Where can I donate an old computer and screen?

Question

Where can I donate an old computer and screen?

-Andrea

Answer

This question was answered on December 22, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The consumption of technology by our culture is growing at a record pace and “orphaned” electronics are the natural by-product of this growth.

Keeping these orphans out of our landfills should be top-of-mind for all of us because of the associated electronic waste (e-waste).

According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, “Just one computer can contain hundreds of chemicals, including lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants (BFR’s), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Many of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, respiratory illness, and reproductive problems They are especially dangerous because of their ability to travel long distances through air and water and accumulate in our bodies and the environment.”

Donating your old technology is a good first start, but way too many donations sit in a closet or garage for years before they are brought out for reuse, which reduces the chances of them being useful to others.

We all need to get rid of working technology sooner so that the donation programs can make use of them Unfortunately, the vast majority of items donated to these programs are too old to be of any use and must be recycled.

This often relegates the donation facility into nothing more than a pass through organization for a recycler The two years that the donation spent in the closet could have been two years in the hands of a charity or an underprivileged home while the technology still had some value, so donate early!

The holiday season is the perfect time to raise the awareness of this problem, since many computers, gaming consoles and televisions will be replaced with the newer, faster and clearer versions.

Recycling programs vary from state to state, so here are some resources that may help you find the best way to recycle or donate your old computer:

- Check with your local Data Doctors location (www.datadoctors.com) as many are drop-off locations for various charities and recycling programs around the country, such as Students Recycling Used Technology (StRUT)

- Visit the Computer Take Back website ((www.computertakeback.com) to learn how to recycle your old computer, which companies have structured programs and locate a responsible recycler in your area

- Visit the National Cristina Foundation’s website ((www.cristina.org) which acts as a “match making service” for donors and recipients in the same area of the country

If you plan on donating an old computer, remember to assess whether you have any personal information stored on the hard drive Old documents, tax records and even your web browser may contain stored information that would allow others to gain access to your personal information.

Your primary options are to:

- Scrub just the data files off the drive (one at a time) with a secure deletion program, such as Eraser ((www.tolvanen.com/eraser)

- Wipe out the entire hard drive with a program such as Kill Disk ((www.killdisk.com)

- Remove the hard drive from the system before donating it so you can deal with the sensitive data at a later date

Most structured charity programs will do their best to wipe the data from all donated computers and start over, but I don’t suggest you leave something this important in the hands of others.

If in doubt, take it out (the hard drive that is!)

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on December 22, 2006