Safe Computer Disposal

Computers that you no longer need should be disposed of with great care. The data on your computer can easily be accessed whether you sell, scrap, give away or donate it, and even ‘deleted’ data can be retrieved with relative ease by criminals. 

In addition, disposing of computers responsibly will ensure the minimum environmental impact and ensure that you are not breaking the law.

Some of the information on this page also applies to mobile phones, tablets and game consoles. For more details please visit the relevant pages on this website.

The risks

  • The personal information stored in files on your computer can be accessed and used for criminal activity.
  • Any passwords stored on your computer could give access to secure websites holding your personal and financial information.
  • Any browsing history stored on your computer can be accessed.
  • emails stored on your computer can be accessed.
  • Disposing of your computer without having retrieved the information you may need in the future may cause inconvenience or disruption.

Safe disposal

  • Copy all of the data you will need in the future, on to your new PC or storage device, or back it up in the cloud.
  • Fully erase the hard disk(s) so that any personal information is completely deleted. Simply deleting files is not enough to permanently erase them. Instead, use a dedicated file deletion program or service, or physically destroy the hard drive to render it unusable. Alternatively, if the hard drive is still serviceable and reliable, you could re-house it in an external case with power supply and USB connection and use it to back up or exchange your data.
  • Ensure that any CDs or DVDs which contain your data are removed from the computer.
  • Don’t forget that your CDs, DVDs, memory cards, USB sticks and other USB connected devices may also contain your sensitive data and should be disposed of with equal care.
  • If the computer equipment is at the end of its life and you do not intend to sell it or give it away, take it to a proper disposal facility, which will ensure that is dismantled and the components recycled correctly and responsibly

Jargon Buster

A Glossary of terms used in this article:


Universal Serial Bus: a means of physically connecting computers and peripherals such as external storage, keyboards and MP3 players.