What do you do with an old computer? More accurately, what do you do with your old computer when you buy a new one?
You can keep it as an additional computer for yourself. You can pass it to your spouse. You can use it for your children. You can sell it. You can give it to a friend. You can throw it away. You can recycle it. You can give it to a school or charity. You get the idea…
But, there is a basic difference between the first three options and the rest of them — you need to eliminate your personal data on the computer so no one else can access it. Of course, you might want to do that before giving it to the kids, too.
How do you get rid of the personal data on the computers?
The only certain way is to remove the hard drive from the computer and destroy it with a hammer or other impacting device.
Some people don’t worry about their data — or don’t even think about their data.
Others think that reformatting or re-FDisk’ing their drive will make their data not recoverable. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
Others will delete the personal files, but leave the Program Files directory and the Windows directory intact. Unfortunately, deleting files really doesn’t eliminate the data off the hard drive — it just tells Windows (or whatever operating system you’re using) that those sectors of the hard drive are not in use.
However, there are plenty of paid utilities and free utilities that are designed to help you Undelete files you’ve accidentally deleted.
There are other utilities that you can run that actually will destroy the data on the hard drive.
One that I use is called WipeDrive. It will completely write over every byte on the hard drive multiple times with varying data values to prevent file recovery. WipeDrive is an older program that runs from a floppy disk, although I’m pretty sure it would work from a bootable CD, too.
There’s a free program called Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) that is similar to WipeDrive. I have not used DBAN, but it’s been around for years. It’s open source and is available at SourceForge.net in both source code and in ready-to-install Windows versions.
Personally, I think the best choice is to keep it in the family. Whether you set up the old computer for your spouse or children, you can put it on your home network (and create the home network, if necessary). That stops the fighting over the computer (or, at least over YOUR computer) and also means that, when you have the inevitable computer problem with hardware or software, you have a working computer available.
If the old computer is just too underpowered for today’s Windows and software, you can easily solve that issue by installing one of the easy-to-use Linux versions such as PCLinuxOS ( www.pclinuxos.org , free).
You can download the ISO file and burn your own bootable, runnable CD to try it. If you like it, while it is running, you can click on the Install PCLinuxOS icon to install it on your computer.
That’s right — many Linux distributions (versions) come as a run-from-the-CD "live CD" so you can try it before you actually install it!