If you are considering upgrading your computer or purchasing a new computer, you’re going to be faced with the question: should you erase your hard drive? And even though most people don’t erase their hard drives, they certainly need to. With the size of hard drives today, loads of information can be stored on them. Just by erasing the drive will remove all the information and protect any data that may be present on the drive.
Many users think that just because they delete a file, it’s gone and can’t be restored again once you have emptied the recycle bin. This is simply not true. Once a file is deleted, it isn’t overwritten with blank space or anything. The operating system simply opens the area on the hard disk where the file was located for writing. If nothing is written into that area, then the data is still present and can be retrieved quite easily. So even if you delete all your personal files, and then not overwrite those areas on the hard drive, you leave your data at risk.
You may not even realize the files that can give away information about you. Did you know that if a person has access to your email they may be able to get most of the passwords you use? Simply by clicking on a lost password link and getting the website or service to send the password to your email would allow them to get into your other accounts. Even your browsers stored passwords and browsing history is all a hacker needs to steal your identity and wreak havoc on some of your accounts. Consider it’s a bank account or other financial account and you can see why it’s so important to remove all the data from your hard drive. You may also have Quicken or MS Money files on your hard drive that need to be cleared.
When all the files on the hard drive are erased and then overwritten, this is called wiping the hard drive. A good hard disk wiping program will delete all the files then overwrite the areas with either ones or zeroes or some other random data. Most experts recommend wiping a hard drive with at least six passes. Which means that the drive is erased, and then written to, then erased again, six times over. Most wiping programs allow you to specify how many passes you would like.
Just remember, just because you don’t see a file doesn’t mean it’s not there. Be smart and wipe your hard drive or computer before you sell it, give it to charity, or simply throw it away. Your data may still be present and you don’t want it falling into the wrong hands.