Total Destruction

Erased Drives

by Steve Deal on June 12, 2012

You spend a lifetime collecting ‘stuff’ on your PC – documents, pictures of your cat, tax returns.   One day, you get a new computer, and move all that stuff to the new PC.  But what gets left behind on your old PC?

Most surveys of discarded PCs are scary – up to half typically contain personal or business information (and occasionally anti-missile defense details!).

You probably already know that when you ‘delete’ a file from your computer it’s not really gone.  It’s really the equivalent of tearing the cover off a book, and throwing it in the corner to use later – the contents are all still there.   A skilled engineer with the right tools can recover files in minutes.

What’s a person to do?

Nuclear Destruction

By far the most fun option.  For about $20K, you can get a really cool machine that turns the hard drive into shrapnel and toxic dust.


Occasionally we have tried this manually with a sledgehammer and other common household tools.  Modern hard drives are in steel cases, and are unusually resilient.  I will confess it is fun.

Wipe the Drive

More commonly, we use a utility to write zeros to the entire drive, start to finish, several times.   You can do this yourself – but fair warning – this is dangerous stuff, and there’s no recovery if you mess up.  It’s designed to prevent recovery by professional labs.

We also send the drive (and other PC parts) to recycling (Wake County has a great program).

 

Next time you get rid of an old PC, please make sure it doesn’t take any of your stuff with it!

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