Before You Get Rid of Your Old PC…

June 18, 2010

What do you usually do with your old computer? There are lots of options. You can give it to a friend. Donate it to a charity, school, or church. You can toss it in the trash. You can take it to Goodwill. Before you do anything with your old computer, stop and think about what information is stored on your computer. Most computers have at least your name, address, email address, passwords, websites visited, pictures, documents, and things like that. Email and documents in particular can contain additional identifying information like date of birth, social security number, account numbers, and so forth.

You may have seen a story in the news lately about copiers having hard drives in them. People can get these hard drives and see most, if not all, of the documents that were copied. Many of them contain sensitive information. It’s the same with computers. There are many stores of people getting sensitive information from people’s old computers.

Before you rid yourself of your old computer, we recommend that you do one of two things. Either take the hard drive out and keep it, or have us wipe the hard drive. Simply deleting files or formatting the hard drive isn’t enough. The files can still be access if you know what you are doing. Reinstalling Windows won’t help either. The hard drive needs to be wiped with a special utility that will make it nearly impossible for anyone to recover the files. Once that has been done, you can install Windows or just get rid of the computer and let the next person worry about installing Windows.

Notice I said nearly impossible. The only way to 100% guarantee that nobody can access your information is to shred the hard drive. But hard drive shredders are not very common and they are expensive. And for most situations, shredding a hard drive is not necessary. A Department of Defense (DOD) compliant wipe is all that is needed.

By the way, if you have given us an old computer to recycle, rest assured your data is safe. We either still have the drive, or we wiped it clean and sent it to Goodwill.

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