Knowing what to do with an old PC can be a real problem for small businesses and individual home users.
While old computers should not be thrown out with the general rubbish, it can be very difficult to know what to do with them once their usefulness has expired.
If your PC is not more than three years old you may be able to sell it. This is not always the best option for older machines as the resale value of computers more than four or five years old is typically between 5 and 10 percent of what you paid for it. PC's that are more than five years old are practically worthless on the second-hand market.
Also if you sell your PC you must completely wipe the hard drive so that none of your personal information can be recovered by criminals or other unscrupulous persons.
And don't think that simply formatting your hard drive will destroy all the data. Even after formatting, personal data can still be retrieved using specialist recovery applications.
After this wiping process there will no operating system installed on your computer. You will therefore need to reinstall an operating system if you wish to sell the PC (hopefully you have a full version of this operating system on a CD or DVD).
Note:According to most 'End User Licence Agreements ' you are not permitted to sell, lend or give away the Windows operating system or most major applications.
If your old PC is capable of basic functions like word processing and web browsing then it might make a good starter machine for an elderly friend or relative. Younger members of the family could also be offered the computer if its two or three years old. Any older and they will not be to appreciative as it's unlikely to be able to play the latest games!
Many local schools are now well supplied with up to date machines and even some charity shops prefer models that can run power-hungry applications, but it's always worth asking them if they want your PC.
If you can't give it away you will have to dispose of your PC equipment, but you mustn't just dump it in a skip or on open land. Computers contain a number of harmful materials and potentially dangerous components so careful disposal of this equipment is vital.
For individuals, your local authority amenity tip may be the best place to take a single PC, as they usually provide a collection point for electrical goods. You can also telephone your local council and ask them to dispose of your PC. They are obliged to collect it and take it away (you may find that they charge for this service).
If you have a number of PC's or peripherals, contact one of the companies that specialise in recovering and recycling computer hardware. If there is no recycling organisation near you, or you cannot find an organisation which will take your equipment, then you can try to donate your old computers online at www.donateapc.org.uk
There are also several charity organisations that specialise in refurbishing and recycling PC's for redistribution to good causes, both in the UK and abroad. For more information check out the IT for Charities website at: www.itforcharities.co.uk.
Finally, don't forget to wipe the hard disc before you donate it.
Small businesses who want to dispose of several computers will need to find a waste disposal contractor to dispose of them and this is likely to incur some costs. A specialist handler like Comms-care IT may have to be employed. From this website you can download a pdf which explains the services they, and many other companies, offer to businesses.
It's best to use a specialist waste disposal contractor as many businesses have paid a high price in costs, regulatory fines, bad publicity and even litigation, when their old PCs turned up in landfills or third-world countries, or when confidential data was recovered from hard drives that had not been properly wiped.
The WEEE directive will see the producers of computer equipment themselves responsible for financing the collection and treatment of their products at their "end of life" to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
All products launched on the UK after the implementation date will be marked to identify the producer and make the collection process easier.
The exact details of how this directive affects households and businesses are available here:
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