Erase Your Computer Before Recycling or Donating

BGRS Recycle

For some reason Spring seems to be the time that I start to see Computer recycling offered in many communities.  Perhaps it has something to do with Spring cleaning? Who knows. The good thing is it gets people to recycle their computers rather than throw them into a landfill, where dangerous chemicals could leach into our waterways.  In the past, I have written about recycling your computer with a responsible recycler so that it does not end up in a third world country with children sitting on top of it.  But despite all your good intentions of actually recycling and finding a responsible recycler, you might have forgotten the most important step.  Before you drop off that computer…

Stop Right there!  

Your private data may be available such as social security numbers, bank accounts, etc. to be stolen.

Did you erase your data? How? Take the following poll and let’s see what everyone does.
[poll id=”8″]

By a system restore?  Is this enough to protect your privacy?

No way.

My brother told me to take my hard drive out of my computer and drill a hole in it.  That should kill the hard drive.  But this solution won’t work if you wish to donate your computer or you simply don’t want to take the time to drill a hole in the drive.  (PS I still haven’t figured out if I could use a regular drill to punch a hole in the computer. Readers?)

So, I did some experimenting on my son’s ten year old laptop.  I really did not want to take it apart to take out the hard drive.

Tried Erasing the Hard Drive

Try the old DOS reformat method.

Couldn’t find the restore disk so tried a DOS command (okay, for some of you babes, you might not know what that means…) to reformat the drive.  Didn’t work.  The computer has Windows XP on it  The message I received said,  “drive in use.”  I wanted to yell at the laptop and say, “duh, I am using the computer.  Of course it is in use.”


Tried a free program.

Went through all the hoops and nothing happened.   Windows XP just popped up.
Tried another free program.  Dban.

Finally, I tried a suggestion of a program called Dban.  It took me forever  to download the program onto a CD.  (Remember them?)  The program has an ISO file so I had to download another program which could burn an ISO file. Let’s just say when I figured out how to burn the CD with this program after messing it up several times, a few hours had gone by.

Once I burned the ISO file, I thought I was good to go.  Wrong.  When I started the program, a message popped up and said I had some kernel problem.  What’s a kernel, I thought.  Aren’t kernels on corn?  Back to the FAQs to find out what I did wrong.

Before I forget, you have to change your setup (F2) to have the computer boot from the CD not your hard drive, otherwise you will never get the program to run.  (When the computer is starting up, click F2 right away.  Your Bios pages will show up.  On my page 2 is the booting information.)

I honestly don’t remember how I got the program to start but I would recommend reading all  of the FAQs before using the program.  In addition, if you want to be on the safe side, become a member of the forum since you can’t read all of the answers unless you are a member.  I did not receive my link to become a member right away so I had to wait to find out why I received a “kernel message.”

This is not a pop in the disk and erase in 20 seconds type of program.  The program made 31 passes on my data and four hour later it came back with a problem.  Some other kernel and panic information.

I was ready to throw the computer out.  I  searched in the forum, and it said something about I must have a  bad disk drive or don’t use verification to wipe.  I decided to give it another chance and run it again and finally after four hours, it read “complete” on the screen.  I swear confetti fell out of the sky on my head.

Now, how do I know it worked?  I went back and changed the bios to read that the computer must boot.  When I tried to boot, it said it couldn’t since there was nothing to boot from.  I figured I wiped it clean.

Want more information about erasing your hard drive, see this video from PC World.  They also recommend a program called Eraser. I recommend checking out the comments on SoureForge, where you can download the software for free.  See here for Eraser and see here for Dban.

If all else fails, take a hammer to the drive…

Readers, have you used a certain program to wipe your hard drive before recycling your computer.

Photo by Dr. Regor.

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  1. 2

    Regor says

    Use Derik’s Boot and Nuke (dban) bootable cd, which allows for varying levels of data destruction. Additionally if its a server drive I will open the HD and destroy the platters.

  2. 3


    For those who are not as computer savvy I really recommend taking your computer/laptop to Best Buy for recycling.
    The geek squad there will remove your hard drive for you and drill through the platters to prevent anyone ever being able to use it. This will cost $9.99 which is really a very good price for the protection and peace of mind you are getting.
    Best Buy also has a ‘geek squad’ video showing you how to destroy a hard drive by drilling through it.
    For the Best Buy video see

    Be careful if you use the hammer method. It’s fun, but you scatter shards of toxic metal all over the place if you get carried away. Using a drill is less messy.

    • 4

      Green Talk says

      Paul, good point. I actually hacked mine to death because I thought I could not drill through the metal with my drill. Anna

  3. 5


    It can be pretty frustrating sometimes trying to do a simple thing like wipe a hard drive. A drill is a good solution of course although admittedly I’ve never tried it.


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