April 25, 2006
Dear CNET members,
How many of you are, like me, doing a little spring-cleaning? Does your cleanup pile include a computer or a hard drive? If it does, before you donate, throw away, pass on, or sell that used computer/hard drive, you'll want to read the latest Security Watch article, "Ready to recycle that old PC? Read this first." Did you know that just deleting data from your old computer doesn't necessarily mean the info isn't retrievable by others? According to this article and many like it, performing a basic reformat won't ensure that your personal data stays safe. Just to give you an idea how vulnerable old hard drives can be, in a study a few years ago, M.I.T. graduate students Simson Garfinkel and Abhi Shelat purchased 158 secondhand drives on eBay. From the 129 drives that were still working, they were able to retrieve 9,500 e-mail messages, thousands of active credit card numbers, legal correspondence, corporate memoranda, and all sorts of good stuff. If this study doesn't scare you into thinking twice about thoroughly wiping your hard drive before giving it away, I don't know what will. That said, how many of you take extended measures or precautions to ensure your personal data stays with you only? Tell us in TalkBack the strategies and utilities you use to scrub your hard drive clean, short of using water and soap (but if that's what it takes, so be it).
This week's hot topic:
Recycling your hard drive
Want to pitch that old PC? In his latest Security Watch column, Senior Editor Robert Vamosi discusses how to safely destroy any private data before you allow your PC to pass on, and several of you chimed in with some additional tips.
Break it up
After seeing all the confidential data left behind on a used hard drive he purchased, derekm leaves nothing to chance when he pitches an old PC. He advises using either a quarter-inch drill bit or a carpenter's hammer on the hard drive.
Read derekm's full post in CNET TalkBack
Make it donation-friendly
As a volunteer at a charity organization, CNET member lucky76 recommends completely wiping a drive but reinstalling the PC's operating system. Otherwise, the machine is unusable, and most organizations will lose money by having to pay for its disposal.
Read lucky76's full post in CNET TalkBack
Everything but the data
CNET member techtype shares a valuable tip on how to safely dispose of any confidential data while keeping a machine fully functional, with the operating system, drivers, and software intact.
Read techtype's full post in CNET TalkBack
Have a tip on how to safely prepare a PC for the recycling bin? Read the latest Security Watch column and speak up!
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