GEEKNOTE: Recycling Computers

Rob prepares a couple dozen computers for recycling.

GEEKNOTE: We seem to accumulate old machines at the store. Generally, one of our customers will ask us to get rid of an old Windows XP system when they buy a new computer, or my partner Tim will bring in some old machine one of our business customers had sitting forgotten in a closet. Occasionally we see machines that are VERY old.

I spent this past weekend removing hard drives and preparing the other remains to be picked up for recycling. It's amazing what you come across.

As I was pulling machines apart, I came across a real relic. I knew it was going to be interesting when I saw the old "AT" style desktop case. The motherboard had spots for individual memory chips, the floppy drive was designed for 5.25" disks and the Seagate hard drive had a capacity of 10 meg  I need to look for a date on it, but I'm guessing this one was 20-25 years old. I set the components aside.  I think I may build a shadow box to display some of these antiques.

Old computers should NOT just be put out at the curb for pickup with the other trash. The hard drives frequently have information on them that you wouldn't want to get away (eg. Social Security numbers, bank account information, etc.). 

We pull the hard drives and set them aside for physical destruction (eg. we use a drill press to physically destroy the platters.

The rest of the systems are disassembled and stacked for delivery to a recycling company. We used to take the old systems out to the recycling center at the county dump and pay them to take the computers off our hands. The ladies of the Junior Service League put us in touch with a recycling company that actually pays for the stuff, so we collect a stack, call the recycling company, they come over, pick them up, and then send a check to the JSL for the value of the stuff.  I'm sure it's not much money, but it beats us paying someone to drive out to the dump and then pay the dump to take the stuff.

I'm glad I got my tetanus booster last month since I cut myself several times while tearing machines apart. Typing with bandages on your fingertips is tough!

The good news is that I need to make a call this week to get the remains picked up.  We're also freeing up a bunch of space in our storeroom.

Got a computer question?  Feel free to drop me a note or leave a comment here if you have any questions about your computer or your office network.

Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.


(Rob also serves as deputy mayor of the City of New Port Richey. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the city.)

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Terry Loyce October 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM
How about the recycling of old printers, no one wants to fix them, is there any good use for old ones?
Rob Marlowe October 15, 2012 at 05:27 PM
We send them to the same recycling company as we do the old companies. Most printers these days are all but disposable. Like you said, nobody wants to work on them anymore.
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH October 18, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Lordy be, I've been looking for that old AT for 5 years. Just the other day I went into the attic and tore the whole place apart. It took me 12 hours. Rob - you're no geek! You're too wise to the ways of the world! Have a great week Marc


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