Hard disk misinformation causing problems for charities

Although AssetCare can take care of physical hard disk destruction for the most careful of customers, misinformation about dealing with hard disks when recycling computers is causing problems for charities and other recipients of recycled technology.

In our recent article on ways to perform a complete hard drive wipe we highlighted ways to destroy the data while leaving the hard disk complete and working.

Obviously if a client is under obligation to completely destroy a hard drive then that can be done, but it makes computer recycling difficult if the laptop or PC is to be used again.

Plenty of charities make use of computers that businesses no longer need. But rumours perpetuate that the best way to destroy a hard disk is to take it out of the PC or laptop and whack it with a hammer.

That will stop it working, but if someone really wanted to reclaim the data, and had the right equipment, they could do so by extracting the internal platters from the damaged hard disk case. A software hard drive wipe doesn’t render the computer unusable.

For computer remarketing services or donation to charity, it’s obviously better if a laptop or PC still has a hard disk. If a computer is being sold on commercially, then a replacement can be bought and the cost factored into the resale price.

But for a charity the price of a hard disk has to come from hard won donations. They may also have to buy new software and pay for someone to fit the new hard disk, then reload the operating system and applications, if they don’t have the skills in house.

One particular charity asks people to donate laptops and continuously suffers from this problem. The laptops go to a remote area of Malawi to be used in schools that two retired UK teachers help the community to build. The “hit it with a hammer ” malaise means that more than half of the donated laptops come without hard disks.

Fortunately they have a volunteer technician who is able to do the work, but unless he can find free hard disks from local businesses or freecycle (the recycling network), there is no choice but to use the charity’s funds.

It’s important to understand the realities of data destruction to help charities save money and get the best out of PC and laptop recycling. Unless physical destruction is required, consider using a software data wipe before passing a computer on, particularly if it is going to a charity, rather than disk destruction.