We are progressing very rapidly such that the gadgets and devices we use today get obsolete within a few years.
If you wish to destroy your laptop because it has become outdated for you or its consuming space, you can always donate or sell it. You can also salvage its part in new devices. You would not want to contribute to the “global chip shortage” by destroying usable chips.
However, there may be security and privacy concerns regarding data, leading you to take this decision. In such cases, it may not be sufficient even if you run it over with a vehicle or shatter it completely. Furthermore, the process may be quite dangerous if you do not follow the specific instructions.
So, in this guide, we will be going through a step-by-step process to destroy your laptop safely.
How to Destroy an Old Laptop?
If you are moving on to a new laptop, you may want to keep the backup of your data before destroying the old one. You can do this by manually copying each file from the older drive to a flash drive or an external storage drive. Or, you can use cloning software to clone all your data, including the Operating system.
Now that you have stored your files safely, let’s move on to destroying the laptop.
Wipe the Data From Old Storage Drive
It is important to wipe the storage drive first for someone concerned with their data and privacy. But wiping does not mean just formatting the drive.
When you delete or format the drive, it does not actually delete the files. It just marks the address as re-writable and makes the OS think it is empty. Then, the deleted files are replaced by the new ones later.
Sure, if you cut the SSD or HDD into several pieces, it eliminates the chance of recovering the data. But other means of destruction may not guarantee it. For instance, the use of water to destroy the electronic part may still keep the information intact in the disk. Also, it can be troublesome.
So, to completely wipe the data, you have to format the drive and overwrite it with dummy files. There are several open-source programs that help you do this, such as DBAN, CBL Data Shredder, Active KillDisk, and so on.
Let’s see the way to do it using DBAN here.
- Power on your PC. You can use your new laptop or the one to be destroyed for this.
- Download DBAN and save the ISO file on your computer.
- Insert a USB drive and download Rufus or similar software to make the USB bootable.
- Open Rufus and choose Disk or ISO image in Boot selection.
- Select the ISO file.
- Click Start to prepare the installation drive.
- Now, insert the USB drive into the laptop you want to destroy. If you used the same laptop, then simply restart the system.
- Boot into the USB drive. The DBAN interface will open up.
dodshortand press Enter. DBAN will proceed to wipe your storage drive in multiple passes.
Now, you have successfully destroyed your data on the storage drive.
Remove the Internal Components
There are components such as a battery that is highly dangerous to destroy or harm ourselves physically. Similarly, the metal components inside a hard drive can cause hindrance while destroying. So, before destroying the computer, you may want to remove such parts.
Let’s move on to the process.
- Place the laptop on a hard-wooden table or carpetless floor. This will prevent any static damage to the parts if you want to keep them for further use.
- Turn your laptop over and remove the battery by pressing the lock if it is an external one.
- Start unscrewing all the nuts on the back panel. Some nuts may be hidden under the rubber pads or plastic cover.
- Remove the back panel and get to the motherboard. Some laptops have separate storage drives and RAM compartments. Remove their covers as well.
- Push the locking bar to remove the RAM.
- Unscrew the nuts holding the storage drive and pull it from the slot.
- If you have an internal battery, remove the screws, disconnect the necessary wires and take it out.
- Most laptops have integrated CPUs. So, see whether the CPU is removable. If it is, remove it as well.
- If there are any metal brackets inside, such as the one incorporating the fans, take those out as well.
Place everything in a single place along with the laptop.
Disassemble the Hard Drive
If you have an SSD, it is easier to break. But the HDD consists of metal discs that do not destroy easily. Hence, after you remove the drive from the laptop, you should disassemble it.
- Unscrew the nuts holding the frame. Some screws may be located under the plastic sticker attached to the drive.
- Remove the frame and unscrew the brackets holding the discs.
- Take out all the screws from the center portion of the disc as well.
- Remove the discs and circuit and disconnect the head.
- Take out any other metal parts as well.
Keep the parts in the same place where you have kept other components of the laptop.
Preparation For Safety
Shattering the laptop physically can be a bit dangerous.
The glass and metal bits may fly off, or you may step on them. So, you should now prepare for safety.
- Find an open area in your house where it is easy to clean, and the broken pieces won’t damage anything else.
- We recommend you do not use a marble or tile floor as it may break while destroying the laptop.
- Procure an old cloth, fold it 2 or 3 times and place it on the floor. This will prevent any damage to your floor and hold the broken bits later. You can use a thicker plastic sheet as well.
- Wear gear such as goggles, gloves, a mask, and long-sleeved clothes to protect yourself, as the small broken pieces could fly off and cause an injury.
Destroy the Laptop and Dispose of the Remains
Finally, we are ready for destruction. Let’s go through the steps carefully.
- Place all the components you disassembled earlier on the thick sheet. Do not keep the metal parts from the hard drive, battery, and the components you want to save.
- Cover the components with another sheet to not allow the bits to fly towards you.
- Fold the first sheet over the laptop and completely cover it.
- Obtain a hammer and smash the laptop.
- Do this till all components get shattered. You will get the idea by the sound, or you may look inside the cloth to verify.
- Scratch the disc of the hard drive with a metal piece to destroy it. If you possess a drill bit, you can use that to make a hole in it.
- Put the damaged disc in the remains of the laptop.
You should not just throw the broken laptop anywhere. You can contact any e-waste recycling company or put the parts in an e-waste collector yourself. Always dispose of the battery in the container titled “Hazardous material” or as per the conduct of your place. In the end, you should clean the floor to get rid of any broken pieces.
Can I Salvage Any Components?
You can always use the storage drive as secondary storage or an external one to store other data. Even if you are destroying the laptop for privacy or security purposes, there are parts, such as RAM, CPU, GPU, or even cables, that can be reused without any risks. So, we recommend you keep these parts for later usage. You will have the option to test your new device if it malfunctions.
If you want to save the parts, you should follow a few safety measures. While removing the components, as mentioned earlier, you should handle them carefully, ensuring no physical damage.
Similarly, after removing the components, keep them inside an anti-static bag, which usually comes while buying computer hardware such as a motherboard.