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What procedures do people follow before recycling or disposing of old PC's?

Do you:

  • Remove the hard drive
  • Damage it beyond repair
  • Use a tool to completely wipe the hard drive. If so, which?
  • Other

Is the hard drive the only component that you "cleanse"?


locked by HopelessN00b Mar 16 '15 at 0:12

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closed as primarily opinion-based by HopelessN00b Mar 16 '15 at 0:12

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10 Answers 10

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I like Darik's Boot And Nuke for wiping hard drives.

Making the dban image bootable via pxe makes things easier (old computers can have flaky cdroms and such). Just be very careful which machines you wipe... – Koos van den Hout Oct 16 '13 at 11:07

You could use Gutmann method to wipe your hard drive. The shred program from GNU coreutils implements this.


I typically remove the hard drive. Alternately, I have used dd to copy /dev/null over the drive. If I had known about shred then I would instead have done

shred /dev/sda
shred /dev/sdb

from a rescue disk, but I only learned about that command in someone else's answer above. Hard drives are cheap enough, however, that I have typically just removed and disassembled the hard drive. (I like strong magnets, grin.) Since I'm not worried about the NSA trying to recover data from my drive, just wiping with dd

dd if=/dev/null of=/dev/sda
dd if=/dev/null of=/dev/sdb

from a rescue disk is sufficient for my worries.

There is no reason I can think of to cleanse anything other than the hard drive. However, I will sometimes reset the BIOS back to defaults just to put it in a known state for the next person. In case, for example, they want to change the RAM and my overclocked RAM settings don't work for their new RAM.

And there you have the reason why serverfault works. You not only provided some knowledge for somebody else but also learnt something new yourself :-) – nzpcmad May 1 '09 at 3:55
This is incorrect, reading from /dev/null won't give you anything. If you want to read "null" data (zeros), use /dev/zero, if you want random data use /dev/urandom. By the way, for random data it seems that using shred is way faster than dd'ing /dev/urandom on the drive. – user186340 Jun 18 '14 at 21:33

Remove hard drive. Load gun. Fire.

And yes, the hard drive is the only component I'd 'cleanse'


there's a linux tool you can use called shred so I suppose a

shred -uf /*

would do it.

No, you need to do "shred /dev/sda" or whatever device you're working with. – Chris Jester-Young May 1 '09 at 3:17

Turns out completely wiping the drive doesn't require writing over the data 10 times. Hurray for research. That being said, I still like DBAN for ease of use.


While I like shred, DBAN and dd... There is a problem deleting the data in sectors that were remapped by the drive itself. They would not be overwritten by the above utilities. Fortunately there is a way to tell the drive to do the destruction.


Just wipe the drive and sell it on Craigslist. Even if it's an old POS, it can make a good video player or footstool.


I've always liked BCWipe.


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