This Saturday, Essex County is holding a special electronics recycling drive at the Bradford Avenue Maintenance Garage in Cedar Grove from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.. You can also recycle electronics any Wednesday or Saturday at Verona’s recycling center at Commerce Court. (You did know that you can no longer put electronics out with the garbage in Verona, right?) Electronics recycling is important because it keeps a number of toxic substances out of garbage dumps.
But when you toss your old computer–or donate it to your favorite charity–you need to make sure you’re not tossing sensitive data into someone else’s hands.
First, check the CD-ROM drives to see if you left a CD or DVD in the drive. You wouldn’t want to give your photos or your kids’ favorite computer game away by mistake.
The next step is to back up all the data on the computer you are recycling to something that you will keep. “Once you get rid of that machine, everything that you had is gone,” says Henry Bardsley, a Verona resident who runs a computer consulting business called the West Essex Computer Hospital. External hard drives are pretty cheap–about $80 now at your favorite computer gadget store–and you should run a backup weekly on any computer you use regularly.
In the the third step, you get to intentionally destroy something–your computer’s hard drive. Take the drive out (there are several videos on YouTube that show you how). You could store the old drive or use it in another of your computers. But if you don’t need it, destroy it or the data on it. To destroy the drive, a hammer or drill will do. If you’re a more sensitive type, erase the data by following Bardsley’s precautions.
“Don’t just go into the operating system and delete the files,” he says. “Even if you delete something and empty the recycle bin, the file is still recoverable if someone wants it bad enough.” What to do? Bardsley suggests running a free disk-erasing program like Hard Drive Eraser or [email protected] Kill Disk. ” They will permanently erase all data on the disk so you can be sure nobody can ever recover it.”