If you're looking for ways to dispose of your electronics, including laptop and desktop computers, digital cameras and mobile phones, you can find corporate take-back and recycling programs across the U.S. Some computer and office supply companies even provide monetary incentives for recyclable or working equipment. If your device works, consider giving it to a local charity or thrift store. Call first to make sure they take this type of donation. Go to Epa.gov and click Recycling and look for a link in the right column that will lead you to a list of computer recyclers. Or go directly to http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm
To prevent someone from stealing personal information you may have in files or documents on your computer, just deleting your documents or reformatting your hard disk is not enough. An unscrupulous person could use a file-recovery program to restore the files you deleted. Some computer refurbishers have strict data deletion requirements. Check with the company to which you're giving your computer about their procedures. To be safe, follow the steps below to ensure that you are not making any stored information available.
First, make a copy of anything on your computer you want to keep, including all license and registration keys for software programs you have. Then, use a free, secure disk-erase program such as DBAN (do a web search for DBAN) to completely "wipe" everything from your hard disk. If you're giving your computer to be used by someone else, you'll want to reinstall an operating system after the disk is erased. If you have a CD for a version of an operating system you no longer will be using, you can install that operating system. Or, you can copy a free operating system, Linux, (at linux.com) onto a CD using another computer. Or copy it to a CD before you erase the computer you're giving away.