What should I do with all my old tech junk?
I am currently decluttering, and I have boxes upon boxes of accumulated tech stuff (for lack of a better term). USB cables, dongles, flash drives, cameras, MP3 players, phones, installation discs, etc.
It's a giant mess that I want to be rid of, I just don't know the best way to go about it and thus have some questions:
- What's my best course of action: Is "electronics recycling" the way to go? Should I sort it and donate the useful stuff to a thrift store? Would local mom-and-pop computer shops potentially be interested in some of it?
(Note: I have no interest in extracting money from the hoard and would be happy for the useful stuff in there to go to a "good home" that can take advantage of it.)
Is there anything that's simply not worth donating/recycling? Should I simply throw some older stuff (e.g. floppies, component cables, anything with a parallel port) out, or does recycling somehow reconstitute the metals/resources in them?
I have several dead hard drives and flash drives that have personal information on them that I was never able to wipe. Should I just hold onto these indefinitely since someone could use them maliciously, or is the likelihood of that happening close to nil?
In my area electronics recycling companies will take away the whole set of things for free. They'll then sort out things to their various uses, with things new enough to be refurbished fixed up and resold, other things sold for scrap, anything else thrown away or recycled if there's truly no use.
With hard drives there have absolutely been instances of data leaking out because of donated hardware. I always smash them with a hammer. It means they're only good for scrap, but the chances of someone going through the effort of stealing personal data from a physically damaged hard drive is pretty low.
Writing huge files with random data will fix this, right?
That will only take care of someone plugging it into their computer and watching your porn. But the data can still be retrieved. Foriensic data retrieval is probably not within most people's threat model. Even if it is not, you are better off using a program like dban. It also boots from a live USB, and is a significantly smaller download than a linux iso. It will overwrite the data with junk data to prevent it from being read. 1 pass will protect you from someone using basic data recovery software, and 3-5 passes will prevent advanced (and expensive) data retrieval methods. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the size of the disk and how many passes you choose.
SSDs and other nand flash should be physically destroyed to ensure sensitive data cannot be leaked. https://superuser.com/a/856491
I put a 1/4 inch drill bit through the platters of 6 ancient hard drives last month. I completely trust that method. The platters were cracked and otherwise in pieces.
I find that method both fun and effective.
Not OP, but do you have any specific ones you're looking for? I've got some old ones lying around I'd be happy to see go to a good home.
I've got some stuff you may be interested in. I'll send you a message.
You might be surprised at the demand for "vintage" electronics. Anything from the early to mid 90s is fairly desirable, especially for people who want to run older software. Generally, the older and/or more obscure the items, the better for collectors.
Fresh floppies still in packaging should absolutely NOT be unceremoniously thrown out, and I can guarantee you could easily be rid of them if you put them up on some online market place. Even if they're out of the packaging and written to it could be worth donating.
However, it's probably safe to say that just recycling the dead hard drives is fine.
Dispose of the hard drives in whatever way makes you feel safe, it's not guarantee that someone won't try to extract information off of it.
Also, if you have anything that was considered 'luxury' or 'high end' at the time, these items should especially be donated or given away.
I once donated an old (broken) iPad and some other things to a researcher studying/developing e-waste recycling techniques. If there's a research institute nearby, it may be worth looking if anyone is doing something in that area...
You could try to find an artist that wants it. Some people make really cool stuff with old technology.
I don't know if similar exists where you live, but at least here in Canada we have a decent number of charities, non-profit associations and even for-profit services that specialize in recycling and refurbishing electronics. Just google "donate electronics <your city name>". E.g. I have given a lot of my old electronics to Free Geek Toronto over the years, since they are an awesome organization.
Probably, but if you can find a recycler/refurbisher in your area, it's probably best to just ask them since they may actually need some of the stuff you think isn't worth donating and vice versa.
I'm a former Data Recovery technician. If a drive is "dead" (not spinning up and/or not being detected by BIOS) and you haven't been able to wipe it (secure wipe or Degauss it, if magnetic, not just "delete" the files from), I wouldn't recommend donating them as, however unlikely it is, data can still be recovered from them. And I'm pretty sure most recyclers/refurbishers probably wouldn't want your non-functioning drives anyways.
Lots of Data Recovery companies and independent drive suppliers will buy non-functional drives from eBay (and elsewhere) just in case the parts (stepper motor, PCB, etc) can be scavenged to restore client drives, but you generally won't get much money for them unless it's a scarce/rare/old drive. And without you having properly wiped the drives first, I would still generally recommend you just physically destroy the data surface (if you can) and recycle/dispose of it afterwards.
You should physically destroy them (drill press, hammer, etc.) and then recycle them as scrap.
For old disks, I usually dump them into an ISO, scan the front/back sleeves, take a picture of the disk itself, and upload them to archive.org (if they're not already there) before doing anything with them to ensure others can access it. I usually send the disks to a Twitch streamer who likes old shovelware.
For older hardware, if you have any Palm devices, I'd be interested (I'll pay shipping). You can also contact old tech YouTubers like LGR and The 8-Bit Guy, as they might have a use for it and it might end up being seen by others.
It might be worth taking a few pictures and just listing them as Free on craigslist. I've been surprised how much of my junk other people are interested in. Especially if you group stuff together. Like, "Lot of 200+ floppies, free" or "Miscellaneous cables, all functional, mix of analog and digital, free." Use a lot of keywords and people are sure to stumble upon it. Whether they take it or not, remains to be seen.
One man's trash...
Best of luck!
Please don't recycle them or junk them. just give them to me instead. Not really, but you should give them away to a thrift store or electronics shop that can see it sent to people who will use it. recycling centers usually don't even let you go and take stuff because or bureaucratic rules. perfectly good computers and the like will just get smashed and shipped to china for junk where they will melt it down at great cost to the environment and then use what practically amounts to slave labor to produce the next planned obsolescence toy for us to buy.
if you throw it away it just ends up as waste in a landfill. In contrast, if you sell it on eBay or craiglist, you'd be surprised how much money you might make off an old computer or CRT monitor. if you don't care about the money, you can still give it away for free to people like me who'd really appreciate, for example, a CRT TV or a pentium 2 computer or something like that. for hard drives and stuff you should probably wipe them completely before giving them away, or if they're dead drives just smash them or something depending on how private the data was.
The benefit is that old things that will never be produced again are not getting destroyed, and people who want those things can get them and put them to use, or at least have those things give them a small bit of happiness. On top of this, it's probably more environmentally friendly to reduce and reuse than to recycle.
just as an example, someone might throw a CRT or an old computer in the trash to die, and I'm looking through eBay to find a CRT monitor and a Pentium 2 tower that I'm willing to pay a hundred dollars or more for. If this person was in my area and had maybe given them away, he'd still be rid of his "junk" and I'd have saved a few hundred.
In my area, there are a couple non-profit places that will pick up your old hardware and refurbish what they can and donate it to low-income kids to use for schoolwork or whatnot.
There are also professional recyclers that will do free pick-ups. They make some money from the recycling, but if you wanna get old hardware off your hands without worrying about it ending up in a landfill, they're an option.
The quick way to destroy an old drive is to drill some holes into it. The fun, overkill way is to take it apart, remove the platters, scratch them up to hell and back, drill holes in them, then recycle each piece separately at different facilities.
Also, if you're willing to write up what you've got, I'm sure folks here (myself included) would be glad to pay shipping (and more if desired) for some of it.