Are you going to toss away your old computer at home because you just got yourself a shiny new PC, Mac or a laptop? Before discarding it, make sure you read the checklist below. We’ve got some advice for you!
1. Shred hard disk partitions. Because formatting isn’t enough.
Believe it or not: there’s a lot of private information lurking in your hard disk even after you format it or delete the files. Deleting and formatting doesn’t mean that the files are gone forever â€“ they’re still in your hard disk, but just harder to find. Any decent data recovery software could recover troves of sensitive data from such a disk. Don’t believe us? Here’s MIT research, for you:
Two graduate students, Simson Garfinkel (who is also a prolific technology writer) and Abhi Shelat, bought 158 hard drives on EBay and from online shops. Of 129 drives that worked, 69 had recoverable files and 49 contained personal information, including 3700 credit card numbers, medical data, and pornography. Only 12 of the usable drives had been properly purged.
So, what can you do? Plenty of applications help you securely wipe your hard disk by overwriting existing data. If you already have CCleaner installed on your computer, you can try the built-in Drive Wiper. Just choose a partition, and the number of passes and you’re done. More details here.
Alternatively, you can use an app called Eraser to purge and overwrite individual files in your computer.
We’ve previously written a detailed guide on using it to shred files in your hard drive.
2. Transfer your data, browser settings and system configuration
Before you shred your data, you might want to backup your files for restoring later. If you’ve got only about 2 GB of data to backup, download Dropbox, install it in your old computer and let it upload your files. In your new computer, install Dropbox again and the files that you uploaded will get synced automatically to your new machine.
If you want to transfer pretty huge files, try doing that the USB-to-USB way.
Transferring system settings and other information from your old machine to the new one is a piece of cake with the in built Windows Backup and Restore tool â€“ you can use it to obtain a system image that contains both your personal files and settings. You can later restore that image in your new computer.
If you use Google Chrome, you can use the Sync feature from the Settings dialog to upload your bookmarks â€“ just login with your Google ID and just let the bookmarks sync. Login again with the same ID in your new computer, and you have them all back again in seconds! As easy as that. You can also try the Xmarks addon that syncs bookmarks across a variety of browsers.
Deleting your browser and personal traces are just a matter of firing up a program like CCleaner and launching the clean-up action.
3. Install Linux. Give it away.
If you’re really not going to find a way to put your old computer to good use, just don’t leave it lying there. Give it away. There are plenty of charities across the world that’d take your age-old device and put it to good use. Here’s one.
Even better, install Ubuntu and give it away to anyone nearby who might need a computer â€“ may be the next door kid, your grandma or the shopkeeper down the street. They’ll certainly find it useful and you’ll earn some instant karma.