How To

5 steps to wipe your old hard drive clean

Authored by a Symantec employee


When it comes to donating or recycling your old ware, it’s important to first wipe your computer of all things personal. At first, you may think that’s not very much stuff; however, our devices hold more about us than we realize. Your medical records, browser history, login info for your bank account, past emails, just about anything under the sun is all about YOU.

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These days, it’s not enough to simply delete old files. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that the “delete” button doesn’t actually delete.

Follow these steps to ensure you’re truly wiping your hard drive clean, so you don’t unintentionally pass on your documents, photos, passwords and personal data when you send your old device out to pasture.

Step 1: Back up your data

Before you wipe your computer’s hard drive, make sure to back up all of your information to your new computer, an external hard drive or a Web service.

Step 2: Don’t just delete

Some people think that by moving their documents to the recycle bin and emptying it will do the trick. While this does appear to delete the files, it often leaves them hidden. Most data recovery programs can actually recover these hidden files.

Step 3: Use a program to wipe your drive

Using a special software program can permanently erase your hard drive. There is little chance you can get anything back. People will not be able to use data recovery software to recover your documents.

Step 4: Physically wipe your hard drive.

If you want to double-ensure that your hard drive is really wiped, you can take additional measures. You can actually physically wipe the drive, just remove your hard drive and take a rare earth magnet to it. Or physically dismantle it with a screwdriver.

Step 5: Do a fresh installation of the operating system

Lastly, you can completely rewrite over the whole hard drive by completing a clean installation of the original operating system the computer came with. This is especially important if you are handing down the device.

No matter what kind of data you had on your computer before you decided to donate or recycle it, it pays to play it safe. Wipe your hard drive like the pros and avoid the risk of someone accessing your old data.

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Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.

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