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Recycle old technology to make room for new
As Christmas wrapping paper litters the living room floor, gift recipients eagerly tinker with their new gadgets and gizmos. But what should they do with their old computers, cell phones and monitors?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans abandon 12 million to 14 million computers each year. Of those, 75 percent are stored in closets, and 50 percent of those could be donated.
If your old computer has at least 512 MB of memory and at least a 20 GB hard drive, consider donating it. There are many individuals and organizations that would benefit from your old computer. Check with local pastors, schools or community groups for suggestions.
If your computer has less memory or a smaller hard drive, find a way to recycle it.
But before donating or recycling your computer, there are several things you need to do.
First, back up your data to an external hard drive. Consider burning the data to a CD-ROM as an additional backup. Be sure to include all your data in the backup, including Quicken information, embroidery programs, clipart programs and favorites in Internet Explorer. If you plan to donate the computer, download the Ubuntu operating system and the Open Office program onto a CD-ROM. Also, download the free edition of AVG anti-virus software to a CD-ROM. These three programs will allow the recipient to use the computer.
After you verify your data has been backed up, and preferably after it has been transferred to your new computer, download a program to CD-ROM that will wipe the data off your computer at http://www.dban.org/download.
Reformat your hard drive before you recycle or donate. Anyone can retrieve information from your computer if your computer is not reformatted properly. Many recycled computers end up in countries where there is much profit in retrieving personal information. The only foolproof way to protect against data theft is to remove the hard drive and beat it with a sledgehammer. The goal is to damage the circular silver plate inside the hard drive so much that no one could use it again.
If you are donating your computer, first make sure your data is backed up. Insert the Dban CD-ROM, and follow the on-screen prompts to format the hard drive. Once complete, insert the Ubuntu CD-ROM, and follow the on-screen prompts to install the operating system. Reboot the computer. Next, insert the Open Office CD-ROM and follow the on-screen prompts to install this program. Reboot the computer. Insert the AVG Anti-virus CD-ROM and install. The computer is now ready to be donated.
If you want to recycle your computer, contact your local recycling program to see if they accept computers. Several Mississippi companies and Jackson State University’s Computer Recycling & Refurbishing Program specialize in recycling computers. National retailers such as Best Buy, Office Depot and Wal-Mart offer recycling programs. Many computer companies, such as Dell, HP, Reconnect (Dell Partner), and Toshiba, will recycle products that they made.
Cell phones and smartphones also can be recycled, but be sure that any personal data is removed from the device. Your local cell phone carrier can help. CD-ROMs can be used for craft projects and keeping animals out of your garden. If you’d rather toss them, be sure to scratch out the data side of the CD-ROM with a wire pad or permanent marker.
Recycling or donating your old electronics can help both the environment and your community.