How to Keep Your Data Safe and Be Green When Disposing of Your Computer

It’s not surprising the manufacturing process of computers and other gadgets isn’t very eco-friendly. Imagine what happens when all those gadgets end up in the landfill. The chemicals used in the manufacturing process don’t disappear when your computer, smartphone or tablet hits the trash bin.

What’s truly shocking is that 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of each year worldwide. The hunger for new technology doesn’t appear to be fading any time soon. A lot of cell phone users upgrade to a new phone every two years (I’ll admit that I often do, as smartphones don’t usually run optimally after about the first two and a half years of use). Though computers aren’t likely to be upgraded quite as often as cell phones, they still make up a hefty portion of e-waste disposed of yearly.

With cybercrime on the rise, some internet users might even be disposing of their devices more frequently than before. Sometimes hackers can crash a computer before you even have a chance to try to save some of your data. When that occurs, you only have a few options left. If your computer isn’t a newer model, you might consider throwing it in the trash over taking it to computer repair specialist (I have been guilty of this myself!).

Unfortunately, not everyone is aware that recycling old electronics is an option, even though stores such as Best Buy offer the service. So how can you be green when disposing of your computer and how can you keep your data safe to prevent your computer from crashing in the first place?

Use Security Software

Whenever you connect to the internet, you could get hacked or inadvertently acquire malware. Prevention is the key to protecting yourself online, and in my experience, security software is the best way to do just that. Consider installing an anti-virus program, such as Avast, on your computer or mobile device to help you avoid and remove malware.

Another good option that can assist you in keeping your data safe is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. By using a VPN, you’ll be able to hide your location online and secure your internet connection. When you open the software, you’re able to connect to a remote server located in a country or state of your choice (there are often several options available).

By doing so, your internet connection becomes encrypted, and your IP address is displayed as that of the remote server. Because there’s likely to be a variety of people connecting to the same server, your online activities become much more private. You’ll also be better protected when using public WiFi since your connection will be secured with encryption.

Unsecured networks can allow hackers to spy on your activities and access your data unless you’re using a VPN. Though the best VPNs are paid services, it’s worth the relatively low cost, and you can often use the VPN on all of your internet-enabled devices.

Learn about Internet Safety

Besides security software, learning some internet safety tips can come in handy when you’d like to keep your data safe. In my opinion, one of the most important habits you can stick to when you’re online is reading everything carefully—and even twice if need be. Sometimes scammers use subtle differences in their emails or websites to trick internet users into opening or downloading malware.

An anti-virus program can help you when this happens, but only if you run a virus scan before the malware wreaks total havoc on your computer. Look carefully at each email address or website URL you come across online.

For example, you may receive an email from “Wallmart.com” instructing you to update your Walmart.com login details, but if you look closely, there is an extra letter in their email address. A large corporation won’t typically send out emails with spelling mistakes.

Another good habit is to be careful with your passwords and login details. Never include personal information in your passwords or usernames, and be sure to use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols when creating your passwords. Avoid reusing passwords, and log out of your accounts whenever you’re done using them.

All of the above should help you prolong the lifespan of your computer and reduce e-waste. Many of these tips can be used on your mobile devices as well, so maybe you won’t be talked into that cell phone upgrade as easily! But if you are, recycling options for your old electronics are available.

Be Green: Recycle Your Gadgets

If you have a Best Buy store nearby, you can easily recycle almost any electronic and even appliances in store. It can be as simple as bringing the item along with you the next time you’re near the store to drop it off. Best Buy’s website also lists some great resources that can assist you in backing up your data and wiping your hard drive clean before you dispose of your computer.

Don’t have a Best Buy nearby? No problem! You can also find recycling locations for a variety of items on RecycleNation.com, including computers. Besides locating recycling centers for your computer, you can find businesses that will reuse the computer instead.

Speaking of reusing your old computer, consider donating it if it’s still operational so someone can enjoy it. Donating to a charity, consignment shop, computer repairs specialist or even an artist who may want to upcycle it can be helpful.

A third option that can come in handy for disposing of your computer is searching for places you can recycle electronics on Earth911 Recycling Search. They might have more listings in your area than RecycleNation has.

The unfortunate truth is that e-waste is unavoidable, though you can help prevent your gadgets from ending up in a landfill with all of the aforementioned tips. Internet safety precautions can prolong the lifespan of computers, cell phones and tablets, and recycling your old electronics when you need to upgrade is a great eco-friendly alternative to trashing them.

Every green effort you put forth, no matter how small, is worthwhile!

Do you have any eco-friendly tips that can help others who are interested in reducing their e-waste? Please share them in the comments below.

About the Author: Faith is a blogger for Secure Thoughts and an internet security expert who encourages eco-friendly living within her household and workplace. She enjoys sharing green tips that can help others reduce waste and toxins within the environment.

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