It’s time for a faster, better computer, so what do you do with the old one? If you recycle it, will your data be available to scavengers?
Once you have moved your valued files to your new computer, if you want to be sure that no data is retrievable from your old hard drive, you need to take steps to erase or destroy the hard drive. Simply deleting files will not totally remove your information from the hard drive.
Most hard drives manufactured since 2004 will allow a “Secure Erase.” This operation will not run from Windows; it requires a special boot disk and a program that implements the Secure Erase command in the hard drive’s firmware. Secure Erase wipes the hard drive totally clean of all files including documents, photos, programs and operating system. No data will be retrievable after a Secure Erase. It should only be completed when you are certain that all contents of the hard drive are no longer needed.
If the computer will be used again after a Secure Erase, the hard drive must be repartitioned and reformatted. At that point the operating system must be reloaded.
If you prefer physical destruction, and are able to remove the hard drive from the computer, a pair of goggles and a hammer should do the trick. A laptop hard drive with its ceramic disks will give a very satisfying crunch, and you will hear the shattered disks rattling inside. A desktop hard drive is metallic. Hammer away until the casing is dented inward, denting the disks inside and incapacitating the drive. There is equipment available to try to retrieve data from moderately damaged hard drives. If you are extremely determined that no part of you data should ever be painstakingly retrieved, take the hard drive apart and physically deface the disks.
Once the hard drive is erased or destroyed, you may recycle the computer with confidence that your data is not retrievable.
Manatee County residents may recycle computer equipment at the Lena Road Landfill every third Saturday of the month from 9 am to 3 p.m. Recycling specialists from around the bay area collect many types of hazardous and electronics materials for recycling and proper disposal.
If your old computer is in good working order, you may choose to donate it to a school or non-profit organization, or sell it to a resale store such as ours. This is a good way to assure that the computer is being utilized to its fullest extent. At Computer Renaissance, any donated or purchased used computers are securely erased and reloaded so that files from previous users are completely removed.
Patty Harshbarger, co-owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.