June 24, 2010
What Is Data Wiping? Most people know the importance of cleaning data from any computer system they consider donating or recycling, but unfortunately, because recycling computer equipment often involves time and sometimes money, a lot of people decide that it isn’t worth the effort and either throw away equipment or store it in a closet with good intentions of recycling it later. Some 100 million pieces of computer equipment are added to the worldwide e-waste pile each year.
Your first step in getting a computer ready for recycling is simply deleting the data on it. But this is far from sufficient because “deleted” data can be retrieved. If you reformat a hard drive, someone with the right tools could still retrieve the data contained on it. If your machine is PC, use a disk wiping utility that overwrites every part of the hard drive with 1s and 0s.
Use a utility that overwrites each sector many times and that meets government security standards. Some examples of utilities that do this include:
What is data wiping on a Mac? If you have a Mac with at least OS X 10.4 installed, you have several Disk Utility erase options that you can read about here:
Another option for securely erasing data on a computer you want to recycle is using a service that does secure disposal of old computers. The best ones will provide clients with a certificate of destruction that is supported by an audit trail demonstrating compliance with all regulatory requirements.
While you might be tempted to “erase” your data by taking a hammer to your hard disk, think again. Sure, many of the physical components of data storage can be shredded and recycled into other things, but environmentally and logistically, it’s far easier to securely and thoroughly erase the data on a drive and leave it intact so that someone else can use the device. Reusing is easier on resources than recycling, and you should strongly consider this rather than destroying equipment or worse yet, stuffing it in a closet or dumping it on top of the already massive worldwide pile of e-waste.