Perhaps if you were a very good mystery shopper this year, Santa brought you a new computer. But wait! Before you dispose of that old computer, make sure you protect your private data.
Computers sold on eBay or donated to charity often include confidential information, such as credit card numbers, passwords, financial data and more. Simply erasing the files, or even formatting the hard drive, may not be enough to remove all traces of data. There are programs that can be used to recover files that have been erased.
Here is how you can avoid having your data fall into the wrong hands.
Tech expert Leo Notenboom recommends doing multiple “unconditional” formats. Although it is still possible to recover data after this, it is difficult. Someone would really have to want your data to devote the resources necessary to get at it.
There are also free software programs available that will wipe your hard drive clean. Running such a program will make it difficult to impossible to recover data from your disk.
Of course, another option is to physically destroy the hard disk. If you are planning to sell or donate the computer, this is not a good choice. However, if you are going to recycle it, destroying the disk protects the data.
Once you have removed your files, what will you do with the computer? You can sell it on eBay or with an ad on CraigsList or other classified sites. Many charities will accept donations of computers, for the use of the charity, for resale, or for recycling. Additionally, many communities have recycling programs for electronics. In general, electronic equipment should not just be put out in the trash, as they may contain hazardous materials that should not be disposed of in a landfill.
Enjoy your new computer, without having to worry that your old one may be telling your secrets.