Wipe your hard drive before disposing of an old computer

Wipe your hard drive before disposing of an old computer

So your PC has seen better days and you are finally upgrading, but don’t forget to clear all your personal data from your old machine before disposing of it. Whether you are selling it, giving it to a friend, donating to charity or  dumping it, just deleting your personal files is not enough to protect you from identity fraud.

Identity theft is, unfortunately, big business and the confidential information held on your computer could fall into the wrong hands if you do not completely erase all of your information. In fact, old computers are bought often with this is mind and identity thieves have been known to trawl public dumps and recycling facilities looking for waste electrical and electronic equipment that might contain information of value.

Many people mistakenly believe they have wiped their hard drive because they have deleted all their files, but when you delete files form a computer system you are not deleting the physical file from the machine. Instead you are deleting an entry in an index that enables the file to be found easily. The file is still there it just can’t be accessed easily by most people. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who can access the files.

So, how do you ensure your hard drive wipe is thorough and has effectively removed all traces of your private data so you can feel secure that you will not fall victim to identity fraud?

One way is to use special software to wipe your PC or laptop’s hard drive. But before you start make sure you have backed up all the files you will need on your new machine – either use a standalone hard drive if you have one or use one of the inexpensive cloud backup facilities. If you use data wipe software then once all the files are erased, there will be no way to retrieve them again. After you have made your backup browse the web for a free data destruction program – or, even better, buy one to minimise the risk of exposure to unwanted viruses, malware and potentially unwanted programs. Make your selection by reading reviews on reputable sites to ensure that the software is reliable and others have been satisfied with the results.

A reputable software application will destroy your data but, if you are looking for even more peace of mind then you may also want to consider physically destroying your hard drive too. However, don’t attempt to destroy your hard drive yourself. This can be dangerous because of toxic chemicals and metals found within a computer, especially in laptops with batteries.

Instead look for a certified, professional company that will do the job for you. Not only will they have safe methods for destroying the hard drive and all your data on it, but they will also dispose of your PC or laptop in a way that is environmentally friendly and won’t contribute to the growing mountain of electronic waste that is polluting the earth.

It is essential to wipe all personal data from an old computer but it is also necessary to consider the impact on the environment that old electronic equipment is having.

One comment

  • This is excellent advice. I usually just reformat it, then remove the hard drive and take a sledge hammer to it. That works, too.


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