Supporting PCs and notebooks has always been the bread and butter of most help desks. Most of an administrator’s day is spent planning, supporting or replacing current hardware or software, leaving little time for anything else. But what’s done with those computers after their usable life has a long-term environmental impact? Try these tips for responsible computer disposal.
While formatting drives and deleting partitions make it difficult for the average person to access any data left behind, savvy users can make quick work of recovering data because it isn’t actually erased from the drive until it is overwritten. Use disk-wiping utilities that both erase and overwrite the newly freed space.
Acknowledge and address loss prevention  concerns within your organization. Make sure there is reasonable physical security in place wherever you store old PCs. Even if those assets seem relatively worthless, they still contain sensitive data until technicians can find the time to properly clear them.
An employee purchase program is a great way to offload unwanted equipment while spreading good will at your organization. This solution won’t cost your company anything out of pocket. The money you bring in from the sale can be used to cover any labor involved in re-imaging the computers back to their factory states and could ultimately help defray the cost of new PCs.
Electronics recycling has quickly become a major industry; consequently, there are often many companies from which to choose. If your business decides to recycle, you should consider more than price alone. Investigate to ensure that the recycler is reputable and that recycling is carried out responsibly. Seek out an organization that employs a “zero landfill” policy, which minimizes the pollution created by your disposal. Also, if your recycler performs data erasure, make sure it complies with the Department of Defense 5220.22-M standard .
Donating old gear (typically less than 10 years old) to any number of nonprofit organizations can qualify your business for a tax deduction. There are many groups you can donate to directly, such as Goodwill Industries (goodwill.org ), which will then sell the equipment to fund programs that help those in need. Your company can also donate to an administrative organization such as Computers With Causes (computerswithcauses.org ), which will in turn find a suitable home for your used equipment.
When equipment is no longer serviceable or when recycling, sale or donation is otherwise impractical, follow your local environmental regulations during disposal. There are many excellent sources of information available on the Internet that outline these statutes, such as the National Electronics Recycling Infrastructure Clearinghouse (ecyclingresource.org ). When in doubt, however, a brief phone call to your waste disposal company can quickly answer a lot of questions.
Notify accounting of the sale or disposal of any hardware. This allows a given asset to be retired within the fixed-asset system, ensuring that your company isn’t paying taxes for an item that no longer exists. Additionally, keeping up-to-date asset records prevents over-representation of resources in a given cost center, providing more accurate budgeting down the road.