Disposing of Computers
Disposing of your old computer should not be treated just a simple and straightforward task. Allowing your confidential information on your computer hard drive to fall into unauthorised hands could be extremely risky. So, before disposing of or selling your old computer, you would want to make sure that your confidential data is permanently inaccessible to anyone else. Securely wiping hard drive is one of the most fail-safe and proven methods to prevent data theft and misuse.
While there are a number of ways and tools, both free and paid, to wipe the hard drive of your computer, this article discusses some of the most important principles or best practices governing data wiping from your computer drive.
First, back up your data
You will not want to erase something which you may need to access later. So, before embarking on erasing the hard drive, carefully identify data you may need later, if any and back them up. You can use the either the Windows Backup program or just back up the data on an external hard drive or DVD.
Should you wipe or encrypt your data?
Basically, you have two options to permanently disable access to your hard drive data wipe or encrypt the data. If you choose to wipe data, it will be permanently erased and no one, including you, can ever access the information again. If you encrypt the data, you are not erasing the data but just setting an encryption mechanism which will be extremely difficult to decrypt later. While you may choose any method, it is not wise to first encrypt and then wipe the data because either method is enough to efficiently protect your data. Also, both methods require a lot of time to complete. So, it may not make any sense to first encrypt and then erase the same data.+
It is worth taking note of another point about wiping data, that of passes. Passes simply mean the number of attempts to overwrite data with threes and zeroes. So, you can employ multiple passes to erase data. The more the number of passes, the more unlikely it is to recover your data.
While you can employ as many passes depending on the tool you use, different organisations use different number of passes for different purposes. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense uses three passes to overwrite some of its data. But, you may use the maximum permissible passes in your wiping utility to stay safe and stress-free.
Consider using open source tools
Probably you believe that paid utilities offer more options and do a better job than free utilities. While paid utilities may offer more options, they may not necessarily be always more effective. A lot of open source tools are equally, if not more effective than the paid utilities. With free tools, you can employ multiple passes to ensure that the wiping operation is fail-safe. The Eraser tool, for example, allows as many as 35 passes. Like the paid tools, the free tools also have advanced options. You can either completely or selectively wipe your computer hard drive.