The Disposal of Desktop Computers

by Jeff Grundy Google

    Purchasing a new computer can be very exciting - especially if it's been a few years since you upgraded. If your old computer is still relatively modern, you may want to keep it as a backup or let others in your home use it. If you feel your old desktop PC has outlived its usefulness, though, you may be thinking of just tossing in a dumpster somewhere. However, before you just throw the old machine away, you should know that doing so might be illegal in your area because of environmental and health concerns. Additionally, there are other disposal options available for your old PC that could benefit you as well as others.

    Step 1

    Back up any files you want to save from the old computer by copying them to a USB flash drive or external hard drive. Alternatively, you can burn files to blank discs if the old computer has a burner drive.

    Step 2

    Erase all data on the hard drive of the old computer. If you don’t have financial or other really sensitive data on the hard drive, you can simply use the Format tool in Windows. Open Windows Explorer, right-click the drive letter of the hard drive and then click "Format." Disable the "Quick Format" option, then click "Format."

    Step 3

    Remove the hard drive from the computer and destroy it if you have business, financial or other private or sensitive data on the PC. Open the case with the Phillips screwdriver, then remove the hard drive from its mounting bay. After you remove the hard drive, use the hammer to smash it enough so that the platter on the inside of the casing warps or breaks. Alternatively, install the old hard drive in your new computer if you need the extra storage space.

    Step 4

    Open your local phonebook and locate the "Thrift Shops," "Thrift Stores" or other similar category in the Yellow Pages section. Organizations such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army, UNICEF and many other charitable groups operate secondhand and used merchandise stores used to generate income for their charities. These charitable organizations welcome older computer donations as long as the machines are still in working condition and not more than 10 years old. Additionally, charitable organizations may pick up the old computer free of charge and also issue you a receipt you can use as a deduction on your income tax return. However, if you remove the hard drive from the old PC, you may want to tell them, as not all charitable organizations accept computers that require major repairs or component installations. Most charities do accept computers without operating systems.

    Step 5

    Dismantle the computer and sell off its parts. If you have an eBay or other online auction account, you may be able to earn some extra cash and dispose of the old computer at the same time. Disassemble the computer, clean the components with a dusting brush and some canned air and then take a few pictures of the various parts. Post ads with the photos on the auction site and wait for the bids to come in. If getting rid of the old computer is your primary concern, and you want to sell the parts quickly, don’t set minimum or reserve prices for the components. Ensure that the buyer is responsible for shipping charges to avoid losing money if the parts sell cheaply. Create multiple auctions for the individual components, as many buyers will often purchase a single older part to repair a machine they already own rather than purchase an entire system. After the auctions end and you receive payment from the buyers, ship the parts via U.S Postal Service, FedEx, UPS or another shipping company.

    Step 6

    Check the "Computer Recyclers" or "Recycling" section of the Yellow Pages in your phonebook for companies in your area that recycle old computers. You may have to pay a nominal fee for the company to come to your home or office and haul the old PC away for you. Nevertheless, the fee charged by the recycling company is usually cheaper than the amount charged by the landfill if you throw the computer away yourself. You can probably save a considerable amount on the fee by taking the computer directly to the recycler rather than having them pick it up.


    • If you have a really old computer, and you cannot sell or even give it away, you must dispose of it yourself. If you have to take the computer to a landfill, you will have to pay a fee for disposing of the old machine. Depending on where you live, the disposal fee could be $20, $50 or even more - especially if you are throwing away an older CRT monitor along with the PC. Nevertheless, the disposal fee is usually much less than the fine you will have to pay if you are caught disposing of the old computer and monitor by throwing in a dumpster or tossing it out along the side of the road.

    Required Items

    • USB flash drive or external hard drive (optional)
    • Optical burner drive and blank disc (optional)
    • Phillips #2 screwdriver
    • Hammer
    • Phonebook
    • Dusting brush and canned air

    About the Author

    Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images