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Recycling and Reusing Your Computer: The Truly Green Way!

written by: MiAGon•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 7/6/2011

Recycling computers can be a daunting task, and rightfully so. Because of its internal components, it is considered to be a hazardous material and refused by your waste management service. Worst yet, some recycling centers even charge you to dispose of them. So, do it yourself, the really green way!

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    Recycling = Reusing

    Computers are inherently "disposable" items in our society, caused by the nature of technological advances that render many systems obsolete in a matter of months. many of us will push the limits of our computers beyond their life cycle by upgrading them as much as possible. But despite all attempts to keep up, the time will come when you reach its expandable limits and you are forced to replace it with a newer computer system.

    When faced with this decision, many of us never seem to know what to do with that old computer. For most, it sits in a closet, garage, basement or attic collecting dust and going to waste. Unfortunately, out of sight is not always out of mind: you are aware that a large box of hazardous materials is hiding on your premises and you simply don't know how to dispose of it. There is actually a truly green solution to that problem: resuse it.

    Recycling is more than the act of reusing a product's raw material to build other similar products. The simple act of reusing a product like an old computer is another way of recycling in a truly green fashion. In fact, reusing is a greener alternative than recycling as it eliminates the added energy expensed in the recycling process. Just because the computer did not meet your needs does not mean it would not meet the needs of others. So the best way to get rid of that computer is to possibly use it for a different purpose, such as offering it to a friend, a relative or child who does not have the means of purchasing a computer. In fact, there are many channels one can use to locate a qualified recipient for an old, used but functional computer.

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    Preparing The Computer

    When your replacement computer is in place and you are ready to remove the old computer from the premises, don't simply hand it off to someone for the purpose of getting it off your hands. Take a few minutes to prepare the system, something that will provide a level of security for both you and its new owner.

    Clean Your Hard Drive

    For your protection, it is best to delete the entire contents of the hard drive. Use tools such as Darik's Boot n' Nuke to safely remove all the contents. This is safer than formatting your hard drive.

    Re-Install An Operating System

    You will need to re-install the operating system in order to make the computer functional. If your computer was purchased with recovery software, run the application to re-install the operating system. But make sure it is not an outdated operating system, as support for such are very limited. For example, if the computer is old enough that recovering the operating system means installing Windows 95, 98 or Me, it is probably a good idea to bypass this step altogether, as their support is non-existent and there is extremely limited software available for these operating systems. If the computer originally came with Windows 2000 or Windows XP, it is best to return the computer to its original state.

    An Alternative Operating System

    In the event the computer did have a Windows 95, 98 or Me version installed, it would be best to seek an alternative operating system, such a a Linux-based OS. The benefits are two-fold, the older hardware runs more efficiently on a Linux-based operating system due to their minimalist design and requirements; and the product is free, with ongoing support that is free as well.

    There are many flavors of Linux available and most can be found at Distro Watch. One very popular and highly supported version is Ubuntu. If the computer you are recycling/reusing is really limited in hardware resources, try a lighter version, Xubuntu. Don't need a lot of bells and whistles on it? Try Puppy Dingo. Your options are vast, and the result? A perfectly, fully functional computer for someone in need.