If you have an old computer you want to get rid of, it’s important to remove all your personal data first. When you think about it, it’s not just computers that contain personal information – devices such as smartphones, tablets, pen drives, and even game consoles contain personal data. Many people replace their mobile devices as often as every year, without securely removing data first.
Simply deleting files or even reformatting a hard drive is not good enough as it does not guarantee the old data is unreadable. Deleted data can be recovered using free tools found online.
What are the risks of leaving data on old computers or devices?
Scammers can use your data to get your personal details and commit identity theft or even blackmail. Most people may not realize that mobile devices may contain even more sensitive information than your computer. This includes:
- GPS information of places you frequently visit, including your home or work
- Personal photos, videos, audio, notes, messages, email and chat history
- Access to your personal accounts including online banking, online shopping and social media
Securely remove your data
The key to securely erasing all data on a device is to overwrite the information, ensuring it cannot be recovered. This is called wiping.
- On a mobile device, you can use the “factory reset” function. This returns it to the same condition it was in when you first got it.
- For computers, the best way to wipe a hard drive is by using specialized software which is designed to overwrite your old data. You can find both paid and free software available online.
- If you’re throwing away your computer, you could remove the hard drive and destroy it.