Skip to Navigation
Disposal of Old Computers
1. University policy for computer disposal
The University policy for disposal of equipment that is surplus to the requirements of
the unit that originally purchased it is as follows:
- Reasonable efforts should be made to see if any other unit is able to make use of
- Equipment that has residual value may be sold, either to University members or
outside bodies, subject to the University's financial guidelines.
- Where equipment has limited resale value, consideration should be given to whether
it can be donated to any charitable or community project.
- If the equipment cannot be reused, then it should be recycled or disposed of in an
Importance of Data removal
An overriding consideration in any move of equipment must be to ensure that any
University data on the machine, and any software licensed to the University, is removed.
It is, of course, vital to satisfy the requirements of the Data Protection Act, but it
must also be understood that any University data that is discovered by a later owner may
cause controversy, adverse publicity, etc.
Ensuring adequate destruction of data is the responsibility of the unit that owns the
equipment, and must not be delegated to any person outside the University without adequate
contractual obligations being imposed.
Means of disposal
The following mechanisms have been put in place.
- Swap shop is a web
page where members of the University having equipment to dispose of, and those needing
equipment, may advertise. This may also be used to solicit charitable donations.
- Where machines are to be given to charities, schools, etc., then it is necessary
that someone (ie someone within the University) who is interested in the particular good
cause should volunteer to take charge of the process, and act as the University's agent
in ensuring that the proper steps are taken.
If a department is handling this
privately, e.g. giving a few machines to a school or selling one to a member of staff,
then basically the same procedures should be followed.
- Computer monitors are defined as hazardous waste, and arrangements for
their disposal must be handled through the University Safety Office, who can be
contacted on 270811.
- Other computer equipment that has no further use should be disposed of by an
authorised contractor, who will guarantee that all data is destroyed, and that equipment
will be properly recycled or disposed of. The University Safety Office provides details of the
procedures that must be followed. Please see the following sections:
- Questions on policy should be referred to the University Data Protection Officer or
the University Safety Office, as appropriate.
Deleting Data: technical aspects
Before disposing of any computer system, it is vital to remove all traces of data files.
Merely deleting the visible files is not sufficient to achieve this, since data recovery
software could be used by a new owner to "undelete" such files. The disk-space previously
used by deleted files needs to be overwritten with new, meaningless data - either some
fixed pattern (e.g. binary zeroes) or random data. Similarly, reformatting the whole hard
disk may not in itself prevent the recovery of old data as it is possible for disks to be
The most well-known tool for fully wiping old data files is the "Wipe Info" module of the
Norton Utilities suite for PC and Macintosh systems. This
will completely wipe the contents of any specified files, or the whole of the free space
on the disk. However, this approach still assumes that you have located every file that
needs to be taken care of, which may not always be easy.
A better approach is to reformat the hard disk, installing a clean copy of the original
operating system, and then run Wipe Info on the free space. This should leave a machine in
a suitable state for disposal.
Older versions of Norton Utilities included a utility called "WipeDisk" which could fully
wipe the entire hard disk on a PC booted-up from a floppy disk. Other utilities of this
type are available.
Virtually every PC is bought with a licence for the operating system supplied with it. A
machine can therefore be legitimately disposed of with a freshly installed copy of the
same system. However, you should not install a later copy of the system software.
Maintained by: OUCS Webmaster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
May 2004. Alan Gay.