When making the decision to recycle unwanted PCs, data security and privacy is extremely important. Even a non-functional PC still has a hard drive full of data inside it. For businesses, this can include sensitive customer or client data, as well as other business data. Home PCs usually contain personal data, financial data, passwords, and other sensitive material.
When such data falls into the wrong hands, it can be disastrous. For businesses, the loss and misuse of confidential customer and business data can lead to lawsuits and even business failure. Personal information on home PCs can end up in criminals’ possession. They may steal your identity and empty your bank accounts.
Whether you’re sending computers to the recycling center for destructive recycling or donating them to charity, it’s essential that all sensitive data be removed completely. Even PCs that are being moved from one part of a business to another should be cleaned up, since not all data belongs in all departments of a business.
"Simple Measures Aren’t Safe"
Simply deleting data files or even formatting a computer’s hard drive isn’t enough. Data can still be recovered from deleted files or from a freshly formatted hard drive. It’s not even difficult to do, using readily available software. Removing sensitive data completely from PCs isn’t terribly difficult, and it’s absolutely essential. There are several ways to make certain your data is gone before you recycle computers:
Remove and Store Hard Drives Hard drives can be removed quickly from PCs being sent to recycling centers. Storing these hard drives securely takes little space and actually preserves the data, in case it is ever needed. This option, however, still is subject to the stored drives being stolen and the data misused.
Remove and Destroy Hard Drives This is the most effective means of destroying data forever, but requires additional work. Hard drives store data on circular platters inside the drive. If those platters are destroyed, the data is gone forever, and the drives can then be sent to be recycled. Any competent and trusted PC technician can disassemble drives and do the job. Another alternative is to remove drives and use a secure shredding company to completely demolish the entire drive. If you use a shredding service for your business, ask them about hard drive destruction.
Delete and Wipe Data If the PC will be reused or donated, sensitive data can be deleted, then wiped clean by software that overwrites the stored data, replacing it with nonsense characters. Care must be taken, however, to make certain that all copies, including backup copies of data are deleted and wiped, and that’s not always a simple matter. The DriveScrubber or KillDisk software mentioned below can do this job.
Completely Wipe All Data Using sophisticated software, it’s possible to completely destroy all data on a hard drive, overwriting it until it is completely unrecoverable by any method. The software is relatively inexpensive, or free, and works very well. The Department of Defense and other government agencies use this technique when decommissioning PCs. Once a drive is wiped clean, it can still be reformatted and an operating system and other software reinstalled.