Getting rid of old laptops

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#1
Now that we're seriously looking to move, I don't want all the tech junk in our closet to move with us. We have six laptops in varying states of disuse. I've formatted the hard drives I could access, but others aren't functioning.

How do I dispose of these in a way that's
A. Not wasteful, like, maybe some of this could be useful to someone. The oldest are from 2008.
and B. Not a risk of mine and Julie's personal data being absorbed from the defunct hard drives somehow. This is the main reason I haven't discarded them yet.
 
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#2
Many places will handle the disposal/recycling of tech waste/e-waste for you, and many of them will even do so in a manner that makes sure your data does not leak (or at least they make the claim).

—Patrick
 
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#3
We have a recycling center that takes care of computers, but they say while they try to get rid of data, they can't promise it. Some of these won't boot.

Internet is saying use a hammer, but I obviously have reservations on that.
 
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#4
We have a recycling center that takes care of computers, but they say while they try to get rid of data, they can't promise it. Some of these won't boot.

Internet is saying use a hammer, but I obviously have reservations on that.
If you can't get the drive to boot, the best way is often to do irreparable damage to the drive itself. Last time I needed to dispose of a drive I put a 4" nail through the platters in a couple places and chucked it in a watery, greasy garbage bag. You can, of course, take the drive out of the computer first if you're so inclined, I was just lucky enough to be working with an external drive.
 
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#5
If you can't get the drive to boot, the best way is often to do irreparable damage to the drive itself. Last time I needed to dispose of a drive I put a 4" nail through the platters in a couple places and chucked it in a watery, greasy garbage bag. You can, of course, take the drive out of the computer first if you're so inclined, I was just lucky enough to be working with an external drive.
I could do that for the Dells. I'm not sure I can for the HPs. But the four HPs should boot, so I can try to get a data wipe program on them.
 
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#7
+1 for DBAN, it's worth having it on a CD or usb drive. You can do as many passes as needed to assuage your worries. If that doesn't do it, then blunt force is straightforward (and the rest of the laptop can still be donated or recycled).
 
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#8
I usually recommend programs such as Disk Redactor (for drives attached to any computer that CAN boot to Windows) or DBAN (for those that can’t). It looks like DBAN may have been acquired and left to rot, though.
From some quick googling, I agree with you. Finding a free utility that does things "right" (especially for SSDs) seems non-trivial right now.

The most secure method against anybody but the CIA (or similar) would be a hammer. If you need to worry about three-letter-organizations, you have bigger problems. Yes this method precludes helping via donations, but it's the only way to be really sure if you're not technically-minded already.
 
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#9
From some quick googling, I agree with you. Finding a free utility that does things "right" (especially for SSDs) seems non-trivial right now.
Surprisingly, it IS trivially easy to securely wipe your sensitive data, even from SSDs, assuming the system can successfully boot OR the drive can be successfully attached to a system that can boot. It just takes time and requires attention.
To permanently delete your sensitive files using nothing more than the OS itself, do the following.

INTERNAL
-Log into each user account in turn and uninstall all programs and sign out of all online services/websites (bank sites, Amazon, iTunes/Spotify, Facebook, iCloud/Dropbox/GoogleDrive, etc).
-Clear all browser content, empty all caches, temp files, downloads, documents, pictures, etc.
-Empty the Trash/Recycle Bin/Black Hole, or whatever it is your OS of choice decides to call that place where you put the stuff you’re throwing away.
-Create a new administrative user account and log out of your account and into that one instead of any of the users whose data you are going to remove.
-Use whatever account tools let you delete the other users off the computer. If you are asked whether you want to save any of that user’s data/settings/whatever, say no.
-If the OS hasn’t already done so, trash the deleted users’ folders and empty the trash/recycle bin.

-Alternatively, erase the drive and restore a fresh empty copy of the OS.

EXTERNAL
-Lasso everything on the external drive that you are clearing and trash it, and then empty the trash, or just format the external drive.

BOTH
-Once you have deleted all of the things you want sanitized, by whichever method above:
-Download a big honkin’ file of some kind. Maybe it’s a giant game demo or the Warcraft free trial, or record a 20min audio file, or whatever. Just make sure it’s huge and that it doesn’t contain any sensitive data.
-Duplicate that giant file/folder over and over again until it fills the drive.
-Delete these duplicated files.
-Fill the drive with garbage again and empty it repeatedly until you feel like you have sufficiently obliterated your sensitive data.
-Your drive is now clean, it was just more labor-intensive.

—Patrick
 
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