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5.6 - Data & System Disposal

Exam Board:



2016 - Unit 1 

Computer components such as circuit boards, processors and monitors contain hazardous materials that cannot be disposed of in traditional ways such as rubbish collection and landfills.


For security reasons, data must also be disposed of carefully so that it is not returned to a readable format by unauthorised viewers.


In recent years the government has introduced different laws that relate to the safe disposal of computer equipment to help reduce environmental impact

  • Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) Directive:

    • Gives guidance on how hazardous materials should be disposed of safely. This includes material such as mercury (found in smartphones and newer monitors) and toner cartridges in printers. These materials can damage the environment if not disposed of appropriately.

  • Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC):

    • Before equipment can be sent to a landfill it has to pass this set of rules. Hazardous material like the elements found in computer monitors will not pass these criteria and should therefore not be accepted to landfills.

  • Hazardous Waste Directive:

    • Ensure that businesses store hazardous materials and equipment safely and use authorised businesses to dispose of the waste. Hazardous materials include mercury and hexavalent chromium.

  • Data Protection Act (DPA):

    • One principle of the DPA specifies that data should only be kept for a reasonable amount of time until it is securely deleted.

Computer Circuit Board Macro
Landfill Management
Soldering circuit board

Methods of Data & System Disposal

Overwriting is when data is sent to the hard disk drive to overwrite the binary values currently on the drive - resetting the data


Overwriting just once is usually not enough to remove all evidence of the data and the process should be repeated several times.


Overwriting data means the drive can still be used for other purposes afterwards.

Electronic Circuit

Electromagnetic wiping uses a machine called a degausser, which has a very strong electromagnetic coil, to completely wipe the hard disk drive.

Many large organisations use degaussers to be sure that their data is no longer on the devices they have used so it can’t be restored and accessed by unauthorised viewers.

Degaussers are expensive to buy but it allows the device to be used again for other purposes afterwards as it is not physically damaged.


A third option is the physical destruction of a system or hard disk drive which will guarantee that the data is permanently inaccessible.


However physical destruction also renders the storage media unusable again for other purposes.

Examples of physical destruction include shredding or tools such as sledgehammers if no other option is available.

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Questo's Questions

5.6 - Data & System Disposal:

1. Describe the purpose of 4 different pieces of legislation relating to how data or computer systems should be disposed of safely. [8]

2a. State 3 methods of data and system disposal. [3]

2b. Describe 1 advantage and 1 disadvantage of using each method you stated in 2a. [6]

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