How to prepare an older computer for disposal
When readying a computer for recycling or disposal, there are several things you should do first. Needless to say, you do not want your private information getting into the hands of strangers, or worse, crooks!
First, be sure to clean off the hard drive by completely wiping all old data. Acronis Privacy Expert Suite includes a tool called Acronis Drive Cleanser, but there are others as well. Many people don't even bother to delete their files and deletion doesn't prevent any 14-year-old kid with a disk recovery utility from reading what was on the disk.
By contrast, a drive-wiping program overwrites the entire disk with a bit pattern or patterns and does it repeatedly. Depending on how many times you overwrite your data, you can make it virtually impossible for anyone, even the government, to find out what was on the disk.
What you do next depends on how you're going to dispose of it.
Generally speaking, you don't want to just dump it. A computer that is obsolete to you can be very useful to someone else. Even if the system is broken, it probably contains many parts that can be salvaged and re-used, such as gold! In addition, computers are prolific sources of hazardous substances. It is ecologically better to keep them out of landfills for as long as possible.
A newer computer will often have some resale value, although only a fraction of what it cost new. Most cities have a number of businesses that buy, refurbish and resell or donate computers and equipment. You can find them in the phone book or on line. Just don't expect them to take that 286 laptop that's been gathering dust on the back shelf for the past decade even these folks have some minimum standards.
A number of places will accept donations of old computers and equipment. Share The Technology provides information on how to donate equipment to charities and schools in your state. In addition there are many local charities and organizations which accept donations of computers and equipment. A search using "recycle", "computer", and "donations," plus the name of your city, should turn up a number of possibilities.
If you're going to donate the computer, box up the software, manuals, disks, cords and peripherals that go with the computer and donate it in a single package. It makes it more valuable to the recipient.
Many communities have computer-recycling drives to benefit charities such as Public Broadcasting Stations for radio and television in the U.S. Many schools will take later-model computers for their students. If possible, donate your old system where it will do the most good.