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Best Practices for Secure, Responsible Disposal of Computers & Devices

Best Practices for Secure, Responsible Disposal of Computers & Devices

by Jasmine Lancaster - December 23, 2015

Many people will purchase or receive new computers and devices this holiday season. In fact, according to ForbesIDC predicts the worldwide smart connected device market will accelerate past 2 billion units by the end of 2015. If you're among the lucky owners of new computers and devices this year, you or your company may be planning to get rid of the old computers or devices, which have been replaced by newer versions. If so, I urge you to do so with caution!

Along with a collection of potentially harmful toxins, computers and other connected devices house vital information including passwords, registration numbers, account information, addresses, telephone numbers, and a host of other private information. Your hard drive is a goldmine for identity thieves and it is important to use proven methods to wipe this data from existence, before disposing of devices. Simply throwing the devices or their hard drives away could potentially cause more harm than good.

Below, we reveal the proper techniques to dispose of computers and devices, guard against identity theft, and protect the environment:

  1. Backup significant files and information
  2. Sanitize your hard drive
  3. Dispose of your computer

Read on to learn more about each step.

1.) Backup Significant Files and Information

Before disposing of your old hard drive, you may find it necessary to save files you may need in the future. You can use a USB drive, CD-ROM, external hard drive, cloud service, or a new computer to transfer your information.

RELATED: 5 Data Backup Method Options for SMB Business Continuity Plans

When using cloud backup, files can be easily transferred and accessed anywhere there is internet connection. Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are popular cloud service providers. Each give you an allotment of free storage space, with the option of buying more at a reasonable cost. When transferring files onto a new computer, you can contact the manufacturer’s customer support line for guidance on how to accurately accomplish this task.

RELATED: Be Prepared: Avoid Data Disasters with Backup and Disaster Recovery Planning

2.) Sanitize Your Hard Drive

Clicking “delete” on a file is not enough. Identity thieves have mastered data recovery, which makes retrieving your deleted information fairly simple. It is important that you get your hands on a utility software, designed to meet government standards for secure deletion, to wipe your hard drive clean. Usually, these programs are inexpensive and some are even free. Do your homework to ensure you've selected a reputable and proven program for this process — protecting your identity and sensitive data is worth it.

RELATED: DC Data Security: 5 Facts to Know About Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

After you’ve taken all possible measures to remove data from your hard drive, perform a factory reset as an extra measure of security. As an extra, extra precaution, some individuals drill holes into their hard drives or destroy it with a hammer. Whereas this may seem a bit extreme, some deem it necessary. Physical destruction is a sure way to prevent data crooks from obtaining your information. You can also contract with a company to securely destroy your hard drive for you, and then provide you with proof in the form of a certificate of destruction. 

3.) Dispose of Your Computer

Recycle, donate, or resell your computer to stop harmful toxins from entering the environment. If you opt to recycle it, you will find that several manufacturers have programs to recycle computers and their components. Again, check with customer support on the best method for recycling. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has useful information about how you can go about recycling your electronics. Here at Meridian, we've partnered with Evolve Recycling, which pays organizations for used computer components.

There are also many organizations who collect old computers and give them to charity. Doing this now could possibly make you eligible for a 2015 tax deduction. Be sure to check with an accountant for any tax-related details. Finally, reselling or trading in your computer is also a method of disposal. Do a quick online search to find companies with trade-in programs or companies who buy old computers. E-commerce sites like eBay and Craigslist can also be useful outlets for selling electronics.

Don't Forget...

Remember, simply throwing away an old computer won’t cut it. Be sure you are protecting yourself and the environment with proper disposal.

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