivalent program) do not take old computers to thrift shops or donate the computer to a charity, because of the risk that your personal information could ultimately get into the wrong hands.
However, if you are confident that you have fully erased the hard disk and then reinstalled the operating system, so that the computer is usable again, there are a number of charity groups who will gladly accept your unwanted computer or laptop.
Donations to registered charities are tax deductable. Ask for a receipt if you wish to claim your tax deduction when you file your annual tax return.
- Goodwill Industries have formed a partnership with Dell to recycle computers and electronics peripherals (monitors, printers, keyboards, mice, scanners, speakers, software...). The equipment does not have to be Dell brand equipment. For a complete list of the items they accept, click here. You can also use the zip code search on the Reconnect website to find your nearest drop off location. All profits from the resale or recycling of the electronic equipment, or its parts, is given to Goodwill to fund their work in the local community.
The following charities will only accept gently used electronic equipment in working condition.
- Habitat for Humanity collects electronic appliances that they donate to the poor within your community or around the globe. To make a donation you should use their zip code search to find a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in your area; then contact them to determine if they have a need for your equipment.
- Home Front NJ collects electronic appliances along with clothing and household furniture. Contact them by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning 609-989-9417.
- Simply Green Cellular collects electronic appliances such as Computers, laptops, games consoles, printer, fax machines, copiers, Televisions, Monitors, DVD players at their corporate office in Farmingdale NJ (44 Main St, Farmingdale, NJ 07727. Open Mon-Fri 9 am - 5 pm). You can drop off your unwanted electronic devices their for free. Profits from the recycling or resale of these devices go to fund the work of Operation Gratitude, a charity that donates care packages to troops stationed overseas.
- The Salvation Army will also arrange to collect your unwanted electronic equipment (in working condition) as well as bric-a-brak, household appliances and furniture. Call 1-800-SA-TRUCK to schedule a pick-up. For a complete listing of the items the salvation army will accept, click here. Items can also be dropped off at your nearest Salvation Army store. Use the zip code search on the Salvation Army website to find your nearest drop off location.
- Vietnam Veterans of America will arrange a convenient pick up time to collect the electronic equipment from your home. The electronic equipment will then be sold to fund their programs that support vietnam veterans or their families. See the acceptable donations page of their website for a complete list of the items they will accept.
County Electronics Collections
New Jersey counties also have collection days for electronic equipment. Check out your local county recycling website for details of the equipment that they will accept, the locations where the electronic goods will be collected from and information about the times and dates when you can drop off this equipment.
Some New Jersey town's also run their own electronics recycling collections so check to see if your town has any collection instructions on their own recycling web pages.
Retailer Recycling and Trade-in Programs
The best retailer recycling collection scheme for electronic equipment that we are currently aware of is run by Best Buy. This scheme has very few restrictions and accepts a wide range of electronic equipment.
They accept electronic equipment of any brand and you do not need to have purchased the equipment in their store for it to be accepted.
You will be amazed at how many electrical items can be recycled through Best Buy. You might expect that they will accept computers, laptops or computer peripherals like modems and printers for recycling but you probably will be surprised to discover that Best Buy will also accept a lot of small electrical equipment like power adapters, surge protectors, cables, motherboards, digital cameras and telephones (both landline and cell).
For a complete list of the electrical equipment that will be accepted for recycling at your local Best Buy store go to the Best Buy Recycling webpage, select "New Jersey" in the drop down list and then click on the "Complete list of what we take and don't take in-store" link provided.
There is a 3 item, per household, per day limit so don't hoard all of your electronic equipment together for years and expect to be able to drop it off at Best Buy all in one go.
You should remove your hard disk before taking your laptop or computer to the Best Buy store for recycling. The hard disk itself will not be accepted for recycling. If you do not know how to remove the hard disk yourself ask the in store "Geek squad' to do this for you but there is a $9.99 charge for this service.
Each Best Buy store also has recycling drop off boxes at the entrance of the store for the following small items: inkjet cartridges, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, CDs/DVD's, PDA's, smart phones and Best Buy gift cards.
More information can be found on the Best Buy recycling website.
Hewlett Packard runs a buy-back scheme where they will accept electronic items from any manufacturer in part exchange for the purchase of a new Hewlett Packard electronic device.
For more information on this buy back scheme click here.
HP also runs recycling programs for old inkjet cartridges. Click here for details.
Office Depot sell recycling boxes for electronic equipment. They sell small ($5), medium ($10) or large ($15) boxes, depending on the amount of electronic equipment you wish to recycle. All you do is simply put all of your items into the box and then take it back to the Office Depot store. Do not seal up the box as the Office Depot staff will need to inspect the items to make sure they are appropriate for this recycling scheme.
Office Depot will then arrange for the items to be recycled.
A complete list of the items that will be accepted in this recycling scheme is provided on the Office Depot Tech Recycling webpage.
To find your nearest Office Depot store use this zip code search.
Microsoft partners with small and large computer refurbishers and non-profit organizations to provide them with discounted prices for microsoft brand computer software. These organizations refurbish unwanted computers and laptops for resale to fund charity projects or to provide computers to people who would otherwise not be able to afford one.
To find a Microsoft registered computer refurbisher near to where you live or work, click here.
Nintendo runs a FREE take back program for the recycling of their games consoles. All you have to do is complete their online take back request form and they will send you give you free shipping labels and instructions for how to mail your unwanted games console to them.
For more information consult the Nintendo recycling information web page.
Sony will arrange to collect and recycle your old TV (any manufacturer brand) if you purchase a new TV set from them. For more details, click here.
Sony also has drop off locations for Sony-branded electronics (computers, laptops, tv, stereo systems). To find your nearest drop off location, click here.
Sony Style stores will accept small electronic device in their in-store drop off boxes (cameras, cell phones, rechargeable batteries) but they do not collect larger items such as laptops and televisions in their stores.
Staples stores will accept electronic equipment for recycling. They will recycle computers, monitors, laptops, printers, all-in-ones, scanners and fax machines for the small fee of $10. Dell brand electronic equipment will be accepted without any charge at all Staples stores.
Printer cartridges, cell phones, PDA's, digital cameras, pagers, chargers and rechargeable batteries can be recycled in all Staples stores for free, through their partnerships with Collective Good and Call2Recycle respectively.
For more information see the Staples recycling web page.
Toshiba run a trade-in scheme where they accept a wide range of electronic devices for any manufacturer brand in exchange for part-payment towards a new toshiba electronic device.
For more information about the equipment that qualifies for this scheme click here.
Electronics Recycling for Businesses
All commercial businesses in New Jersey must arrange for their computers, laptops, printers and other electronic waste to be recycled. Small businesses (less that 50 employees) can use the e-waste drop off locations run by their county or local town without charge. Larger businesses must make arrangements with an e-waste recycling facility to have their old electronics collected and recycled.
There are several companies in New Jersey that collect and recycle your e-waste and many of these businesses will pay for for the waste because the copper, lead and rare-earth metals that are found inside electronic devices are highly valuable on the commodity market.
Companies that will collect and recycle business electronics.
Back Thru The Future, based in Franklin, NJ specializes in data protection and the recycling of computer hard drives. They can even come to your facility to ensure removal of sensitive information from the hard drives before they take the hard drives away for shredding and recycling.
For more information about the services provided by Back Thru The Future, consult their website.
SavingElectronics will collect unwanted electronic equipment (flat screen TVs, computers, monitors, DVD players, GPS units, video games and accessories). They will then redistribute the items to people who need them.
For more information refer to the SavingElectronics website.
Computer Wholesalers Inc offers complete reuse and recycling solutions for your business e-waste.
Where possible electronic devices will be refurbished for reuse but where that is not economically viable CWI will arrange for your e-waste to be recycled to recover the raw materials.
For more information on how to sell your old electronic devices to CWI, click here.
Refurbished electronic devices can be purchased from the CWI outlet website.
Sims Recycling Solutions
Sims Recycling Solutions has a dedicated e-waste recycling facility in Edison, New Jersey. They will collect e-waste from your business and either refurbish the devices for resale or the e-waste will be shredded and then the raw materials recovered for resale on the commodity market.
Sims Recycling Solutions offers certified data destruction to protect your companies intellectual property and personal information.
More information can be found on the Sims Recycling Solutions website.