An easy solution for computer disposal

by Andrew Lang, Seattle Goodwill
January 20, 2017

There’s myriad reasons to purchase a new computer or computer equipment: slow speeds, outdated features, the dreaded blue start-up screen. Most of us have encountered these problems, and more often than not, the solution is simply upgrading to a newer PC or Mac.

That’s the easy part. But how about computer disposal? What’s the right course of action when it comes to getting rid of that outdated computer filled with personal information? How does one go about recycling an item and still preserve the raw materials used to make the computer? Could someone else benefit from the device?

It’s as simple as taking a trip to one of Seattle Goodwill’s many donation sites scattered across the Puget Sound from Bellingham in Whatcom County down south to Renton.

We gladly accept computers, tablets, smartphones and their accessories and take the steps necessary to protect our donor’s privacy, extend the computer’s lifecycle as much as possible and recycle in a responsible manner.

When our Online Department receives a donated computer, the first step is powering the computer on and entering the BIOS screen, where we check out the computers specifications. Next, if a hard drive is present and the computer is good for resale, we wipe the computer clean with reputable cleaning software. Not only does this clear everything from the hard drive, it also wipes out the operating system. This is done in an effort to respect the privacy of Seattle Goodwill’s donors.

If the computer is less than five years old, there is a good chance somebody else can get good use out of it. Typically, the lifespan of a computer is seven to eight years. Extending the computer’s lifespan through reuse provides the highest environmental benefit of all electronics disposal alternatives.

Some more reasons to donate:

  • When you discard a 5-pound laptop, you are throwing away the 20,000 pounds of raw materials it took to make it.
  • Even if a computer cannot be reused, recycling ensures valuable raw materials are recovered and that waste is disposed in an environmentally-sound fashion.
  • Goodwill works with licensed vendors that recycle materials from broken equipment.

When bringing a donated computer to Goodwill, here are some helpful tips:

  1. If you want to save documents and pictures that you have stored on your old computer, make sure you backup all of your important documents and photos or simply remove the hard drive before donating.
  2. If possible, include the keyboard, mouse, printer, modem or any other packaged software with your donated computer. The accessories can almost always be utilized by schools, nonprofits or other charities.
  3. Pass along the original disks, media, user manual and certificate of authenticity sticker if possible. Keeping the authenticity sticker intact allows refurbishers to inexpensively license and reload Microsoft Windows and Office software on the donated machines.

Because Seattle Goodwill has so many generous donors and is home to some of the premiere tech giants, our online shopgoodwill and eBay store is a great place to shop when looking to replace an old laptop. All the proceeds from your online purchases also help support our free job training and education programs as well.


Andrew is a Content Specialist for Seattle Goodwill and has a wealth of writing, communication and digital media experience. He loves all things sports related and owns a treasure trove of memorabilia. He also enjoys storytelling, the outdoors and sugar is his kryptonite.

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