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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Disposing of your old computer

By Kim Komando

You just got a shiny new desktop or laptop computer from Santa. It runs circles around your old one. But now, the eternal question: How do you get rid of your old machine?

You shouldn't put it in the trash. Computer components are toxic. Instead, there are environmentally friendly options.

But before you do anything else, remove your personal information. Otherwise, your identity could be stolen.

Deleting files isn't enough; they can be recovered. Overwrite the disk's files using a special program. For Windows, use Eraser, which is free from Heidi Computers. I have a link on my site at www.komando.com/downloads/category.aspx?id=1585. If you have a Mac, SuperScrubber (www.jiiva.com; $30) will work.

Charities might be able to use your old computer, but they won't take just anything. The machine should be able to run modern software. If your machine is less than four years old, it will be usable.

Finding the proper organization is key. To do that, contact the National Cristina Foundation (www.cristina.org), which has affiliates in all 50 states.

Share the Technology (www.sharetechnology.org) allows you to list computers for donation. UsedComputer.com is another site.

If your machine isn't obsolete, you can trade it in. Hewlett-Packard arranges trade-ins through a third party. HP will give you a free quote for your old computer online through its Trade-In Program (www.hp.com/united-states/tradein). Toshiba (http://toshiba.eztradein.com) and Gateway (http://gateway.eztradein.com) offer similar programs.

If all else fails, recycle it. But recyclers often charge a fee.

Electronics Recycling (www.electronicsrecycling.net) lists a ton of recyclers.

Dell (www.dell.com/recycling) doesn't charge to recycle its machines; it will recycle other manufacturers' machines free with purchase of a new Dell.

HP (www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship/environment/recycle) will also recycle all brands of computers. Prices range up to $34, but if you buy a new HP machine, you'll qualify for a credit. Apple (www.apple.com/environment/recycling/program/index.html) also offers free recycling with the purchase of a new machine.