Whether you’re a techie who loves new gadgets or someone who considers technology a necessary evil, replacing a computer raises important safety considerations. Specifically, how do you make sure no one can access the information on your old hard drive? Data security is especially important for landlords, whose records and communications typically include sensitive information about tenants.
Sure, you could reformat the hard drive and call it a day. But this slapdash effort might expose you to a data breach, cyber attack or loss of intellectual property.
Instead, use one of these three methods to erase a hard drive and prevent nogoodniks from retrieving your personal data. (Make sure you back up all the files you want to keep.)
3 Ways to Erase a Hard Drive
Any one of the following methods will prevent unauthorized access of your private data.
Wipe the drive with software. A quick internet search will turn up many reviews of free data destruction software. One of the most popular programs is Darik’s Boot and Nuke (aka DBAN). While free, DBAN doesn’t guarantee complete sanitization. (In fact, if the hard drive is defective, all bets are off when using disk wipe software.) The program also doesn’t work for solid-state drives (SSDs), storage devices that don’t have moving parts, like a flash drive. Parent company Blancco offers an affordable enterprise solution with a free trial.
Use a degausser on the hard drive. This machine applies a reverse magnetic field to the drive and makes it completely unusable—to either a hacker or your teenage niece. Some of these devices have even received National Security Agency approval. These tools work, but they’re probably overkill for a small business owner. A degaussing wand costs around $500.
Destroy the hard drive. Hands-on physical destruction is the number-one way to make sure your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Remove the hard drive from the computer, and destroy it with a hammer or a drill. Assuming this is a conventional hard-disk drive (not solid-state), you’ll want to smash or pierce the large platters that store the data. (If you open the drive, the platter is the disk that resembles a mirror.) It is possible to destroy an SSD, but you’ll need to make sure you crush or pierce each chip.