Frequently Asked Questions
Is donation of my old computer a good idea? What are the risks associated with donating my obsolete computer equipment? Old computers are often donated to charity, or can be auctioned off or sold to the general public at large, potentially with sensitive data still residing on the hard drives. Whether discarded individually or en masse, it’s entirely possible these computers and servers still hold business data, unbeknownst to their new owners. Much of that data could be software applications and trivial information, but frequently the information left on these machines is extremely sensitive. Unless stringent steps are taken by users or IT staff, these hard drives will contain data and other sensitive information, whether customer, financial, health or medical records, or even information related to national security or government policy. Data on computers, despite apparent loss due to natural disaster, equipment failure, human error or security breaches, is rather resilient. Data often thought irrevocably lost can be and is frequently retrieved by data recovery specialists.
Can I delete the data on my computer and make it safe to discard or donate? You may have thought the data was deleted by the user of the PC or the IT department, but if it was deleted without special software that data will still reside on the hard drive of the discarded computer – easy prey for hackers.
To be truly effective, data removal procedures must go beyond the simple deletion of a file from the computer user’s desktop.
What many users don’t realize is that when most computers delete a file, the contents of the file are not actually removed from the hard drive: the digital file, made up of bits and bytes is still there, but it’s no longer linked to the file system. In essence, the page is in the book, but not in the table of contents. The actual data remains on the disk until the operating system re-uses those sectors to write new data. Even if you format a drive, that data is usually not erased, but the table of contents is merely wiped clean.
It is important to remember the simple deletion of a file by the operating system only removes the directory pointers to the file; the digital information still resides on the computer’s hard drive until it is overwritten. Even re-formatting or re-partitioning a hard drive is not enough to guarantee the files are completely gone, even if the end user can’t see them anymore.
How can I guarantee that my computer data is safe when the computer has reached the end of it’s useful life? Where the destruction of data must be guaranteed and the chance of retrieval must be eliminated, physical destruction of the hardware is the best course of action.
Media may generally be destroyed using a number of methods, including scraping by an abrasive substance directly on the magnetic disk or drum recording surface. Corrosive chemicals can have the same desired effect; however, the entire recording surface must be completely removed before disposal. Destruction of the drive (or the entire computer) can easily be achieved by shredding. This is the method that Advantage E-Cycling uses to ensure the secure destruction of computer hard drives.
How does Advantage E-Cycling provide secure destruction of my computer data? Advantage E-Cycling offers a range of services to meet customer needs relative to the removal and secure destruction of hard drives. Whether the hard drives are removed by the customer or by Advantage staff, all computers are inspected and double checked by trained technicians to see that the hard drives have been removed prior to the start of the dismantling process. This inspection ensures that no hard drives are missed by customer’s IT staff prior to the disposal of the computer. When the computers are returned to the Advantage site for hard drive removal and dismantling, the hard drives are removed within 24 hours and inventoried by serial number. An authorization for destruction that lists the serial numbers of the hard drives to be destroyed is obtained from the customer prior to the shredding of the hard drives. Upon receipt of the authorization to destroy the hard drives, the hard drives are shred within 24 hours. Following the secure destruction of the hard drives, a certificate of destruction is issued to the customer that serves as proof that the hard drives were destroyed.
How are computers and related office electronics disposed of by Advantage E-Cycling? The goal of Advantage E-Cycling is to help our customers reach our mutual goal of zero waste stream relative to disposal of computer and related office electronics. Advantage E-Cycling takes all computers and related office electronics and removes any memory containing devices from the machines prior to dismantling of the machines. Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors are recycled through a U.S. vendor that either reuses the monitors or smelts them to obtain the 3 – 4 lb. of lead that is contained in them. All other equipment is dismantled and recycled as the basic components, to include plastic, sheet metal, mother boards and batteries. Advantage then markets these commodities to U.S. vendors that have documented their downstream uses for the commodities.
How does the process work when I use the services of Advantage E-Cycling to securely destroy my digital information and dispose of my computers and related office electronics? Customers can ship or drop off their computers and related office electronics at any Advantage location (Jackson, MS; Baton Rouge, LA; or Longview, TX) or Advantage E-Cycling staff will come to the customer’s location to collect all computers, computer-related items and office electronics. Advantage technicians can remove the hard drives on the customer’s site or securely transport the computers back to the Advantage office in Jackson, Mississippi for hard drive removal and destruction. If desired by the customer, destruction of the hard drives can take place at the customer’s location using mobile shredders that are capable of destroying up to 100 hard drives per hour. Once the computers and electronics reach the Advantage site, the hard drives and memory containing devices are removed and then double checked before the dismantling process begins. With the exception of CRT’s, all computers and electronics are completely dismantled and recycled using only U.S. vendors that do not ship outside of North America. Advantage has a zero waste stream goal that helps our customers be environmentally conscious and legally sound relative to the disposal of electronic waste.
What are the substances of potential concern in electronics?
Lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants are among the substances of concern in electronics. These substances are included in the products for important performance characteristics, but can cause problems if the products are not properly managed at end of life.
- Lead is used in glass in TV and PC cathode ray tubes as well as solder and interconnects; older CRTs typically contain on average 4 lbs of lead (sometimes as much as 7 lbs in older CRTs), while newer CRTs contain closer to 2 lbs of lead.
- Mercury is used in small amount in bulbs to light flat panel computer monitors and notebooks.
- Brominated flame retardants are widely used in plastic cases and cables for fire retardancy; the more problematic ones have been phased out of newer products but remain in older products.
- Cadmium was widely used in ni-cad rechargeable batteries for laptops and other portables. Newer batteries (nickel-metal hydride and lithium ion) do not contain cadmium.