Members share creative ways to dispose of old IT gear

You've made those upgrades, and now you've got a pile of IT stuff your company no longer needs. In this article, members offer creative and charitable ways to move obsolete IT equipment out the door.

How do you dispose of old IT equipment when your company no longer needs it? We asked TechRepublic members this question in a recent Net Note and they responded with some interesting strategies. If you need some tips on how to get rid of obsolete equipment, read on.

Some IT organizations used third parties for old equipment disposal. Member sfenoff contracts with a reseller who arranges pick up and disposal of all fully depreciated equipment. “This removes the onus of selling used equipment (and the implied warranty) from each of the local offices.”

Member JohnnyR explains that in the state of Washington, where his company is located, agencies are held to certain rules on how they can dispose of old IT equipment. “State agencies are required to surplus their old IT equipment to the General Administration agency. These items are then auctioned off, with the proceeds going back into the state. Agencies can also donate old IT equipment to schools and other nonprofit entities, provided they fall within the guidelines,” he said.

Donate to charity
Many of the IT managers we heard from donate old equipment, or the proceeds obtained from their sale, to local schools and charities. “We hold a silent auction for our employees, with the proceeds going to the local United Way. This increases the computer literacy of our employees and it helps our company goal of supporting the community,” said Uehlein. Several other members also exercised this practice.

Krlayne, IT manager at a company in Barbados, donates the company’s old equipment to the government-run technical school. “This gives the students of electronics and information technology some equipment they can experiment with,” Krlayne said.

Richard Nobis says that the company he works for, Nissan, donates old equipment to the local school district, but, if anything is left over, they solicit bids from recyclers. “We take the best bid and get a guarantee that they’ll take all of the equipment and have a timely pickup.”

Let employees benefit
Several of the people who responded to our query said that they utilized employee auctions and drawings to find homes for old IT gear. Dmatthews said, “About once a year, we e-mail all of our employees to let them know that if they want to be in a drawing for a free computer (and/or monitor), just send back a reply. We clean up the surplus computers and reload the original OS exactly as supplied by the factory. We also add some useful freeware like Acrobat Reader, the 602Office Suite, ZoneAlarm, the most recent cumulative patches, etc.” They then hold a drawing and the winners pick which machine they want based on the order in which their names are drawn.

Member Robert D. Hofbauer, global systems manager at Ingersoll-Rand, organizes in-house auctions for old PCs. “The machines we sell are only good for Internet, e-mail, and light word processor/spreadsheet work. We sell them without warranty and definitely without support,” he said. Hofbauer has done both silent auctions and sales with set price purchases. “We prefer to do silent auctions on high demand items like laptops.”

Notification of sales is done through company e-mail and through bulletin board postings. On the silent auctions, they take sealed bids for each item. Bids are date-stamped to differentiate between identical bids. Bids may be submitted for multiple items and winners are given the choice to accept or decline purchase. “Winners are notified individually,” he added. “If a winner declines a purchase, the next highest bidder is notified. And the process continues until all items are sold.”

More extensive techniques
A couple of respondents took multitiered approaches in disposing old equipment. Bmcc takes computers that are 486s or older, strips them for usable parts, and throws the rest away. “For midrange stuff,” he says, “I fix it up and give it anonymously to a worthy student at a local school. For higher stuff, I fix it up and sell it at a reasonable price, thereby giving those who might not be able to afford a new computer a chance to purchase one.”

Jayaare makes sure nothing is wasted when he’s moving obsolete gear out the door. His department:
  • Maintains test/backup/utility systems. When a system is rotated out of production, they move it to a backup role. The least capable backup system is moved to either a test or utility role.
  • Salvages parts. They maintain a supply of components since they build their own systems. Jayaare offers this tip: “If you purchase a system, that’s a depreciable asset. If you merely buy parts to build your own systems, they are immediately expensible. We frequently only need to purchase motherboard/CPU/memory to upgrade systems.”
  • Gives equipment away to employees in need. They occasionally put whole systems together and give them to employees who have no system at all. It serves as a morale booster.
  • Sells items with value on eBay.
  • Donates (only working) equipment to charity.

Charlton Heston would be proud
I saved the most creative, though maybe not the most practical, method for last. Member jlaughland, IT director (and NRA-certified firearms instructor), explained the unique steps he took to dispose of an old MultiValue system server/mainframe. His company policy is to destroy any hard drives, tape backups, etc., that ever saw use in the company. “We destroy all nonworking hard drives or other storage media ourselves so no data can be retrieved from it,” he said. And, it seems, he takes the word “destroy” literally.

“After its many years of faithful service, we took the server to our Fourth of July company picnic. We "blindfolded" it, gave it a last smoke, and opened up on it with a machine gun. Then we let everyone at the picnic take some shots at it if they wanted.”

He says this same technique is therapeutic for his techs when a hard drive is dying. “After they’ve battled recovering the data for the user to another working hard drive, they take the bad drive out to the range and shoot it so the data is no longer recoverable. It’s awfully hard to imagine someone pulling data off a hard drive with a bunch of holes through it.”

Of course, not all companies offer budget allowances for assault weaponry. You may have to settle for just slapping your old monitors around a little.

Speaking of upgrades…
Here’s an upgrade scenario. Tell us how you could handle it. You’ve been tasked with moving your organization's applications from NT 4 to Windows 2000. Every application, with the exception of two mission-critical applications, doesn’t work on Windows 2000. The idea for moving from NT to 2000 was to upgrade and cut down on the work you have to perform. Now it seems that you'll have to work with two separate operating systems—not the best choice. What’s the best way to handle this situation? Do you contract with someone to handle the other applications? Do you find new applications to replace the two on NT? Do you hire a consultant to make the NT applications work on 2000? Send us some mail and give us your feedback or tell a similar tale of your own.


About Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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