How to prepare a computer for recycling

Whether you’re upgrading your laptop, tablet or desktop, or simply looking to throw away a faulty computer, recycling your tech properly is incredibly important.

This guide will help you to prepare your computer for recycling and where to dispose of it correctly.

What are computers made of?

Modern-day computers consist of various parts made of many different materials. In fact, over 50 of the world’s 90 naturally occurring elements are used in computing devices.

You’ll find common metals like copper, lead, and gold in most computers, as well as elements like aluminum, zinc, and silicon.

Plastics in computers are used to both protect components from heat and to conduct electricity, known as polymer capacitors.

You may also be surprised to learn that a number of rare earth metals are contained inside your computer. Hard disks often use ruthenium – rarer than both gold and platinum – while another material, hafnium, is predicted to run out in the next ten years.

Despite this plethora of materials, most computers can be safely recycled or reused. Disposing of your electronic waste correctly can help prevent it from ending up in landfill and damaging the environment with toxic materials.

What happens to computers when they are thrown away?

Over 90% of the world’s e-waste is illegally recycled, often transported to countries thousands of miles from the original disposal location.

Not only does this harm the environment, but it can also be unsafe on a more personal level. Cybercriminals often scavenge e-waste, searching for valuable information that has not been properly wiped before a computer’s disposal.

Computer recycling is therefore important for several different reasons.

What to do before recycling a computer

Computer hard disk drive. Hard disk drive HDD

Before recycling your computer, you must properly wipe your laptop, tablet, or desktop of all sensitive personal information.

Most computers contain a return to factory reset option, which will erase all unoriginal programs, software, and files. Make sure to back up anything that you want to use on your new device.

Be sure to also give your computer a proper clean, especially if you are planning to resell your device for parts. Computer cleaning kits are cheap to purchase and easy to use.

How to remove your hard drive from a computer before recycling

Deleting and backing up the files on your hard drive is not enough – a deeper shred and sanitisation is required, to protect it from being accessed by hackers with specialist equipment.

For those of us without an industrial-strength shredder at home, bashing your hard drive with a hammer is one effective option. Others also prefer to snap or bend the hard drive prior to computer recycling.

If necessary, you can also purchase a hard drive crusher from various computing stores. This is one option if the information stored on your hard drive is particularly confidential.

How to prepare a laptop for recycling

Similar to a desktop, the hard drive of your laptop also needs to be properly wiped and destroyed prior to recycling. Carefully remove the hard drive or, if physically destroying it is not possible, use data shredding software. There are lots of options available readily online.

A factory reset and deep clean are also needed before recycling your laptop. If reselling, ensure all the parts are in working order and notify the new buyer of any faulty sections.

How to recycle a tablet

Tablets are often recycled in the same way as mobile phones. Many companies will take in your working and broken tablets in exchange for cash, depending on the condition of the device.

Be sure to back up your files, properly wipe your tablet of all personal information using sanitation software, then restore the device to its factory reset.

If you have a mobile data service linked to your tablet, remember to cancel any subscriptions.

Finally, give the tablet a deep clean using appropriate products.

Where to recycle a computer

Woman working on laptop from home. Busy people lifestyle.

Depending on the nature of the device – broken or working – you have a number of options when it comes to recycling your computer.


If you’re simply upgrading your computer to a newer model, many local charities would be happy to receive your old working device.

Ask around or do some research into non-profit groups in your area that could benefit from a second-hand computer. Make sure to include any instruction manuals and cables that came with the computer as well.


If your computer is still in good working order, you may find that someone will pay a good price for it. Resell your desktop, laptop, or tablet on local community sites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace, or eBay if you are able to ship further afield.

The parts of your computer may also be desirable to some tech experts, even if the rest of the machine isn’t working. Just remember to specify the exact condition of the device on the listing.

Larger companies such as Music Magpie, CeX, and Ziffit also enable customers to sell or recycle their old tech for the money. The price given varies on the model and condition of the device, but it could mean that you get some bucks for your broken computer.


Most computers can usually be recycled at household waste recycling centres, while laptop batteries can be recycled with normal household batteries at battery collection points. Find your nearest computer recycling location here.

If you need to recycle multiple computers, Forge Recycling offers domestic and commercial waste clearance that can help with disposing of your old office equipment in the Yorkshire area. Get in touch now to discuss your best options.

Published by

Mariah Hughes

Mariah combines her passions for writing and the environment as an editor of the Forge Waste & Recycling blog.