By now we should all know that you cannot just throw old computers and electronics in the garbage. The materials inside the devices that keep our lives running smoothly are not always benign in nature, they often contain heavy metals like mercury and other substances that can be toxic if improperly disposed of. But aside from the environmental impact of e-waste, there is also a security concern to consider; the data encased in your devices may still be accessible. Here are some things to keep in mind when cleaning out your old devices:


What Your Computer Says About You

Computers store information on hard drives and even if a computer is no long powering on or booting into the operating system, a tech savvy person with the right equipment could remove your hard drive and gain access to everything you’ve ever saved. To play it safest when recycling your computer, remove the hard drive and keep it prior to taking the computer to be recycled. If the computer is still booting, Windows 10 and 11 provide an option that allows users to fully clean the drive before getting rid of the machine. We often forget that there is sometimes storage memory in things like large multi-function printers or copiers—this should be considered when a device has been used to make copies of sensitive documents. Most of us have a drawer full of old cell phones at home and if they still turn on it is a good idea to do a factory reset on them prior to disposal, to remove any contact information, files or pictures.


What Your Computer Does In A Landfill

Aside from the considerations for privacy and the risk of identity theft, we should be conscious that if we improperly dispose of devices, they can leak elements like cadmium, lead or lithium into ground water. These materials are carcinogenic and toxic to humans, as well as other plants and animals. Improper disposal of these items exacerbates the risk of environmental contamination.


What Can You Still Use

You may find that some of the technology you might be ready to throw out could still be useful. With a little knowhow and effort, old memory could be used to upgrade your current system, cables and peripherals could come in handy later. If you have tech you’re ready to get rid of but that is still in usable condition, consider donating it to a local charity or educational institution. Of course you will still want to make sure your data has been wiped prior to donating the machine. Another thing to consider is whether you can re-purpose a piece of older technology for a child in your circle of friends or family. We live in an age of disposable goods and technology is improving at a pace that encourages frequent upgrades, but if you can delay throwing something out or keeping a device in circulation a little bit longer, you can do your small part to reduce the amount of e-waste in the world.


More than ever, we live in an interconnected world. Our technology is manufactured thousands of miles away, shipped to us and often when we are done using it e-waste is shipped to developing countries for processing and recycling. It can take a lot of research to ensure that you are disposing of your old devices in a way that limits the risk to your data and the damage to the environment. Mankato Computer Technology can advise you on how to dispose of your old technology safely and responsibly, as well as providing insight into what is worth keeping versus what should be gotten rid of. Call MCT today for a consultation.