How can I dispose of this box full of computer guts securely and cheaply?
March 26, 2010 5:11 PM   Subscribe

I am moving across the country in a few weeks. I had these two VERY old desktop computers that I have completely taken apart. Now I have this box full of hard drives, boards, wires, etc. I want to dispose of them securely...

...but something tells me it would be a really horrible idea to just throw this stuff in the trash. And besides, I've heard that shredding is really the only way to securely dispose of any hard drive.

I am looking for a service that will come to my house and take this stuff off my hands. I just need to get rid of it before I move. Is this a service that exists..? How cheaply can I get this done?

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by eric1200 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (By the way, I should have mentioned in case anyone has recommendations -- I live in Los Angeles!)
posted by eric1200 at 5:14 PM on March 26, 2010

If you're able to take them somewhere (instead of having someone pick them up), most Best Buys now take and recycle old computer equipment even if you don't buy from them. You should be able to call to check.
posted by thebestsophist at 5:14 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oops, I missed your comment about securely, I'd say either do a total format the harddrives (and zero out the disk), or somehow punch a whole through them. Personally, I wouldn't be too worried.
posted by thebestsophist at 5:17 PM on March 26, 2010

If you have the right tools for it, you can just take the lids off the hard drives and bend the platters on the inside. There is no way anybody's going to straighten them again well enough to ever read anything off them. This reduces the problem to one of simple disposal rather than disposal+security.
posted by FishBike at 5:19 PM on March 26, 2010

Take the hard drives and hit them with a large hammer until you hear a broken glass noise. That's the hard drive platter shattering and rattling around, which means that it can't be read*. You can then recycle, donate or trash the rest. That's the only place that your data is secured.

*well, except perhaps by the NSA.
posted by baggers at 5:24 PM on March 26, 2010

(by secured, I mean stored)
posted by baggers at 5:25 PM on March 26, 2010

There a many free e-waste drop off sites in the LA area.
These are the centers that are always open. If you are near Long Beach there is a "round-up" tomorrow: Calendar

If you are really worried about your data, you can pound a nail through the drives or open them up and soak em in some salt-water, or just mess up the data-connectors -- any potential ID-thief isn't going to go through any heroic measures to recover your data.

I do recall reading a LA Times article where they described going to one of the centers and witnessing their hard-drive getting shredded, but I couldn't find any reference to the service.
posted by crenquis at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2010

Another vote for just pounding a nail through the drives to shatter the glass platters. Theoretically data could still be recovered from that but presumably if you have NSA-level enemies you wouldn't be asking here.

As for the rest, a brief website turns up these Los Angeles e-waste dropoff points.
posted by hattifattener at 6:17 PM on March 26, 2010

(And I don't know how I missed that crenquis just posted the exact same link I did. Sigh.)
posted by hattifattener at 6:19 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

If they're readable in a computer you can boot, DBAN is your one-stop shop. To be completely certain, you can get some Torx screwdrivers (I think my set goes from T10 through T5, but I'm not sure and YMMV) and take the platters out of the drives. At that point you can either use them for art, like a friend of mine who made windchimes from them, or transport and dispose of them much more easily. Also, you'll let all kinds of airborne junk and scratches and whatnot get on the platters, which will make them even harder to read.

As a bonus, you can take the head-positioning magnets out and use them elsewhere. Most of those will hold anything short of a paperback to the fridge.
posted by tellumo at 9:34 PM on March 26, 2010

If you're pressed for time, take the drives with you and dispose of them at a later date when you've found a secure option to your liking. As for disposing of the electronics, call the local solid waste department. They should either have facilities to dispose of them, or should know how you can safely get rid of them stuff.
posted by azpenguin at 9:57 PM on March 26, 2010

The most ethical and environmentally friendly way to get rid of computer parts is FreeGeek. They sadly don't list a branch near you.

Second best to re-use (if possible by an organization dedicated to distributing computers and training people in computer skills) is of course recycling.
posted by idiopath at 2:57 PM on March 27, 2010

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