Erasing Hard Disk Drives
As many businesses are into their third or fourth generation of computer systems, the question is how to deal with the unused systems. Sometimes they can be recycled internally as a print server or firewall or sometimes the machine is sold, given away or thrown away.
However, it is increasingly critical that computers being recycled, disposed of, sold, given away or passed on to the grandchildren are properly erased. Merely deleting the files or reformatting is not good enough. Hackers and other criminals routinely scavenge old hard drives to look for information, which can include confidential correspondence and passwords. Deleted data is easily recoverable because it is not overwritten; the space merely becomes available for other data. Deleting partitions and formatting does not delete data. Data is only destroyed if it is overwritten.
How to erase a drive depends on the circumstances. If you wish to make a reasonable attempt to eradicate most data you can use the following procedures yourself. However, we recommend our professional Disk Drive Erasing Service for proper data cleansing.
If you need to leave the operating system intact
- Backup all data you require and then remove it;
- Uninstall programs licenced to you - do not leave programs on the system unless you are also handing over the disks and packaging for those programs (note that some software licences forbid transferring to another party so check the terms of the licence);
- Delete entire contents of TEMP directory;
- Clear internet cache, cookies and internet history;
- Clear recent documents list;
- If a member of a domain, reset back to workgroup mode;
If using Windows NT/2000/XP or above:
- Delete all user profiles except Administrator;
- Reset Administrator password back to blank;
If using Windows 95/98/Me:
If using Windows 95/98/Me or Windows NT 4.0:
If you are setting the machine to the factory default
If you have the original operating system CDs and you wish to reset the machine back to the default configuration, the drive still needs to be erased although you need not try deleting data beforehand.
- Use the vendor-supplied media to reinstate the system.
If you are junking the drives