For all IT managers and end users of Windows XP, April 8th 2014 is an important date for the diary. On this day Microsoft will end the support of Windows XP, which will include technical assistance and the security up dates that keep you secure. This will have an effect in people having to purchase upgrades to their operating systems but also possibly their hardware.
Windows XP, was seen by many as a stable and reliable OS, so when newer versions where released they didn’t take the opportunity to upgrade. For the last 11 years, Microsoft have continued to support and develop patches for XP but the end is in sight. Newer versions of Windows demand more of a hardware resource on equipment meaning some computers will struggle and in some cases not even be compatible.
This issue combined with lack of device drivers for older hardware can make your old computer obsolete. Obsolete hardware results in more computers being recycled, which has been widely acknowledged within the recycling industry. Companies that have been reluctant to upgrade operating systems for various reasons are now disposing of computers in their hundreds, after their upgrades.
The old saying of “One man's trash is another man's treasure” is applicable in this situation. A computer currently loaded with Windows XP may currently still operate fine for the user but due to the lack of support being announced a user looks to upgrade their computer. What happens to this equipment when it is redundant and recycled? Companies and end users can use a computer recycling company to assist with this process.
A recycling company should apply the rules of the Waste Hierarchy when recycling old computers, whatever the age. For example in this case, reuse is the most favoured recycling technique, followed by recovery of working parts then recycling the materials contained within. The aforementioned obsolete but working equipment may still have a reuse worth to charities, education facilities or voluntary groups. This would be the favoured option when recycling as it has the least environmental impact.
If there are any faults with the hardware on a working computer there may still be working components contained within. For example the motherboard may have an unrecoverable fault but the rest of the computer could still work. Users with other hardware faults can repair their computers with the use of working second hand parts. So the stripping of working parts from a machine can extend the life of other computer equipment. This is the second favoured option when applying the hierarchy.
Last, but not least is the option to recycle the raw materials contained within a computer. A computer is made up of various raw materials, plastics, ferrous and non ferrous metals, cabling etc… Non working or extremely old equipment can be stripped down to segregate parts then the recycling can begin. Automated machinery and recycling processes then separate out the materials to put them back into the manufacturing chain for various repurposing. After all, using recycled materials is more environmentally friendly than manufacturing with raw materials.
In conclusion, further technological advances will result in the need for further recycling. As long as the recycling of older equipment is performed ethically and responsibility, we can reduce the environmental impact. Microsoft has supported Windows XP for 11 years, which, in the small lifespan of technology, has to be commended.
Phil Gibbs is an eco friendly geek and Director of Pure Planet Recycling , a UK based computer recycling company.