Laptop is dead. How to dispose of the body?
September 27, 2005 7:32 PM   Subscribe

My laptop is dead. What's the best way to dispose of the body?

Experts (i.e., Geek Squad, et al) say my laptop's motherboard is fried. Replacing the m'board would be close to the price of new one, so I've already made the purchase.

The problem is, I now have a dead laptop computer that will not budge -- it doesn't get past the first two seconds of the boot-up routine -- but still contains four years-worth of data, passwords, writing and journals, mp3s and (yes) porn.

I'm not concerned about retrieving the data -- thankfully I've been pretty good about back-ups -- I want to obliterate it. But how, when I can't even get the damned thing to turn on? I doubt I'm technically inclined enough to get under the hood and yank out the hard drive. Even then I'd still be left with a data disposal problem. And after sinking money into a new laptop, I'm also reluctant to pay someone else to take care of the problem for me.

I'd be happy to donate this thing to a school, recycling center or someone technically oriented who might be able to get some good out of it, but don't want my particulars falling into the wrong (that is, anyone else's) hands.

What's a cheap, easy and ecologically responsible solution? Any suggestions, AskMes?
posted by CMichaelCook to Technology (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dismantle it yourself and extract the hard drive; put it in an external USB2/Firewire enclosure eBay the "carcass" noting that it is hard-driveless and has a fried motherboard -- a lot of people might be interested for the components.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:37 PM on September 27, 2005

If you really don't care about the laptop, but want to destroy the hard drive, put it in a large box (to hold the bits), and sledge hammer it. Find the part that looks like this, that's the hard drive. Smash it up really good. Dispose of the parts as you see fit.

Or don't smash it, unscrew it all, and hope you can get at the hard drive that way. Good luck.
posted by shepd at 7:39 PM on September 27, 2005

You have a rare chance here - you get to destroy something that was once valuable for a responsible reason.

Hit it with a sledge. Seriously. Not only will it be enjoyable, but it'll make it easier to get the drive out (assuming that you can't just open up the bottom and pull it out that way). Do it on your driveway or a parking lot so you can collect the bits.

Hit it until you see the seams pop and then pry away until you see the guts. Once you get the drive out, peel off all the shiny stickers and get the appropriate screwdriver.

Disassemble. Take out anything that will unscrew. Inside you'll see shiny donut-shaped platters. Remove them and do what you need to do to make them into something else. Put 'em in a vise and bend them into interesting shapes, or take them to a VCR repair shop and borrow their bulk eraser for awhile, or get a disposable blowtorch and burn those suckers black. After that I don't think you'll need to worry about data recovery.

That's what I'd do, anyway.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:32 PM on September 27, 2005

Best answer: Odds aren't bad that the hard drive is still usable, so you could follow the advice here and have a nice portable external hard drive -- those can come in handy.

Doing that and using a program like Eraser would be one way to wipe the data clean.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:54 PM on September 27, 2005

Best answer: Most laptop drives are very easy to remove. Most require only one screw to be removed. As nathan_teske suggests, a 2.5" USB or FW enclosure can usually be ordered for $25-$40 including shipping and will make a nice extra HD for your new laptop, or for transferring data. If you tell us the make and model number of your old laptop, someone can probably tell you how to remove it in a few minutes.

What size is the Hard Drive?

Even "old" laptops have parts valued around $100. Usually the screen is the most valuable part. You could try to ebay it sans hard drive, just make sure you clearly state it is for parts.
posted by Yorrick at 9:01 PM on September 27, 2005

My logic board died recently, and I made $500US on ebay by selling the screen, keyboard, hard drive and optical drive separately. YMMV.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:09 PM on September 27, 2005

If you're interested in being responsible, note that the batteries and circuit boards are likely to contain metals that should not be thrown into a standard landfill. Contact your EPA? (Dunno specifics, not being an American, which I'm gonna guess you are.)

I don't imagine the HD should be hard to extract, even with minimal tech knowledge. It might take a little more to get it up and working in a new system but it's not too hard. Or you can smash the hard drive up good (or just chuck it in your attic), while selling or responsibly recycling the rest of it.
posted by wilful at 9:25 PM on September 27, 2005

Thermite is always fun.

Popular Ethics, however, makes a good point. If you laptop says "Dell" or "Apple", you're likely to do well selling the parts.
posted by eriko at 5:26 AM on September 28, 2005

Best answer: If you decide to recycle, here is a list of recycling sites in your area. There's also information about donation programs.
posted by junkbox at 5:58 AM on September 28, 2005

Re selling on ebay: If you're patient, you might make more selling individual parts than you will selling the whole carcass. Look to see how common or rare the parts are, especially the top case, bottom case, display (without the case), keyboard, motherboard, battery, and power supply.
posted by mendel at 8:16 AM on September 28, 2005

Our local Goodwill (but not all, check the link) take computer equipment in any condition, dead or alive, and make socially-responsible use of it. If it were mine I'd put the drive in a USB bay as others suggested (my cube-neighbor actually did exactly that yesterday) and give the rest to Goodwill.
posted by anadem at 11:02 AM on September 28, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the excellent suggestions. For those who asked, the laptop is a Compaq Presario 900, with a 40GB HDD, that lived and died in Chicago.

I think I'll try to put the drive in an enclosure -- I'm pretty good at following directions, and more storage space is always a good thing. (Though who knows -- you may hear from me again on this very subject...) Look for the rest of it to show up soon on eBay. Or let me know if you're interested.

Thanks again!
posted by CMichaelCook at 11:42 AM on September 28, 2005

Response by poster: FOLLOW-UP: I purchased a USB enclosure this past weekend for $24.99.

Removing the hard drive and inserting it into the enclosure was nothing short of E-Z. (The hardest part was finding an appropriate screwdriver for Compaq's little asterisk-headed screws.)

Not only did I get all my previous data back, I now have a very handy external drive for back-ups or transporting large files. What a bargain -- I can't believe I ever considered trashing the laptop and/or the drive.

Thanks again to all for another AskMe success story.
posted by CMichaelCook at 6:26 PM on October 3, 2005

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