Since computers have become mainstream in everybody’s home since 2000, it is not uncommon today for people to have 2 or 3 computers in their homes. Today, computers in the home are looked upon as throwaway appliances. When the life cycle of the computer is finished, the user will either throw the computer in the attic (or closet) to collect cobwebs; discard it in the garbage; or, if still useable, will hand it down (or sell it) to someone else.
During the ownership of our computers we are constantly reminded of the security and privacy threats; and will go to great extremes to protect the data on our PC’s from prying eyes. What we forget is that this type of proactive attitude should not stop when the life cycle of the computer has been completed. From my experience I have seen a very high percentage of people discard a PC with their data still intact on the hard drive. Even if the computer is no longer functioning, the data is still there! Even if you are being proactive and formatted the hard drive, the data is still there!
What type of data am I referring to? Well, the list is long, but here are some examples of what you may be giving away when you are finished with that PC:
- Passwords and access to online accounts (like your bank, credit card, social sites, web mail, etc.)
- Email Accounts, Email Addresses and Personal Emails
- Personal (and sometimes) sensitive photographs
- Personal Documents (such as tax forms, letters, finances, documents from work, etc.)
- Software Licenses (that you purchased and own)
- Music or Movie Collection (that you legally own)
In today’s world, data theft is commonplace and software to extract (already deleted data) is available freely on the internet. I cannot emphasize this enough; when you are finished with that PC you must continue to be proactive and find ways to make sure the PC is clean before transferring it elsewhere. Here are several options that you can choose from:
- Have the hard drive removed and the data professionally eradicated (destroyed), professionally degaussed (demagnetized) or professionally shredded (like shrapnel). All of these options are at cost; however, you will (or should) be provided with certification that your data is now non-existent.
- Remove the hard drive and destroy the hard drive yourself. Drill holes in it, use it for target practice, flatten it with a sledge hammer, etc… There is no certification with this process and yes there is the possibility that James Bond 007 could extract data from the drive (but this is highly unlikely, unless you are a person of interest).
- Use data eradication software. This option is a good option for the home based user; AND, the good news is that there are several FREE software products (see below) that are available.
Hard Drive Eraser is free Windows application that permanently erase the data on whole volumes (hard drives). It does so by filling the magnetic surface multiple time with a useless binary data. It is a known fact that it is impossible to permanently destroy data just by formatting hard drive.
PCDiskEraser enables you to easily, quickly and permanently erase all data that is personal, confidential and critical on your hard drive – and has the capability to erase to both U.S. Department of Defense 5220.22 and German Military Government standards.
Active@ KillDisk – Hard Drive Eraser is powerful and compact software that allows you to destroy all data on hard and floppy drives completely, excluding any possibility of future recovery of deleted files and folders. It’s a hard drive and partition eraser utility.
Eraser is an advanced security tool for Windows which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns.