Computer Recycling

  • What do you do with that computer sitting in your closet?
  • What do you do about the data on that computer?
  • What kind of data is on the computers hard drive?
  • Is my computer safe to give to a friend or relative?
  • Is it safe to put that machine out with the trash

These are just a few of the questions that a person should consider before that computer can be recycled.  The environmental side of this conversation is only going to be referenced briefly.  I will provide some links that will allow you to find a recycling center in your area to dispose of your computer.  Office Depot offers a technology recycling program.

  • What kind of data is on the computers hard drive?

I would like to address a couple of the questions above.  What kind of data do you have on your computer?  It is probably an older computer that you are getting rid of, which means that you may have older software and less secure software on your computer.  The older browser may have held your credit card or user names and passwords that a newer more modern browser may have fixed.  You might have pictures that you have downloaded that may be private or even family pictures that are for just your own family.  How do you prevent this from being given out?

Back up any data before you do this.  There are some simple methods to avoid this issue.  One of the 99.999% most effective methods of preventing your data being released is to remove the hard drive from the computer and store the hard drive. The hard drive is one of the smallest pieces of the computer so easy to store.  If you need to dispose of the hard drive and have access to a drill you can put two holes in the platter.  This prevents the hard drive from being used.  When you drill the hard drive you should aim for the physical platter of the hard drive.  If you drill the two holes 90 degrees apart, that platter will never be able to spin up again.  The above methods are the most aggressive of my suggestions.

Example of points to drill the hard drive

Where to drill the hard drive

Anther method of disposal is a shredding company.  Many of the companies out there offer a service that will shred the physical hard drive.  (Run it though an industrial wood / metal chipper). This will also guarantee complete destruction of the hard drive.

  • Is my computer safe to give to a friend or relative?

If you would like to give away your computer to something like a charity, then you should run a program that will delete all data from your computer.    There is a simple program you can download from the internet called Boot and Nuke.  This program will do exactly what it says.  You download this file to a floppy disk, boot off it, and it will over write every file and bit on your computer.  Obliterating all data on the hard drive.  http://www.dban.org/ is the place to get this utility.  There is a download on this site as well at http://www.dban.org/download The link to the cd / dvd version is found at DBAN CD / DVD version.  There is one more utility that is faster and as secure as the DBAN process but it may be a bit geekier to perform.  It is called Secure Erase and should work on drives after the 2001-2002 time frame.

One other method that will leave your computer, as a computer is to simply run the restore disks on your computer.  I would recommend that you run a disk defrag on your computer before you do the recovery.  This will move your data around before you format the computer during the recovery process.  It is important that during the recover when it asks or states that you will lose all data you answer yes.  The program normally will start by formatting the hard drive and then installing everything as if it was factory fresh.  At this point you can do the updates to the computer and feel fairly safe that 99% of the data of the drive will have been formatted and destroyed.  This method is not 100% safe due to a “Professional Restoration Company” may be employed to recover data from this machine but that process is not an inexpensive thing.  So please donate to a friend or family that needs a computer.  If the computer is worth doing so with.

I don’t recommend re-use of the drive with out Dban or Secure erase, since programs such as recuva allow anyone to recover deleted & formatted data fairly simply.

  • Is it safe to put that machine out with the trash

What do you do now?  If the computer is one that can be reused and is in working condition, you can many times donate it to various charities.  Goodwill many times will take this type of donation.  This will sometimes entitle you to a tax write off, but not always.  There may be people who can use it for kids who need a machine for homework.  This will give your equipment a second life, before it heads off to the landfill.

There are no set ways to get rid of your computer.  The SPSA (local waste management) does not have a specific policy on recycling e-waste.  That means they may very well pick up your computer with the rest of the trash.  In theory, best buy, and other locations such as Office Max also offer recycling but there is many times a fee for this.  The theory is it will be a more responsible recycling than throwing it in a landfill.

Verizon Wisdom!!!

At a recent site visit, a client of mine recently installed the FIOS service from Verizon.  I was brought in to repair a laptop that was no longer browsing the web.  The prior evening it was working fine but in the morning it could no longer surf the web.  The computer was able to receive an IP address.  The client had removed the Norton 360 and installed the security suit now being offered for free by Verizon.  I proceeded to do the typical troubleshooting for when you get an IP address but still not able to surf the web.  This did not get anywhere.

I was looking at the software provided by Verizon and it appears to be a product they recently created on their own.  As per my luck with Verizon products when I went to uninstall the product and restore to normal, I found the uninstaller failed to work.

I then called Verizon’s technical support for two reasons.  I wanted to gain access to the router and I wished to get the removal tool for their malware program.  I started with the removal first.  I asked for the file location and was told it was fairly complex address to download it from. The tech seemed unsure how to get it to the laptop since it couldn’t get on the Internet.  Of course this was 90 seconds after I had told him my laptop worked fine on the router and was 6 inches away.   The tech offered to take over my computer so that he could easily give me the address to the file.  I consented and allowed access, downloaded the file, used sneaker net to transfer the file, and removed the malware program.  This did not resolve the problem.

My next step was to examine the connection to the router.  I asked for the user name and password to the router and was completely thrown off guard when I found the answer.  The user name I had no issue with of being admin, but I was shocked to find out the password was simply password1.  I without even thinking asked the tech “REALLY”.  You use password1 as your password for your routers.  I was then told that the techs in the field are to use this password as their password and it is configured via a USB key that the tech runs the setup from.  My next set of questions to the tech was semi rapid fire.  You use a WEP key on your router (granted random character), and you use a password of password1.  I then asked him why they would configure a WPA2 capable router with WEP, and then secure it with a horrible password.  I asked the tech if he had heard that WEP is broken and takes less than a minute to crack?  There were no answers from the tech.

I was completely surprised when I realized just how bad this security really was.  I then proceed to put a much more secure password on the router, and added a quality WPA Key.  I simply do not understand why they ever considered this a good idea.

Summary Verizon uses a default password of password1 on a WEP key standard broadcasting router.  This is a REALLY bad idea and exceptionally bad implementation of that technology.

The views of this post are 100% the view of Anthony Gartner