Computer Lifecycle Policies

Data destruction on laptops owned by Harvard Chan School

All SPH-owned computer hard drives must be securely wiped by the SPH IT Department prior to recycling or redeploying for other use (e.g., personal use, donation).  Retired computers have their hard drives removed and physically destroyed. Reissued computers have their hard drives wiped clean.

This is required to maintain compliance with software licensing requirements.

To request an appointment for data destruction, please contact the SPH Field Support Services at 617-432-HELP (4357) or

After data has been properly handled, computers are recycled appropriately using our preferred vendors.

Proper destruction of data is critical for IT security. Proper disposal of computer equipment is important for our environment and a pillar of the Sustainable IT Initiative at Harvard.

Computer lifecycle

SPH has adopted a standard of 4 years as the lifecycle for a SPH-owned laptop.  All computers that are part of the central administration refresh program are replaced on this lifecycle to ensure that everyone has access to modern computing technology.  Academic departments and centers are encouraged to budget for a 4-year replacement cycle.

  • The Dell computer warranties are 3-years but that may change soon in Buy-2-Pay to better align with the standard 4-year cycle.
  • For Apple and other brands, be sure to select at least a 3-year warranty including accidental damage protection.

To view our standard configurations for Dell or Apple, please see Computer Purchasing.

Staff departure/personal purchases of computers

To maximize our computer lifecycle, if an employee leaves SPH, a replacement staff member should receive their predecessor’s computer provided there is at least 1 year remaining on the 4-year refresh cycle.

Alternatively, if a departing staff member would like to purchase their laptop for personal use, they may reimburse Harvard for any remaining useful life.

  • For example, a $1500 laptop that is 2 years old has $750 of useful life remaining.
  • Reimbursement for any computers in the central administration refresh program may be made via IT and all others via your department/center.
  • Users refreshed by IT cannot keep their computer before the 4 years are up since their successors needs the computer.

After reimbursement, an appointment may be made with the Service Desk to properly destroy data and reset the computer to factory standards prior to removal for personal use.

Note: Computers older than 4 years do not require reimbursement as useful life has been utilized, but still require proper data destruction and must be reset to factory standards.