The Computer Graveyard

After five and a half years of helping clients with their clutter,  I have gotten accustomed to encountering what I call the Computer Graveyard.

Here’s the scenario.  You get a new computer, and you start using it.  You don’t want to get rid of the old computer just yet, just in case something malfunctions on the new one, so you put the old one on the floor next to your desk.  Days go by, then weeks, then months, and the old computer continues to sit on your floor, despite the fact that the new one is working perfectly well.  You barely even notice it’s there — it has become part of the decor.

Repeat the same scenario three or four years later when you get another new computer, and now you’ve got TWO computers on the floor, plus maybe one you brought home from work that you don’t use anymore.  There they sit, like little tombstones.  Voilà!  You’ve got a Computer Graveyard.

I always ask my clients why those computers are still there, since they aren’t being used anymore.  Why haven’t they been donated or recycled?  The answer is usually, “I’ve got to get my old files off of them first.”

Now it’s time for true confessions.  I got a new computer last November, and spent Thanksgiving weekend getting it set up and getting my files transferred.  However, I wasn’t completely certain that I had transferrred all my files, since I went about the transfer in a rather clumsy way.  So what did I do?  I left my old computer sitting on the floor next to my desk.  For four and a half months.

Holy clutter, Batman!  How could the Organizing Goddess leave an old computer on the floor for four and half months?  Good question.  The idea of handling the transfer intimidated me so I avoided it.  The interesting result was that my desk began to get messy, too, and pretty soon my whole workspace was a disaster.  (See my post on the Broken Windows theory).

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk for the Mt. Holyoke Club of New York entitled “Out with the Old, In with the New”.   I spoke to the audience about how clutter holds you back and prevents new things from entering your life.  My message was echoed by my co-presenter, Julie Anna Alvarez of Happy Chi Solutions.  When I got home, I took a look at my computer on the floor and made a vow to get it out of my life.

I decided to buy an external hard drive — the kind that many people use for backing up a computer — for which I expected to spend around $60.  I went to Staples and found that they were a little more expensive than I thought, but they had a 64-gigabyte flash drive on sale for $60.  I had 45 GB of documents, so that would be perfect — and so small!  I brought it back and began the document transfer.

Nine hours later, the transfer was complete.  I had all my documents safely copied to a flash drive,  and I used my labeler to mark it “Old Computer – Nov. 2011”.   Now came the task of wiping out the hard drive prior to recycling it.  (Note: while I had donated old computers via the National Cristina Foundation in the past, this one had some hardware issues, so donation was out of the question).

After a little bit of research about the best way to wipe out a hard drive on a PC, I downloaded a program called KillDisk and ran it.  Two minutes later, my hard drive was completely clean.   The next day, I carried the computer over to my local Best Buy and gave it to a Geek Squad member for recycling.

How do I feel now that my old computer is gone?  Wonderful!  And the papers on my desk are getting cleared away, too.

Next time I encounter a client with a Computer Graveyard, I’m going to be ready!

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