Schools, libraries and charitable organizations often accept computers as a donation; after all, budgets are tight and an older but perfectly good laptop or desktop can go a long way in helping stretch scarce funds. According to the EPA, however, only 15% of computers are recycled or donated; an unfortunate statistic but with some good reasons behind it. For instance, most people know that even when files are deleted from a computer, the data on the hard disk drive can still be recovered. The mere thought of passwords, financial records or other confidential data being exposed leads some to “smash then trash” their hard drive, and companies without an IT specialist onboard to backup hard drives and securely wipe the drives clean will opt to store older computers rather than take the risk.
There are a lot of ways to destroy a computer’s hard disk drive; just go on You Tube and you’ll find some very clever if not dangerous tactics. The problem with this is that toxic chemicals and parts end up out in the landfill, an irresponsible practice that many states prohibit. Choosing to store older computers, even in a locked room, leaves companies vulnerable thieves who may find all kinds of valuable data on the hard drives. Recycling computers is one option; however, some recyclers charge a fee and some ship the computers and parts to developing countries where toxic chemicals pollute some of the poorest communities. So what’s the alternative?
Wipe the Hard Drives Clean and Donate
Most working computers between three and five years can perform basic functions such as search the Internet, check e-mail
and word process, which is the majority of uses for public access computers used in libraries and schools. If your computer is under five years old and still working, donating it for reuse is also one of the best environmental steps you can take, and because the IRS recognizes computer donations as tax deductible (as long as the receiver is a legitimate non-profit organization), it can also be a good financial step.
Preparing Your Hard Drive for Donation
Before you donate an old computer, back up any data you want to keep, and then wipe the hard drive clean, a process known as “sanitization”. When working with multiple hard drives that contain confidential information, consider purchasing a hard disk drive duplicator with sanitization options. Many Aleratec HDD duplicators include Secure Erase, Quick, 1-pass, 3-pass with verify, and DoD 7-pass sanitization methods. These various methods overwrite existing data on the hard drive so that it is no longer accessible or recoverable. If the hard drive contains highly sensitive data, for example financial or medical information or classified documentation, Aleratec offers sanitizers with Certified Sanitization. This is a credential given only to Aleratec products that confirms that hard drives sanitized by Aleratec’s 7-Pass overwrite have been verified by an independent third party forensic data recovery firm as being forensically unrecoverable.
Donating older computers can make you and your employees feel good and green because you’ll be helping cash-strapped organizations and the environment. Knowing that it’s perfectly safe to do so, will make you feel even better. Here are some helpful links on donating.