How Should I Safely And Securely Dispose Of An Old Laptop?

laptop data being destroyed

You just got a new laptop and are excited to set it up. But, before you do, you want to get rid of your old one so it no longer takes up space.

This raises the question, “How can I dispose of a laptop properly?” Luckily, we have the answers!

After reading this article you’ll know:

  • Why it’s important to safely and securely dispose of your laptop
  • How to dispose of a laptop the right way

Let’s dive in!

How to Dispose of a Laptop: Importance of a Safe and Secure Disposal

When your laptop is disposed of improperly, it can have a lot of negative environmental and personal effects. For instance, if you just toss it in the trash, your old laptop can end up in the wrong hands, leaving your data exposed.

Even worse, it can end up in landfills, leak rare earth elements, and cause damage to the environment and our health.


Environmental Factors

Soil Pollution by Ewaste

When disposed of improperly, electronic waste, or e-waste, can lead to pollution in our water, soil, and air. This can lead to negative health effects which we will touch on next.

On the other hand, recycling your e-waste conserves energy. This is because the process of recycling uses far less energy than mining for new materials. Another benefit of recycling is it reduces the number of carbon emissions produced.

Additionally, it also conserves our natural resources because we are able to reuse unwanted material instead of having to mine for more. This also protects our environment because we do not have to excavate land to access the raw materials.

Health Risks

E-waste like a thrown-away laptop is made up of components that can be dangerous to your health.

For instance, the plastics in your electronic devices don’t break down like other materials. They degrade and become microplastic particles. These particles are very harmful to plants, animals, and humans who can ingest them.

Furthermore, the metals in your devices also come with their own dangers. When they sit in landfills, they oxidize and ionize into the surrounding soil and eventually our produce and drinking water. Many of these metals contain toxic chemicals that can cause negative effects on our health. For example, it can lead to:

  • Memory Issues
  • Neurological Damage
  • Coma
  • Paralysis
  • Miscarriages
  • Cancer

Finally, incinerating these devices is just as dangerous because these chemicals are then released into the air and can lead to respiratory issues.

Data Breach Concerns

Recycle a laptop properly to avoid data breach

Not only does improper disposal affect your health, but it also can damage the health of your business.

According to a report on cybersecurity issues, out of 200 hard drives the researchers looked at, 11% still had data on them. As technology advances, hackers are becoming better at recovering information off of devices.

This leaves your business’s private data exposed and can end up in the hands of your competitors. When something like this happens, stakeholders get nervous and stock value can drop.

Furthermore, when you have a data breach, not only is your business’s information at risk of being exposed, but so too is your clients’ personal information. This can lead to lawsuits which brings us to our next point, financial concerns. Not good!

Financial Impacts

Data breach lawsuits are very expensive. Not only do you have to pay for legal fees, but if you lose or settle, your company will have to shell out a lot of money to reimburse your affected customers.

Additionally, tons of money gets lost when you dispose of your e-waste improperly. There is a lot of valuable material that can be extracted from these devices and repurposed. When you recycle your electronic devices you can get a return.

So, how can you avoid these dangers? Keep reading to learn how to dispose of your laptop properly.

How to Properly Dispose of a Laptop: A Step-By-Step Guide

Your business is held liable for protecting your customers’ data and any damage you may be doing to the environment.

So, what can you do to dispose of your laptop without having to worry?

Here are 5 steps to take to dispose of your laptop safely.

1. Save Important Information

save your data on an external hard drive

Stop! Before you delete anything, save all of your content and data.

There are 3 ways you can save your information:

  • USB Drive There is a wide range of USBs to choose from with different amounts of storage. USBs are often cheaper but don’t have as much storage space as the alternatives.
  • External Hard Drive – With an external hard drive you won’t have to worry about storage space. While this is the most expensive option it is a one-time payment and then you have your information stored forever. One popular hard drive is the Western Digital My Passport Ultra which has a 2TB and 4TB option.
  • Cloud-Based Storage – Cloud storage such as Google Drive or iCloud is becoming increasingly popular because you can access your information from anywhere. There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to your subscription and price but you have to keep paying in order to maintain access to your data.

Pro tip: Backup your information to two places in case something happens to your primary storage. This is especially important if you decide to use cloud-based storage.

2. Destroy Data on the Hard Drive

Many think that if they delete files off their laptop, then it is gone for good and safe from hackers. But this is not true.

Internal hard drives keep your information even when you delete it from your laptop. There are 2 ways you can delete your data on your hard drives.

3. Physically Destroy Hard Drive

destroy your hard drive for ewaste

The first option for destroying your data is physically destroying the hard drive in your laptop. There are several steps to take to make sure you do it properly and ensure your information is gone.

Step 1: Unplug the Device
First, unplug your laptop from any power source and let the battery drain.

Step 2: Open Casing
Next, unscrew the casing and open it so you can access the components.

Step 3: Remove Hard Drive
Now, unscrew the hard drive from the casing.

Step 4: Destroy Hard Drive
Finally, break the hard drive into tiny pieces with a hammer or drill.

Warning: If you are not comfortable with computers, we recommend leaving this to a professional because you can accidentally destroy important parts that could have been reused.

Wipe Hard Drive

You can download software to help wipe your hard drive, completely destroying your information. There are software that you have to pay for and others you can get for free, so do your research.

You will also want to perform a factory reset. If your laptop is a Mac you will want to erase and reinstall macOS.

However, if you are trying to destroy sensitive data we suggest using a professional data sanitizer. This way you can ensure none of your data is retrievable.

3. Delete History

When you use browsers like Google, they often save your history and, at times, even your logins for different sites. Make sure to go onto your laptop and manually clear your browsing history and wipe any saved passwords.

4. De-Authorize

This step is often forgotten but is just as important as the others. Many devices such as Adobe or iTunes only let you have it on a certain amount of devices per user. 

Open up all applications that have a limit and deactivate the laptop. Then uninstall any programs that may have your password or information saved.

5. Recycle Your Computer

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the power used by 3,500 U.S. homes for an entire year. That’s a lot of energy!

When you recycle your computer, it is important to be cautious of scammers and instead find a trusted recycling facility.

While there are recycling programs such as Dell’s Reconnect program, many of them have been outed for secretly exporting these donations to third-world countries. Workers, including children in these countries, are often made to scavenge the ewaste looking for valuable parts which can be very dangerous.

Dispose of Your Laptop Safely and Securely with Great Lakes Electronics Corporation

Want to dispose of your laptop? Recycle your e-waste with Great Lakes Electronics Corporation.

We not only provide environmentally-friendly e-waste recycling, but we also have liability reduction, asset management, and data security services.

Have peace of mind knowing that your data is securely destroyed with our certified data destruction and recycling processes.

Visit our website or call 888-392-7831 to request a FREE quote today!