What do you do with your old computer when you purchase a new one? When I began working from home and decided to purchase a workhorse “desktop” computer, my still functioning laptop became the downstairs/kitchen/screened-in porch computer. It’s a handy place to quickly check e-mail, moderate blog comments or pull up the latest movie releases before heading out the door on a Friday night.
Back in the day when a computer was a much larger financial purchase, whenever a new computer entered our home it was because the old one had either died or had become slow and outdated. We used to joke when our son was a teenager that we were sure the gaming folks were in cahoots with the computer manufacturers because we seemed to always be updating our home computer for the sole purpose of keeping up with the speed and memory requirements of the latest computer games Santa had delivered.
In the excitement of bringing home a new computer, little thought was ever given to the old one. It always went the way of its predecessors, relegated to the unfinished area of the basement. Over the years the basement gradually became a graveyard for defunct computers and printers.
Over the past few months, I’ve been in a purging mood. If it “ain’t” being used…it’s out of here! (Said with the enthusiasm of the late Skip Caray calling a home run headed over the fence at Turner Field.)
Every so often our area has a county-wide electronics recycling day. I’m not really sure why they do that since it’s free to take your electronics for recycling any day of the week. That tells me there must be some value in the metal or whatever it is that’s inside a computer.
The main thing that has stood in the way of my attempts to clear out the basement computer graveyard was concern about personal information that could still be on those old computers. With identity theft ranking as one of the fastest growing crimes and in the news on a daily basis, I knew I couldn’t take them for recycling without first doing something about the hard drives. Too risky.
I called a local computer megastore where one of the computers had been purchased many years ago. They quoted a minimum of $65 to wipe the hard drive of just one computer. Since I had two towers and a laptop, that was definitely more than I cared to spend. Once again, the computer recycling dilemma was put on the back burner.
Recycle Day at the local highschool:
A week or so ago I checked my mailbox and discovered a flyer announcing a computer, electronics, paint and paper recycling day at a local high school. I called the contact person on the flyer and asked if there would be anyone there who could help me open up my computers and retrieve the hard drives. He told me to come on down. He felt sure there would be some computer guys there that would be willing to help me with that. This sounded promising!
I had often thought of trying to open the computers by myself to retrieve the hard drives, but I had always quickly dismissed those thoughts because 1. I didn’t know if there was something inside that could be dangerous if touched AND 2. I had no idea what a hard drive even looked like.
That morning I arrived at the school about 9:20 AM, 20 minutes after the starting time stated on the flyer. There was a short line of about 4-5 cars. I decided to come back since I was supposed to be at a photography class in about 35 minutes and I didn’t want to be late.
I arrived back around 11:15 and found a long line of cars. The recycling was supposed to go on all day and the school was not far from my home, so I decided to leave and come back again later in the day, hoping the line would be shorter by then. A monsoon came, a torrential downpour, and I wondered if the recycling would still be going on when I returned. Perhaps I had missed my chance to finally get the computers recycled.
On my third trip back it still looked like this, but I stayed this time and found the line moved quickly. It snaked around the corner, down a short distance and into a side parking lot.
Upon entering the parking lot, I drove around to the huge recycling truck where I stood and watched three large kitchen bags of old bank statements, bills and canceled checks dating all the way back to 1978, get shredded. The flyer had said they would shred your papers while you watched. At some point they had apparently gotten way behind, maybe during the monsoon, and folks had just started leaving their stuff.
Not this girl. Call me paranoid but I stayed and watched. I’d rather stay and watch than get a new “part-time job” as our local consumer guru, Clark Howard, warns. Clark always says, if your identity is stolen, you have yourself a new part-time job for at least the next three years, undoing all the damage that’s been done. Yikes! I don’t need any part-time jobs.
I took Clark’s advice years ago and froze my credit with all three credit bureaus. I encourage you to consider freezing your credit, too. Don’t just sign up for a monitoring service, which usually only alerts you after your credit has been breached and the damage is done. Consider freezing your credit with all three credit bureaus. It inexpensive to freeze it and costs very little to thaw it when you need to. That way the bad guys aren’t going to get very far if they do get their hands on your personal information. You can read more about freezing your credit and how you can thaw it temporarily when needed, HERE and HERE.
I wish I had thought to take a picture of the giant mountains of computers, printers and electronic devices that were being loaded into the huge trucks. There were so many, they were piled up all around the trucks. It was amazing! Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who had a computer/electronic graveyard going on in their home.
The computer recycling guys were super nice. They unscrewed the two towers I brought and showed me the hard drive. I didn’t have my camera with me that day, so I took all the photos you see in this post with my camera phone. If you’re like me and don’t have a clue what the inside of a computer looks like, here’s the inside of one of the towers. You can see the hard drive there on the right. (note arrow) This was the big 386 tower. Computer towers are so much smaller now…this computer was quite the dinosaur.
And here’s the inside on the e-machine. By the time this computer was made, towers were getting a lot smaller, closer to the size of today’s computers.
The computer dude gave me this hand ax/hatchet and I beat the living daylights out of those hard drives. lol Hey, he told me too, so I did! As he handed me the hatchet thingy, he said, “Remember all the times it froze up and had to rebooted? It’s payback time.” 😉 I think this was the hard drive out of the 386 tower.
This may have been the hard drive from the laptop or maybe this was the e-machine…forgotten now. Anyway, I took my aggression out on it, too. 😉 So, if you take your computers apart, here’s what you’re hard drive looks like. Apparently, this is the brain of the computer and where your data is stored.
What do you do with your old computers when you recycle them? Do you pay $65 to have the hard drive wiped? Or, do you take them apart and reenact this hilarious scene from the movie, Office Space?