Category Archives: Recycling

What to Do With An Old Computer

When I saw this astonishing video I realized that I should address this issue in my Techie Tips.   

Screenshot 2017-09-09 at 11.06.45 AM

When clients ask me what to do with their old computers, I recommend recycling them at Best Buy.  It’s quick and easy.  You just drop them off at the customer service desk.  

Many times, my people like to donate them to a charity or give them to a friend or relative.

In any case, you need to protect the data on your hard drive if you have any sensitive information on it that you would not want criminals to see.

How It Works

You cannot actually erase data on a drive.  When you delete something, the space on the drive gets marked as “vacant” or “writable” so new data can be written over it.  The original information is still there until it’s overwritten and can be found with specialized software.

Some people assume that they can reformat their hard drives, but that just erases the directory that the computer uses to find the files.  It doesn’t delete the files.  The physical bits and bytes still exist.  With regular use, the data  will get overwritten, but it’s a random process and you won’t know which files have been overwritten and which haven’’t.

A “full format” will overwrite the drive with zeros but it’s still possible to recover data with specialized software.

The Solution

DBAN is a free software that overwrites the drive multiple times.  I found a comment online by a Tech who said that after 20 passes, nothing can be recovered.  He swears by it 100%.  I looked up DBAN and it has a disclaimer that it’s not “certified safe.”  I imagine certification would be important in situations where there is legal liability — where you are responsible for someone else’s sensitive data.  If you are willing to install the software and do 20 passes this might be a good solution for your needs.

The most common recommendation is to remove the hard drive from the computer and smash the disks or memory chips with a hammer (wear safety glasses.)  I did that with my old PC laptop and I thought it was fun but you might not share my enthusiasm for taking things apart to see what’s inside.  

I told Angel Sanchez at NYPC Repair (on Hwy 111 in Palm Desert near the Red Barn) that a lot of my clients would probably not want to deal with removing the hard drive and he said you are welcome to bring your computer into the shop and they will take it out and smash it for you with no charge!  Isn’t that great!  Love NYCP Repair!

In Summary

Now you know the whys, the hows and simple solutions.  Your choice will depend on your level of comfort about the security of your files.  For most of us, it isn’t an issue but if it is, you know what to do.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or need help.  



P.S. If you have found this information helpful, please support my mission to make technology simple, easy and fun for mature adults.  Share this post with others and encourage them to sign up to receive all my Techie Tips via email.   They can sign up here  Thanks!


What To Do With Those Old Gadgets?


gadgetsBecause I teach people how to use their new gadgets, I’m often asked what I recommend they do with their old ones.

Depending on how old it is and what condition, I recommend that you try and sell it, recycle it, or give it to charity.

Several years ago, I sold my mom’s really old laptop on cash for laptops for $70 and it was really easy working with them.  They sent a shipping box and everything.  Now, Best Buy has a webpage where you can submit information about your gadget.  They will tell you the value, give you a gift certificate or recycle it for you if it has no value.

In any case, you must wipe out your personal information.  You might have passwords, tax documents, contacts, personal photos, home videos or other sensitive data that  you don’t want falling into the wrong hands.

The most Important thing for you to know is that deleted files are not really gone – they’re just hidden.  Anyone who knows what they’re doing can find them.

To keep your information safe, you need to permanently wipe it out.  I won’t go into all details here because it’s pretty technical and not of interest to most people.

However, if you want to know all the details, I’ll be happy to teach you. Or, if you don’t want to know, I’ll be happy to do it for you.

I’m sure you’ll have questions about your new device that I can answer as well.

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What to Do With Your Outdated Gadgets?

Our gadgets get outdated faster every year!  But don’t just let them collect and clutter your home or office.  You might be able to get some money for them; and if not, you can recycle them and get them out of your way.

In any case, be sure to erase your data first.  Even if you’re giving away an old phone to a close friend or relative, you still don’t want them snooping around in your contacts, text messages, photos and email.

Fortunately, erasing an iPhone or Android phone isn’t difficult at all. You just have to know where to look.

Before erasing, make sure you backup the old phone. For an iPhone, connect it to a Mac or PC and launch iTunes. Follow the onscreen instructions to perform a backup of your apps, settings and other data.

For an Android, backup important files to your PC or an external drive. Sync your contacts with Google cloud or your Gmail account.

To erase an iPhone 3GS or 4, go to Settings>>General>>Reset. Tap Erase All Content and Settings, then press the big red button that says Erase iPhone. The phone will give you an estimate of how long it will take.

You erase the iPad and the iPod touch the same way. Make sure your gadget is fully charged or plugged in before starting. Sometimes the process can take a while.

If you want to double check, you can check the mail, phone, calendar and message apps to verify that everything is gone. If you sync the device to the computer again, it should show up as a new gadget.

For an Android gadget, press Menu and tap Settings. Select SD & Phone Storage and then tap Factory data reset. Tap Reset Phone. All your information, apps and the SD card will be gone.

Some manufacturers modify how Android works on their gadgets. If you don’t see the above options, check your phone’s manual or contact the manufacturer’s support website for specific instructions.

If you have a newer older gadget, you can make back some of your money by selling it.  I recommend  I sold my mom’s old laptop and got $60 for it.  It was so easy.  I applied online, they mailed me the packaging and label, kept me updated by email and paid promptly.  They didn’t want my old Blackberry but, hey, it was worth a try.

If you can’t sell it, then please recycle it.  The easiest way is to drop things off at Best buy in Palm Desert.