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Old 05-11-2019, 09:55 PM
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Recycling 12-year old laptop


I have a laptop which I haven't touched in a very long time and for perhaps 7 years or so has just been sitting around gathering dust in a closet. Time to recycle it, I figure, but the thing can barely even turn on and the screen is barely visible. I gather that the thing to do is erase the hard drive first, but would technician even be able to wipe the thing clean of data if he can't see anything on the screen? Do they take out the hard drive manually and erase it outside of the laptop?
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:07 PM
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I'm not clear on why a 12-year-old laptop would be acting in the manner you describe. I have a Dell laptop based on a Sempron processor that is about that old, maybe older, and still works fine, and in fact I upgraded it to Windows 7 when that first came out, so it actually looks modern. Most likely the battery in yours is in really bad shape.

But to answer your question, there are various utilities that can do a secure erase of your hard drive when booted from a CD/DVD or USB stick, but the drive can also be removed and put into a "toaster" -- a HDD docking station -- and erased that way outside of the laptop, with the same kind of utility. I don't know why you would bother unless the data on it was super sensitive. I would just take the HDD out and throw it in with your regular stinky garbage, and then dispose of the laptop at an electronics recycling center.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:16 PM
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Even if you don't want the laptop (is the screen really dead even if you turn up the brightness?), why would you recycle it without first stripping it of any perfectly good parts (hard drive, memory, whatever). But in case you really wanted to wipe a hard drive, DBAN works fine even without a screen.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
Even if you don't want the laptop (is the screen really dead even if you turn up the brightness?), why would you recycle it without first stripping it of any perfectly good parts (hard drive, memory, whatever). But in case you really wanted to wipe a hard drive, DBAN works fine even without a screen.
The screen is dim, and also has hundreds of thin lines that make things barely see-able. Lines of thin bright colors like yellow and blue that obscure things.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:26 PM
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I've never seen a laptop without an external video out to which you could attach monitor. Yours probably has a VGA out.

As for the hard drive, just take it out and put a hammer to it. It's small and low, and not useful for anything. Same with RAM. Too small and slow to be worth anything.

Hammer the hard drive and rest.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:39 PM
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I'd still save it if it were 1/2 TB or more. But, seriously, a hammer? If you open it up, you score a couple of magnets at least; you can also possibly make stuff out of the rest, but if you have to ask what then you probably don't need to worry about it.
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Old 05-12-2019, 01:30 AM
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Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
I'd still save it if it were 1/2 TB or more. But, seriously, a hammer? If you open it up, you score a couple of magnets at least; you can also possibly make stuff out of the rest, but if you have to ask what then you probably don't need to worry about it.
The magnets in a 2.5" drive are really tiny and I can't think of any use I'd have for them. And for me 500GB is too small and slow (unless it's a high end gaming laptop, the drive is likely 5400RPM at best). The smallest drive I have in use is 1.5TB and I'm waiting for it to die so I can replace it with one of my 3 or 4TB spares.
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Old 05-12-2019, 01:33 AM
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Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
I'd still save it if it were 1/2 TB or more. But, seriously, a hammer? If you open it up, you score a couple of magnets at least; you can also possibly make stuff out of the rest, but if you have to ask what then you probably don't need to worry about it.
The magnets in a 2.5" drive are really tiny and I can't think of any use I'd have for them. And for me 500GB is too small and slow (unless it's a high end gaming laptop, the drive is likely 5400RPM at best). The smallest drive I have in use is 1.5TB and I'm waiting for it to die so I can replace it with one of my 3 or 4TB spares.

I have several 256GB, 3.0 USB flash drives for temp storage and transfers. Much more convenient that even a 2.5" drive in an external case.
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Old 05-12-2019, 11:57 AM
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If I'm not recycling it for re-use, I'll just remove the hard drive and drill 2-3 holes through it.
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Old 05-12-2019, 04:26 PM
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If it's got a USB port (and you can find a monitor with a USB connector) you could connect that to it, and format the HD.

As for recycling, you could print out a treasured picture and paste that over the screen. Then take a pair of needle-nose pliers and destroy the power cord jack. Now you have a framed photograph that looks like the wallpaper screen on a laptop! How Fun!
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Old 05-18-2019, 04:05 PM
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If I do drop off laptops at a recycling center, do they just smash the hard drive?
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Old 05-18-2019, 04:08 PM
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A recycling center doesn't give a damn about protecting your data for you.
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Old 05-18-2019, 05:19 PM
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I just pop out laptop drives and fold them in half - lean it with one end on a wall, the other end on the floor and step in the middle. The platters are usually glass, so it doesn't take much of a bend for them to shatter, and if you got an oddball that has metal platters, it doesn't take much of a bend to make it impossible for the drive to spin.

I can't think of anything in a 12 year old laptop that's worth trying to salvage unless you have another 12 year old laptop to repair. The RAM will be small and slow, and the drive will be pretty much at the end of its mechanical life. Destroy the drive if you have any worries about personal stuff on it and e-waste it.
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Old 05-23-2019, 12:53 AM
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Called Goodwill and they said they would recycle and also wipe the hard drive. They wouldn't elaborate. Does this hard drive wiping generally mean someone 'reading' it with a computer and using some program to digitally erase stuff, or does it mean using some big handheld magnet to degauss?
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Old 05-23-2019, 01:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
Called Goodwill and they said they would recycle and also wipe the hard drive. They wouldn't elaborate. Does this hard drive wiping generally mean someone 'reading' it with a computer and using some program to digitally erase stuff, or does it mean using some big handheld magnet to degauss?
It means the former, or they may simply be lying, but why take their word for it when you can run DBAN yourself? You don't need a working screen; just boot from USB or DVD and type 'autonuke' on the keyboard.

Last edited by DPRK; 05-23-2019 at 01:38 AM.
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Old 05-23-2019, 08:31 AM
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I've always removed the hard drive from any of my computers before recycling; other than my first one, which is when I discovered I threw out a lot of files that I wish I would have saved. Now I move my files, take the hard drive out and save it for a year or so to make sure I don't need to recover something.
After a sufficient amount of time I will then wipe the hard drive or destroy it.
But to answer the question about not being able to see the drive... There are multiple ways to wipe a drive. Since I keep the HD after I get rid of the computer, I bought cables that allow me to attach an additional hard drive to my current computer. They aren't expensive and have come in handy several times over.
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:10 AM
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Just take the hard drive out (usually very easy on a laptop) and give the machine to Goodwill. You can re-use the drive, or physically break it and throw it in the trash.
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
Even if you don't want the laptop (is the screen really dead even if you turn up the brightness?), why would you recycle it without first stripping it of any perfectly good parts (hard drive, memory, whatever). But in case you really wanted to wipe a hard drive, DBAN works fine even without a screen.
Yeah, I'd just use DBAN to wipe the drive, and donate it somewhere like Goodwill. Maybe someone else wants the 12 year old (read: useless) parts and tiny hard drive for some unfathomable reason).
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