Depending upon how you use your computer, most will last somewhere between 3-5 years before you need a PC replacement. So, throughout someone’s life, that means a lot of old computers piling up unless they’re recycled.
Many local IT providers will offer PC recycling. Some people also might give an older computer to someone they know that needs it, like a student or charity.
But when that computer is recycled, what happens to the data? Most people will delete their files and folders and email, but this doesn’t really ensure someone can’t still access that data.
Deleted May Not Mean Data is Gone
Files can be stored in other places on a hard drive when deleted, like the recycle bin. And even if you empty that bin, if new data hasn’t overwritten those deleted files or the computer hasn’t been properly erased, someone using the right software tool could retrieve your information.
There are many different places on a computer or laptop where data resides, beyond your “Documents” folder. These include:
- Files stored in application folders
- Passwords and history saved in browsers
- Email folders, files, backups
- Contact lists and calendars
- Syncing cloud services, like Dropbox or Slack
- Account settings in your operating system setup
If your data falls into the wrong hands, it can mean your logins for a bank account or social media accounts, images, or other information is compromised and can result in major problems.
If you think, “Nobody is going to want this information anyhow,” then you could be in for a big surprise. Because personal information is a hot commodity on the Dark Web. A credit card number can go for $12-$20and stolen online banking credentials can fetch $65.
Why Data Destruction is Important When Getting Rid of an Old Computer
Data destruction goes beyond just deleting a file and is designed to ensure that any personal data on a device is completely gone and irretrievable. This involves a number of different techniques that completely destroy and erase the data on a computer, so even using sophisticated data recovery software tools won’t allow it to be recovered.
Types of Data Destruction
There are a few different methods that can be used for data destruction. These include:
Erasing & Overwriting Data
Many data recovery methods work because deleted data was not overwritten by other data, thus it is still in existence on a hard disk somewhere.
This technique includes first wiping existing data from a hard drive and then, writing the disk with other data (ones and zeros) to ensure no remnants of the original information remains.
Data shredding utilizes a program that performs multiple overwrites of a disk to completely “shred” or destroy the data.
This will usually involve about three passes, in which a slightly different overwriting method is used. For example, pass 1 may overwrite with byte 9, while pass 2 overwrites with byte 249.
Some high security data destruction uses as many as nine different overwriting passes.
Hard Drive Replacement
The data on a computer is contained on the hard drive, and in most computers, these are easily replaceable. A more extreme version of data destruction would be to completely remove and replace the device’s hard drive with a clean one before recycling it.
Of course, you would still need to secure the original hard drive, or have it wiped according to one of the other data destruction methods if you wanted make sure that data didn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Physical Drive Destruction
For a computer that is really old and doesn’t have much value as a donation to someone else, physical destruction of a hard drive can be done to remove any chance someone could access its data.
However, this is more difficult than one might think and would involve the use of power tools to physically damage a hard drive beyond repair. You would also want to take safety precautions because you could easily have small metal parts flying around and someone could get seriously injured.
This is definitely not a recommended method for someone to attempt themselves.
Back Up Data First!
It’s important that you do a full backup of all your data before you have your PC recycled and the data destroyed.
This means more than just your files and folders, because you also may need your applications, settings, and other computer environment data.
The best type of backup to do is a full image backup which ensures your operating system and everything on it (files, settings, apps, etc.) can be migrated to another device easily.
Get Expert Computer & Laptop Help from B-Comp Services
B-Comp Services can help your Denver area business ensure that any older computers have data destroyed completely and your files are migrated smoothly to a new device.
Contact us today for a consultation. Call at 303-282-4934 or contact us online.