What to Do with Unwanted Computers: UC Davis' and Your Own

If you've got a tired old computer in need of recycling, you'll need first to wipe your computer clean of data, thus ensuring you won't become a victim of identity theft, no matter where your computer ultimately lands. Follow the steps listed below to get started at removing personal and official information from that unwanted computer.

1. Learn about Wiping.
To rid your hard drive of data you must overwrite the information rather than simply erasing it. Erasing a data file is akin to tearing out the chapter heading in a book's table of contents; the file directory no longer points to the data, but the data itself remains undisturbed. Likewise with reformatting, a process that eliminates most of the links between a hard drive directory index and the corresponding data areas. Overwriting, also called "wiping" or "shredding," is a process that replaces your information with random data, such as ones and zeros.

2. Obtain Wiping Software.
There are several utilities available for performing this work, including
*\tDerik's Boot and Nuke, available free at dban.sourceforge.net/.
*\tSuperScrubber by Jiiva: two versions, beginning at ~ $ 50 at www.jiiva.com

3. Rid your Computer of Personal and Official Information.
Using one of these software programs will allow you to overwrite the entire contents of the hard drive, including the data files and those places on the drive where data has been written in the past, or could be used in the future. Make sure you overwrite your data at least three times, and be aware that wiping your computer is not simply a matter of running a wiping software program. Read through the wiping instructions carefully; you will likely need to burn a copy of the software and OS to a CD, boot from this CD (make sure that you know which hard drive you want to clean; there may be more than one on your system), and th en initiate the program. It will run for hours, so allow time away from the computer. On an older system, the program may need to run for a day, most especially if it is a large drive being wiped. A faster CPU (e.g., an 80 Gbyte drive) will likely take eight hours to clean.

4. Donate or Sell Your Computer.
If it's UC Davis equipment, send it to the Bargain Barn (752-2145). The folks there will assess your goods and figure out whether they can be refurbished and resold. If not, they will be parted out or, in the case of worthless equipment, recycled as scrap.

If it's your own equipment, consider selling it on eBay or donating it via the National Cristina Foundation. If your home computer does not meet NCF's standards, check the California Electronic Product Collection Facilities site to learn about local recycling options. Alternatively, you might check into amnesty recycling drives, such as that offered last year by Hewlett-Packard and Dell in which all forms of used digital equipment could be dropped off free at an Office Depot store.

Other Used Electronics
Unwanted cellphones, CDs, inkjet cartridges, and batteries can also be recycled. An R4 multibin designed to accept each of the above items is located in the MU, just inside the sliding doors and across from the newspaper racks.

Treasure Trove
For those of you in the market for used electronics, the Bargain Barn hosts an online catalogue of sale items, or you can visit the store, located on La Rue Road, across from Parking Lot 47A.