Are you thinking of purchasing a new computer? or simply just going to sell/give away an old machine? You may want to read this!
Most of us know before ever disposing of a computer, whether we are selling it, or simply getting rid of it for a new one we must format the hard drive to ensure nobody can get to our private data, banking details, pictures, emails etc. I am certain there is at least one piece of information on your computer that you do not want anyone to see, you may have deleted it in the past, but it can certainly still be lurking around in cache or temporary directories on your computer.
So why not just format my hard drive or delete my personal data?
The problem with this is that it would take anyone with any number of freely available “Un-delete” utilities like Piriform Recuva,all of about 5 minutes to look at anything you have deleted, even if you have formatted your drive. The reason for this is whenever you delete a file on your computer, it is never really deleted. What your computer does is removes the file information from your drive so as far as your operating system is concerned the file does not exist. What “Un-delete” file recovery software does is literally finds files that have had this information removed.
Okay, but I want to totally get rid of my files!
This is where we get to Securely Erasing your hard drive! What this does is usually one of two things, either the software writes zero’s (this is called “Zero’ing” a hard drive) all throughout the drive, or writes several passes of total random data to the drive. Writing several passes of random data is certainly the most preferred option if you have very sensitive information, as it makes it virtually impossible for any data to be even slightly recovered.
There are several tools available to securely erase your hard drive, the weapon of choice for this article is a program called Active@ KillDisk created by LSoft Technologies’. We like this software because they do offer a totally free version that is perfectly suited to most people’s needs. You may want to purchase the full-version if you have extremely sensitive data on your machine, as the full version allows you to do more passes and has better more thorough erase options.
You can download Active@ KillDisk from: http://www.killdisk.com/downloadfree.htm
After you have burnt the image and loaded it, (you may have to adjust your BIOS settings to allow booting from CD ROM drives!) you will be able to navigate to the free KillDisk option, this option will do one pass of zero’s to your hard drive. After this is done your computer will have absolutely nothing on it, so you may want to reinstall your operating system if you are selling the computer, otherwise you are free to dispose of your old hard drive without worrying about people getting a hold of your private information.