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CAUTION – Steps To Take to Protect Your Data And Prevent Identify Theft When Disposing Off Your Computer

I have a couple of old laptops lying around in my closet taking up unwanted space. So, I decided to take them to Best Buy today for recycling. While I was dropping off my laptops there was another person dropping off his computer for recycling as well. While he was dropping off his laptop for recycling, I asked the person if he had removed his hard disk from the computer and he mentioned that he had not removed the hard disk from his computer or erase all the data from his hard disk.

This was very disconcerting to me since all your personal information is typically on your computer and anyone can recover all the data from your computer. This data can be used to steel your identity and open bank accounts/ credit cards under you name which could significantly impact your credit history and tarnish your reputation.  I was surprised to see that anyone in the internet age where identity theft is exponentially increasing would be unaware of the steps to take to protect your data prior to disposing off your computer. So, I thought that I’d write this blog to inform people on what steps you need to take prior to disposing off your computer.

A place like best buy or other local computer stores would typically take your computer for free and recycle them. However, before you dispose off your computer you need to ensure that no one can recover any of your data from your hard disk. 

You can use one of the two ways listed below to ensure that the data from your hard disk is non-recoverable prior to disposing off your computer.

Physically Destroy The Hard Drive

Physically destroying a hard drive is the easiest way to absolutely ensure that the data on it is non-recoverable. All you will have to do is remove the hard disk from the computer and physically destroy it. You can either go to Google or Youtube to find resources to locate and remove the hard disk from your computer.

Once the hard disk has been located and removed you can destroy a hard drive yourself by nailing or drilling through it several times. Alternatively, you could just smash it with a hammer and a railroad spike. Once physically destroyed, the data from the hard disk will no longer be recoverable and you can safely dispose off the hard disk and recycle your computer.

Caution: Wear safety glasses and take great caution ​when physically destroying a hard drive yourself.

Erase The Data So It’s Non-Recoverable

Erasing the data from your hard disk permanently so the data on it is non-recoverable is another way of ensuring no one can access your personal information from your hard disk.

People think that you can do this by simply using the format function on your computer. However, formatting your hard disk does not actually erase the data from your hard drive. Formatting only erases the location information for the data, making it invisible to the operating system. Since the operating system can’t see the data, the drive looks empty when you look at its contents. However, all the data is still there and can be recovered using an appropriate software or hardware.

So, if you would like to permanently erase the data on your hard disk so it’s non-recoverable use on the methods listed in this blog.

I personally prefer physically destroying the hard disk and disposing it off separately prior to taking my computer for recycling. This is the easiest and absolute way of ensuring that the data is non-recoverable.

The next time you are think disposing of your computer ensure that you either remove the hard disk and destroy it or completely erase it so the data is non-recoverable. This is the most responsible think to do to protect your data and to prevent you from falling prey to identity theft, the repercussions of which maybe significant.

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