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February 11, 2009

Getting rid of an old computer?

Ah...the smell of new computers in the morning... there is little in life which is better (except for bacon...bacon > most things in life)anyway...

So you just got your new computer, you backed up the data off the old one, moved it to the new one and are ready to take that old box to the recycling center (you wouldn't just throw it in the trash would you)

Not so fast...

One major mistake I see individuals and companies make on a nearly daily basis is taking their old computer and just throwing it in the trash. This is a big mistake. Before you throw out any computer, you need to make sure all data is properly removed. I can't count the number of computers I have gotten for free that were loaded with personal information, and not just silly things like family photos, I'm talking about bank statements, quicken files, "personal" photo albums, etc.

Reformatting your hard drive will discourage most people from looking for information, but it is not really deleting your data, just flagging the parts of the hard drive as empty. To really delete you data, you actually need to delete it, and then write more stuff over it. To do this, you need a special tool.

While there are several commercially available piece of software out there that can do this, I'm not a fan of any of them because they cost money. I'm cheap, I like free things, so I use DBAN,

*************WARNING***************

DBAN IS PERMANENT DATA REMOVAL, DO NOT USE DBAN ON A DRIVE YOU MIGHT EVER NEED DATA OFF OF AGAIN.

DBAN is an outstanding tool that deletes your data, then overwrites its it to make sure it is gone. It then repeats this up to 7 times if you want it to. (Department of Defense requires a minimum of 5 overwrites). It is incredibly simple to use, you just pop the disk in, pick the drive, and poof! all data is gone (ok, the poof! might take an hour or so depending on the size of the drive) but still, once you have done this, the recovery would take way more time and money (if possible at all) than almost any person or companies data is worth.

For businesses who need to remove data from drives frequently, there is EBAN which allows you to wipe data from dozens of computers at once.

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