If you’re thinking of selling your laptop or computer or passing it onto a friend or family member then it’s a good idea to wipe it of all its data first. Whether it’s visible or not, your computer stores a lot of information, and some of that information may be sensitive. While you can try your best to delete all the files manually, there will always be something you’ve skipped. Not to mention, pressing the ‘delete’ button doesn’t always delete these files. They will be retrievable for anyone with bad intentions and recovery software. These days, it’s super important to secure your data. Think of all the information you store on your computer…

  • Your internet browser history
  • Passwords (these might be autosave)
  • Your medical records
  • Your bank account login
  • Personal and professional emails
  • Images and videos

Would you want someone to access these?

No – most of us wouldn’t. That’s why we’re going to share with you how to wipe your computer so that it is squeaky clean.

How Important is Data Security?

Think about all of the things you use the internet for these days – shopping, learning, socialising, banking. While digital technology has many advantages, there’s also the dark side of the web. Over recent years, we’ve seen a great increase in cyber attacks and cybercrime. According to the University of Maryland, on average there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds, totalling to 2,244 attacks a day. In the first half of 2019 alone, 4.1 billion private records were exposed to hackers. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that global spending on cybersecurity is increasing. According to Gartner, $124 billion was spent on information security in 2019, and this figure is projected to grow each year.

These statistics show that data security is paramount in today’s world. Even if you aren’t planning on selling your device or giving it away, it’s important to have security measures in place to protect your information. It’s also good to utilise smart IT practices for keeping your information safe, such as learning to wipe your data every now and then.

Benefits of Wiping Your Computer

Giving your device a really good clean also has some other benefits. Over time, our devices can get bogged down with old clunky files taking up space, old programs that cause system conflicts, viruses, and just simple wear and tear. Therefore, many IT wizards swear by wiping their computer and reformatting it to boost its performance and make it last longer throughout the years.

The Benefits

  • Improves speed and responsiveness
  • Removes any previous glitches
  • Stops the lagging of programs and applications
  • Frees up a bunch of space
  • Removes viruses
  • Let’s you start from scratch with your personalisation

For those looking to sell, it’s important to take extra precautions to wipe your drive, and we’re going to show you how.

How to Erase Your Computer Data Before Selling

Step 1: Backup Your Data

Before you do a complete wipe of your drive or restore your computer to factory settings, you may want to back up your data to a file – you never know when this might come in handy. These days, there are many ways to backup your data. You can store your data on an external hard drive, on a cloud-based drive, or even install it onto your new computer if your data isn’t corrupt in any way. It’s completely up to you.

If you’re smart, you’re backing up your files regularly to save you from the despair of a system failure. After all, hard drives can easily crash, get lost, stolen, or encrypted with malware. Regular backups mean you can access the most recent versions of your work.

To back up, just search through your operating system for its back up option. This feature will be in where your settings options are. Then, simply add a drive location – essentially where you’d like to back up to – and start the backup process. This may take some time so grab a coffee or tea. Another option is to use your cloud-based drive; for example, Google Drive has a backup and sync option which continuously works in the background to store new files which it will keep online and encrypted. Make sure that your chosen drive has enough space available. For cloud storage, this might mean purchasing extra space.

Now that you’ve stored all of your important information, let’s get to the nitty-gritty, erasing the data.

Step 2: Wipe Your Drive Using a Data-Erasing Program

There are special software programs that are designed to permanently erase your hard drive data. After these have been downloaded and run on your computer, there is very little chance of getting your data back, even if a recovery program is used. There are a number of programs out there that do this, some of the most popular include AweEraser, DBAN (free), KillDisk, and Jetico. The good thing about using a program to wipe your device is that most will offer proof of erasure. Some will even provide information about what was done to the drive and its data. Most of these programs will also be pretty straightforward to use. All you need to do is download the program and follow the prompts.

While they’re deleting your files, these programs will also delete previously deleted files too. As we’ve mentioned, deleting files doesn’t always delete them from your computer. Often, the action of deleting a file makes it appear deleted, while it’s actually only hidden from view. As the file has not been permanently erased, it can be easily recovered with a data recovery program.

What happens to your deleted files?

When you empty files from the trash or recycling bin on your computer, the file name or reference to the deleted file is erased, not the actual file. When this happens, your computer can no longer see the file… but it’s still there! Essentially, you’ve told your computer that the space that the file took up on your hard drive is no longer reserved for that file so that a new file can take its location in the hard drive. Until then, the old file will wait in that location in your hard drive.

When you run a data recovery program, the software is capable of rebuilding the file name, making it possible for the computer to see the file name again, and therefore the file. This is how law enforcement agencies perform their cyber forensic investigations. They use recovery software to find any deleted files which may be of importance to them. Unfortunately, this is also how cybercriminals steal your information for identity theft.

When you Need to Take it a Step Further…

For those NOT looking to sell their device onto another person and that need to take extra measures to ensure all of their information has been destroyed – you know, for all the secret agents out there – the next step is to perform a physical wipe. Physically dismantling your hard drive will ensure that there is no chance for anyone who obtains your hard drive to recover any information from it. This process is not reversible and therefore should not be conducted by anyone hoping to resell or pass on their computer.

To physically corrupt your drive, you have a couple options. The first one is very straightforward – remove your hard drive from the computer and run a rare-earth magnet along it. The rare-earth magnet will deform the metal plates along the disk and make it unusable. Fair warning, magnets can be powerful and should be used with caution.

Another option is to dismantle the hard drive with a screwdriver and damage the pieces. This again, makes it pretty impossible to put together and use. An extra precaution is to dispose of the pieces gradually so that they are not all together. That’s just about the safest you can be erasing all of your files permanently!

An Alternative Step – Freshly Install an Operating System

Alternatively, instead of erasing all of your files using erasing software, you can install a new operating system (or reinstall your previous one). Installing an operating system is a sure-fire way to lose all of your files, so definitely make sure you’ve backed up. This is a particularly easy way to ensure your computer is fresh and ready to be used by a new user.

For example, if I’m using Windows 10, I can reinstall it by going to settings and looking through the options in the recovery tab. With Windows, always make sure your current version of Windows is linked to your Microsoft account – you can check this in the activation tab. Thankfully, these days there are many online guides to explain how to do a system reset. If you’re using an alternative operating system, check online for a demonstration or tutorial for your particular system.

Skip the Hassle and See a Professional

If you’re getting rid of bulk electronics and can’t fathom trying to erase the data from all of your devices, there is an easier way. The Computer Market can help. With our Trade Your IT service, we pay you for your used devices. We also take care of wiping every piece of data from every hard drive, ensuring the safety of your personal information. The same goes for all of our tech sold; we have personally refurbished every device to bring it back to brand new. Look through our catalogue today.

The Computer Market provides quality-checked used computers and used laptops that are sourced from ex-Government, banks and large corporate organisations to provide schools, businesses and families devices at a fraction of the cost. For all enquiries, call 1300 888 448.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked