When I saw this astonishing video I realized that I should address this issue in my Techie Tips.
When clients ask me what to do with their old computers, I recommend recycling them at Best Buy. It’s quick and easy. You just drop them off at the customer service desk.
Many times, my people like to donate them to a charity or give them to a friend or relative.
In any case, you need to protect the data on your hard drive if you have any sensitive information on it that you would not want criminals to see.
How It Works
You cannot actually erase data on a drive. When you delete something, the space on the drive gets marked as “vacant” or “writable” so new data can be written over it. The original information is still there until it’s overwritten and can be found with specialized software.
Some people assume that they can reformat their hard drives, but that just erases the directory that the computer uses to find the files. It doesn’t delete the files. The physical bits and bytes still exist. With regular use, the data will get overwritten, but it’s a random process and you won’t know which files have been overwritten and which haven’’t.
A “full format” will overwrite the drive with zeros but it’s still possible to recover data with specialized software.
DBAN is a free software that overwrites the drive multiple times. I found a comment online by a Tech who said that after 20 passes, nothing can be recovered. He swears by it 100%. I looked up DBAN and it has a disclaimer that it’s not “certified safe.” I imagine certification would be important in situations where there is legal liability — where you are responsible for someone else’s sensitive data. If you are willing to install the software and do 20 passes this might be a good solution for your needs.
The most common recommendation is to remove the hard drive from the computer and smash the disks or memory chips with a hammer (wear safety glasses.) I did that with my old PC laptop and I thought it was fun but you might not share my enthusiasm for taking things apart to see what’s inside.
I told Angel Sanchez at NYPC Repair (on Hwy 111 in Palm Desert near the Red Barn) that a lot of my clients would probably not want to deal with removing the hard drive and he said you are welcome to bring your computer into the shop and they will take it out and smash it for you with no charge! Isn’t that great! Love NYCP Repair!
Now you know the whys, the hows and simple solutions. Your choice will depend on your level of comfort about the security of your files. For most of us, it isn’t an issue but if it is, you know what to do.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or need help.
P.S. If you have found this information helpful, please support my mission to make technology simple, easy and fun for mature adults. Share this post with others and encourage them to sign up to receive all my Techie Tips via email. They can sign up here Thanks!