Tech Tips

Peterborough tech tips: What should you do with that old computer?


All things must end and eventually your old computing device will either break down or get outdated, and you’ll be faced with a dilemma. Will you repair, sell, donate, recycle or junk your aged computer or mobile device?

A large part of that decision will depend on whether or not the computer or device still works. If the hard drive has failed you can install another one but you’ll have to reinstall all of your programs and transfer your backed up files to the new drive. There will also be the problem of reinstalling the Windows operating system.

You can use another computer to download a free copy of Windows 7, 8.1 or 10 from Microsoft (, as long as the same version of Windows was installed on the old hard drive before it failed. For Win 7 and 8.1 you will need the original product key.

Getting rid of a broken computer is pretty easy. Take it to the Household Hazardous Waste Depot on Pido Road and throw it in a bin. However, that old hard drive may contain a truckload of personal information that could be retrieved so, as an important safeguard, take the hard drive out of the decrepit computer and hit the drive with a hammer a few times which will essentially destroy all of the data on it.

If you’re getting rid of the old computer because it’s just too old and slow you have several choices. First of all, back up all your files to an external drive. Then you could store the old computer somewhere just in case you find that you forgot to transfer some data on it. Otherwise, manually destroy the hard drive or electronically wipe it clean before taking the computer for recycling. A nifty free program that has a utility to erase a hard drive is Ccleaner (

Or you could donate the computer to reBOOT, a national charity with an office in Peterborough. If the computer is usable the company will wipe the hard drive, reinstall an operating system, and make it available at low cost to people in our community. Check the reBOOT website at for further details.

A good option for your old smartphone is to take it and the charger to Peterborough Police headquarters and donate it. It will be wiped and given to a vulnerable person to dial 911 in an emergency.

Your other option for a working computer or mobile device is to sell or give it away. In this case you will need to delete your personal information but still retain the operating system which is necessary for the computer or device to work.

On a Windows 10 computer click the Start button, select the little gear icon, go into Settings, and under the Update and Security tab you’ll see the link for Recovery, which will delete your files and reinstall Windows. It is possible to restore a Win 7 or 8.1 computer to factory settings, but the steps vary by computer manufacturer. There is a good guide at the TechAdvisor site (

Wiping a mobile device is fairly easy but make sure you back up files, apps, settings, passwords and contacts so they can be transferred to a new device. On an iPad or iPhone you do this wirelessly by enabling iCloud or transferring everything to your computer using iTunes. The iMore site has complete instructions for doing this (

On an Android device this involves signing your device into Google and copying everything to Google Drive, but the process varies by device manufacturer. The GreenBot site ( has general instructions including a video.

After doing the backup you then restore the device to factory settings minus all of your data. There are instructions for doing this on an iPhone or iPad at the TechAdvisor site ( and on an Android device at the DigtalTrends site (

When you’ve finished dealing with your old computer or device you can begin setting up the new one. More about that in a future column.


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