Before you sell or dispose your computer, you should clean it of sensitive documents and data. To be 100% safe, you should wipe your computer even if you plan on keeping it around in your closet or garage to guard against the risk of information theft in case your computer falls in the wrong hands. Deleting sensitive documents, reformatting your disk, or emptying your Recycle Bin is never enough. Your digital trail is much longer since things like email messages stored in the computer with login credentials, or website passwords cached by your web browser can be recovered even when Windows does not boot. To get rid of all your data, you can either perform a manual cleaning exercise, or completely delete your PC’s contents using a special utility. The second option is usually better because you can sometimes miss something during a manual cleaning process.
Before you wipe your computer, you need to:
- Back it up (if you don’t, there are hard drive data recovery services that help)
- Erase the drive
- Reformat it
- Reinstall the operating system
Wiping a Windows 7 Computer
If your PC is running on Windows 7, you need to have a copy of the OS in a USB drive or DVD. If you don’t have one, don’t panic, you’re not out of luck. You can still download a copy of the OS from Digital River (for 32-bit and 64-bit) which is a legitimate way of getting a copy of the OS you purchased with your machine. Install the downloaded OS in a USB drive that has a capacity of at least 4GB. You can seamlessly do this using the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. To activate your downloaded OS, find the Product Key on a sticker on your machine, or use the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder programme. Once you have ensured that you have a bootable version of your OS, you can now erase your hard drive using DBAN. Download the programme then copy it to another USB drive using a USB/DVD tool. Now restart your computer with the drive plugged in. Follow the onscreen prompts and patiently wait as your PC churns away, deleting everything. This usually takes several hours; so don’t be in a hurry. You are now ready to boot directly from the Windows 7 installer.
Wiping a Windows 8 Computer
Wiping a Windows 8 computer is much easier than wiping a Windows 7 computer. Just go to the Change PC Settings section then choose Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows. Just to be sure, choose the option for erase data Thoroughly instead of Quickly. The PC will erase the drive, reformat it, then automatically install a new copy of Windows 8.
The process of PC data backup is a straightforward process. You can store up to 15GB of data on Google Drive, or OneDrive, for free. With a fast fibre optic broadband connection, recovering your data is fast and easy.
Wiping a Mac
The process of wiping a Mac is similar in theory to the process of wiping a Windows PC, but different in practice. For early Mac OS versions, you need a systems disk but for later versions, this is not necessary. Start up your Mac from the recovery partition holding down the command and R keys as the machine restarts. Open Disk Utility, then choose 7-Pass-Erase option under the Erase tab. After erasing your data completely (this can take several hours) quit Disk Utility. Make sure you are connected to the internet, then choose Reinstall Mac OS X. If your Mac is running on an older OS, start the wiping process by placing a systems disk in the drive then restart the Mac while holding down the C key. Repeat all the steps outlined above.
To protect your data from theft, you can enable disk encryption using encryption programmes like TrueCrypt, or at least keep your important documents in an encrypted format.