Disposal Guidelines and Best Practices

One day your computer, smart phone, tablet or any other device will no longer be useful to you and it will need to be disposed of. This section describes best practices before you decide to recycle a once useful computer product.

Guidelines for Disposal or Transfer of Western Computing Equipment

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Portable Storage Device

  • Does your department reuse media?
  • If not, you will need to destroy the device.  Options for destruction include:
    • Self Service Shredding
    • Third Party Shredding
    • Records Management Services
    • Physical Plant Recycling
  • Then, document the assest disposal.


  • Remove any data on the device.  Options for data removal include:
    • DBAN
    • Self Service
    • Onsite Support
  • Does your department reuse devices?
    • If not, then remove assest tag and document asset disposal.
  • If yes, then will you transfer the device within UWO?
    • If not, then remove assest tag, restore operating system, and document assest disposal.
  • If yes, then restore operating system and document assest disposal. 

These guidelines have been developed within the context of the following university policies:

Core Principles:

  • Protection of sensitive or confidential information (data classification definitions here), collected and used in the course of delivering services at Western, requires that we ensure all electronic storage media is disposed of in a responsible and effective manner.
  • The disposal processes used should also be based on environmentally sound practices.


The disposal/transfer process starts from the point at which the equipment is determined to be no longer of use to the current owner and follows the appropriate asset disposal (http://www.uwo.ca/finance/forms/) procedures.

ALL data/information should be moved to a more stable storage location prior to disposal of the storage device. 

ALL electronic storage devices are included in these guidelines, which are based on the current recommendations of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology - http://www.nist.gov/).   In particular, see the document titled Guidelines for Media Sanitization (NIST Special Publication 800-88, published in February 2006).

Disposal or Transfer of Functioning Workstations or Servers:

For transfer to another person/unit:

  1. Remove all data/information/software from the hard drive according to the current recommended practices.
  2. IF the workstation/server is being transferred to a non-UWO person/organization, remove any UWO asset tags/stickers to ensure the equipment is no longer identified as belonging to Western.
  3. Restore licensed software (including original operating system if available) for which the license does allow for transfer to another user.  Note that most licensed software cannot be transferred.
  4. Collect all documentation related to the operating system or licensed software to be transferred with the workstation or to be disposed of if no longer needed.
  5. Document (http://www.uwo.ca/finance/forms/) the transfer process.

For final disposal:

  1. Remove all data/information/software from the hard drive according to the current recommended practices.
  2. Remove any UWO asset tags/stickers to ensure the equipment is no longer identified as belonging to Western.
  3. Collect and dispose of all licensed software and documentation no longer needed, according to the current recommended practices.
  4. Document (http://www.uwo.ca/finance/forms/) the disposal process.
  5. Contact Facilities Management for pickup, according to the current recommended practices.

Disposal of Non-Functioning Workstations or Servers:

  1. Remove all data/information/software from the hard drive if possible.  If this is not possible, remove the hard drive and destroy or dispose of it separately, according to the current recommended practices.  This includes hard drives replaced under a manufacturer’s warranty or service contract.
  2. Document (http://www.uwo.ca/finance/forms/) the disposal process.
  3. Contact Facilities Management for pickup, according to the current recommended practices.

Disposal of Licensed Software: 

Licensed software is covered by the terms of the license agreement in place, and typically cannot be transferred under most licenses.  Where it is permitted, all requirements in the license for transferring ownership of the software must be strictly adhered to.  It is typically best not to attempt to transfer licensed software and to have the media destroyed in a fashion that best fits the media in question. If in doubt, the media should be physically destroyed in an environmentally sound fashion.

Disposal of Documentation: 

Often the documentation associated with licensed software is covered by the same license as the software and cannot be transferred to a third party. In most cases it is easier to avoid license violation by not transferring software documentation. Consequently, it is typically best to shred and recycle these materials in an environmentally sound fashion along with the software.

Current Recommended Practices for Destroying Data and/or Data Devices

Portable storage devices

Apply the same procedures used for the disposal of paper records.  Options available include:

  • Shredders:  There are many types of shredders on the market that can be used to dispose of CDs, magnetic tape, etc.  Purchasing can provide recommendations if desired.
  • Western Archives’ confidential records disposal process:  If the local unit does not have appropriate equipment for disposing of portable storage devices, use the confidential records disposal process (http://www.lib.uwo.ca/archives/records.html). 

Removing data from hard drives

  • Workstations:  Use DBAN (http://dban.sourceforge.net/) to fully 'sanitize' the hard drive.    Options include:
    • Self service:  download the software from Sourceforge (http://dban.sourceforge.net/) and follow the instructions provided
    • WTS Support:  contact the Unit Onsite Support Team Leader in WTS to arrange for assistance.
  • Servers:  Use a low level format plus a random write/delete procedure appropriate for the operating system in use.  Options include:
    • Self service:  local systems administrator will determine most appropriate procedure for the specific server.
    • WTS Support:  contact the Unit Onsite Support Team Leader in WTS to arrange for assistance. 

Western's hard drive destruction service

When data cannot be fully removed from a hard drive, the hard drive MUST be removed from the workstation or server and physically destroyed in accordance with Western's secure sustainability plan.  Options available include:

  • Disposal through EcoShred (a fee-based service).
  • Use the confidential records disposal (http://www.lib.uwo.ca/archives/records.html) service
  • Use of Western provided e-waste recycle bins (for the location of the Western provided e-waste recycle bins, consult the IT administrator for your department or faculty)

The removed hard drive should be deposited within one of the new Secure Media Destruction collection boxes. These boxes can be found at the following Campus locations:

  • Helpdesk (4th Floor, Support Services Building)
  • University Community Centre (1st floor, near room 147B)
  • Spencer Engineering Building (1st floor, near the Loading Dock)


Facilities Management provides an environmentally sound disposal service for computer equipment.  Items accepted for disposal via a recycling stream are computer monitors, keyboards, hard drives, telephones.  There is no charge for disposal via the recycling stream.  All material collected is recycled; precious metals are collected from the various components; all material is shredded. Monitors are shipped to a crushing facility were the lead is recovered.  The remaining glass and plastic is also crushed and recovered.

Follow these steps to make effective use of this service:

  1. All electronic equipment to be disposed of must first be removed from the current inventory list. This is the responsibility of the department and must be carried out through the appropriate methods.  It is also the responsibility of the department to ensure that all data is deleted prior to disposal.
  2. Small quantities (i.e. 3-4 units) can be dropped off at the building's loading dock.  The items should be placed so that they do not restrict or impede the use of the dock area. 

For further assistance or information, contact:

  • Western Archives for assistance with records retention and disposal processes (ext. 81111)
  • WTS Unit Onsite Support for assistance with removing data from hard drives (ext. 83800)
  • Purchasing for assistance with the asset disposal process and/or purchase of shredding equipment (ext. 84583)

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