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My fabulous new laptop is all set up and running beautifully. My old laptop has been consigned to its temporary new home: the garage. There it shall stay until I get an opportunity to take it to an electronics collection event, which my city periodically holds. (It's the green way, people.)

Anyway, I may have been a bit hasty taking it straight to the garage. According to stuff I've been reading online, you should always retire your old computer. That is, before you toss it, recycle it, sell it, give it away, donate it to charity--whatever--it's recommended you carry out some basic steps first.

The following computer retirement tips come courtesy of everyone's favorite software behemoth, Microsoft:

1. Remove all your personal files. This way your privacy is protected should someone get a hold of that machine and go looking for personal data. Delete all Office documents and emails. Also be sure to delete the contents of your email address book. Delete all Internet files and bookmarks. Finally, delete the contents of your recycle bin.

2. For extra security, use disk-cleaning software or a file shredding program. Alternatively, you could take the machine to a techie you trust, and ask him/her to check that everything is gone from the hard drive.

There. You're protected. Feels good, doesn't it?


  • Rohan

    You are so right about deleting stuff.One can be never careful enough...
    I've been reading some tech blogs and seen some good suggestions for old laptops that still work.
    I'll be needing a new computer sometime soon, i have a dell laptop without the laptop screen, i'm now using an external monitor. ( I didn't used to know that a laptop will still work even if the screen is broken ).

    I wanted to replace the screen but the price of a new screen would be more than two thirds of the price that i paid for the whole laptop, the screen seems to be the most expensive part of a laptop, this was 3 years ago maybe that might have changed.

    When i do buy a new computer i'll be using this one as my music server, some people network two computers together, some use theirs as an external back up drive to store all kinds of stuff, and if the new one breaks you'll have a spare computer stashed away somewhere until it's repaired.
    It might even come in handy as a vacation laptop, one that you won't mind too much if you should lose it etc...

    And of course giving to charity is noble and eco friendly too....

  • D jens

    Pull the hard drive and put it in a portable case. No one gets access to personal info, you get an extra storage drive, and you can find that "long lost" critical game score (or business information).
    Or find eraser, a free program that will erase a drive to DOD security levels. BTW, If you completely wipe the drive, you can re-use the OS on another computer.

  • Andy

    I use my systems until there's no hope left in them, in which case they get tossed. However, our county transfer station has a special electronics drop off for recycling, so that part is covered.

    Even then, I take the drives out. If I don't want the drive (problematic, too small, wrong type), I destroy it. Some Torx screwdrivers, a little prying, and rip out the magnets. You get a very strong pair of magnets that are all kinds of fun. Plus, the platters (bright shiny doughnuts) are cool for various things.. coasters, dreamcatchers, wind chimes, targets...

  • ryaninc

    Hey, don't necessarily take it to a collection event, either. There are guys like me that are always looking for old laptops for projects, etc. that will gladly take it off your hands. Old laptops on craigslist or freecycle are always taken within a day.

  • Eric Spitzfaden

    Don't just delete the files. They can be recovered using freely available software. They must be overwritten! There is a freeware package called "Eraser" that will do just this, for specific files. You can also use Eraser to create a "Boot and Nuke" disk that you can boot from and erase the entire hard drive. I always erase everything before giving away an old computer.

    Get Eraser here:

    I've noticed though, that if you reload Windows from scratch and load only what you need, you'd be surprised how much faster it is. I an have an 850Mhz hand-me-down from a friend, that is faster to boot than another friends 3Ghz. They both have the same RAM and both boot Windows XP. It's all in the way you load it.

    Read more about Optimizing Windows XP on an older laptop:


  • Jeff Smith

    ABSOLUTELY delete your files, ALL of your files. I use Derik's Boot and Nuke program, DBAN, from Boot your computer using a DBAN disk and you can erase ALL the devices on your computer.

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