Protect Your Data by Securely Erasing Your Devices Before Disposing Of Them
Your digital devices store a lot of your personal data. While this data can be vulnerable when you’re using these devices, it’s most easily accessible once you’ve disposed of the device by either selling or recycling it. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that you’ve completely secured and wiped your data before selling or disposing of a device such as a computer, phone, tablet, or external storage device. This protects you from a wide array of fraud, including identity theft.
Selling Your Computer
If you’re selling your computer, you’ll want to ensure that your data has been wiped completely so the future owner can’t access it. Before you start the process of wiping your data, you’ll want to ensure you’ve backed up your system.
Many believe that when they put items in the trash on their Windows PC, they’re gone forever. Unfortunately, items that are sent to the trash often remain on your hard drive and can be recovered. Even formatting your drive can leave your personal data vulnerable when you sell or recycle your computer. For this reason, it’s important to use a program that will help you wipe your data once and for all. A great open source tool for this purpose is Darik’s Boot and Nuke. You can also use CCleaner to accomplish this—you only need the basic free version.
On a Mac, the cleanup process is a bit easier in that you don’t need additional software. Apple provides detailed instructions on how to do this on their website.
Recycling Your Computer
If you’re recycling your computer, I recommend simply destroying its hard drive. This will guarantee that no one can access the data written on it. To destroy your hard drive, simply open up the computer, remove the hard drive and smash it several times with a hammer. For safety reasons, I recommend wearing gloves and goggles while you do this. Again, don’t forget to backup your important data before you destroy the hard drive.
Tablets and Smartphones
The process of preparing a smartphone or tablet for sale or recycling is relatively simple. Naturally, the first step is to back up the device to the cloud or your computer. Don’t forget to backup your apps and contacts. Once you’ve backed everything up, you’ll want to find the factory reset option in your device’s settings. A factory reset will return the device to it’s original, out of the box state, ensuring your data isn’t accessible.
If your phone or tablet has additional SD card storage, the best thing to do is to just take the SD card out and keep it or destroy it. If you’re selling your device, the new owner can easily replace the SD card.
USBs, SD cards, and External Hard Drives
When recycling or selling a storage device, it’s important to wipe it completely. As with computer hard drives, simply sending files to the trash isn’t enough to secure your data. To ensure your data is wiped, you’ll have to use a program like CCleaner on a Windows computer or use the Disk Utility application on a Mac.
Again, if you’re recycling the device, it might be easiest to render it unusable by smashing or cutting it.