Iron Comet Consulting, Inc.
disposing of old computers

Be Careful When Disposing of Old Computers – Your Data is at Risk

During economic slow-downs, many small businesses use the time to clean out their offices. Almost every small business has a closet somewhere filled with everything from old reports, calculators, to old computers. Disposing of old computers frees up a lot of storage space in an office, but if not done properly can really open you up to a breach. An example of this can be seen in a study performed by the data destruction firm. Ontrack, found that 42% of drives purchased from sites like eBay still had recoverable data on them. The researchers were able to recover scanned passport images, birth certificates, archives of office emails, and a trucking database from a shipping company. If that wasn’t scary enough, US Army Missile Defense information was found on drives by a different research group. Disposing of old computers isn’t as simple as just formatting the drives and reinstalling Windows. To protect yourself, and your business, these drives must be wiped securely. Read on to find out a free way to make sure your data is safe and sound when you throw your old devices away.

Safely disposing of old computers

Whether or not you are planning to sell your old computers, give them away, or just toss them in the dumpster, you need to make sure that they don’t contain any data. A word of caution here. Many people think simply formatting and reinstalling the operating system is enough. For mobile devices, this is an acceptable practice (returning the device to factory state), but for computers, this isn’t enough. There many free tools available that allow for the undeleting of files on a computer.

The best way to destroy the data on your computer is with a secure wipe program. There are many available, some free, some are paid apps. We will focus on a free app that is very easy to use. The app is called DBAN – Darik’s Boot and Nuke.  You can download the image file, or iso file, and then use Rufus to make a bootable USB drive.

After you have made your bootable USB drive with Dban on it, plug it into the computer you want to wipe. Turn the computer on and let it boot to the USB drive. Follow the prompts on screen and it will wipe your drive. ALL DATA ON THE DRIVE WILL BE GONE FOREVER. Please make sure you backup any data you need before performing this step. 

Once Dban is finished, you can throw away the computer without fear that your data will be available to someone.

If you want to give the computer to someone, you will need to install Windows at this point.

Devices also need to be disposed of safely

Pretty much any device that has held data needs to be disposed of properly. These include:

  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets
  • USB flash drives

Any of these devices could contain personal information and should be wiped before disposing of them.

Don’t let your personal information fall into the wrong hands because the computers you threw away weren’t securely wiped.